Family Astonished by Son’s Faith Healing /Spiritual Meditations

Have you or someone you know experienced a healing miracle?  Have you known someone who performed a healing miracle?  Many healings can be rationalized as coincidental, but then there is this one.

At the end of “Her Rejection Forced My Forgiveness”, I promised to reveal how Tim and Anna’s relationship resolved.  Since this isn’t a romance novel, I will only say that God brought Anna and Tim back together.  They married and after a couple of years in Hong Kong for Anna’s job, they returned to the USA. 

In the following excerpt from his book The Long Road to Eternity, Pastor Tim describes a miraculous healing during his first year of seminary.


Anna and I moved to Durham North Carolina in the summer of 1984 so that I could attend Duke Divinity School. Within a week of starting school, I was hired as a student associate pastor at Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church. It was my first job as a pastor, and I was completely inexperienced: I had never read a responsive reading in church or led a public prayer. I had read the Bible cover to cover twice but knew virtually nothing substantive about it. I only knew that God had supernaturally confirmed to me that I was supposed to be a pastor, and that gave me all the confidence I needed.

One day I came into work at Trinity and Flo, the office manager, told me the son of a family who attended the church had been in a terrible car accident three days before and they were desperate for a Pastor to visit with them in the hospital. Their son had crashed his car going over 110 mph through downtown Durham and was in a coma. I drove to the hospital past the site of the wreck. It must have been a spectacular collision; his car had hit three or four telephone poles and a brick wall on the side of the road, and his car had been ripped to shreds. I drove slowly past and there were pieces of car scattered all around the accident site: an engine block here, an axel there, a fender somewhere else.

I didn’t see how he could have possibly survived that amazing destruction; it seemed completely miraculous. Getting to the hospital, I found his family in the waiting room. His parents described the accident and the extent of his injuries: his back, arms, and legs were all broken, but the main problem was that his skull was not fractured. Had it been his shaken and bruised brain would have had room to swell. The doctors called it a closed skull injury and said the pressure was causing him to be in a semi-coma.

The situation for the family was brutal and made worse by the agony their son was suffering. His every breath was accompanied by a deep groan. It was unbearable for them, knowing that he was in constant excruciating pain.  They told me, “We have been praying for God to heal him for the last three days, but we can’t bare to see him like this anymore, so we are praying now for God to take him. Will you please pray for God to take him quickly?” No one had ever asked me to pray for someone to die before. I said, “First, let me pray over him and see if God will heal him.” 

The nurses issued me in to see him alone; it was my first ever solo pastoral hospital visit. As I saw the broken telephone pole and the pieces of his car along the side of the road it had certainly seemed like a miracle that he had survived, but when I saw him in his bed, the price of the miracle was plain to see. His face had cuts, scrapes, and bruises all over it; his chest, both arms and legs were in casts. His arms and legs were suspended from poles that ran the length of the bed and his back was also in traction. He was indeed breathing in and letting out a loud heart-wrenching moan with each exhale that could be heard around the whole ICU. I spent a few moments taking in the scene and centering myself for prayer. It was sickening to see the extent of his injuries, and troubling to hear him moan. I could understand why his parents were asking the most horrible thing a parent could ask of God – to take their child.

I walked around his bed praying and taking it all in, and finally I stood at the head of the bed behind his head. I prayed to be worthy of the responsibility of ministering to this young man and his family; I prayed for wisdom, and I prayed for the healing power of Christ to be with me. Then I prayed, “God, you hear the torment this young man is going through, you know the pain it is causing his parents. So, I am asking Father that you cure him or take him, but either way please take this young man and his parents out of their misery.” I prayed that twice and then I felt very strongly that I should do a laying on of hands to pray for his healing. I put my hands one on either side of his head, and I prayed for God to allow me to be a vessel of his healing power, that he would let his healing power flow through me. Then I concentrated on letting the healing power of God flow into me and through me into the young man’s head.

I prayed in this way for about 10 minutes, and as I prayed, I felt strongly that something was happening. I could feel God’s healing power flowing through me into him. I felt it so strongly that I was surprised that when I stopped praying, I could see and hear no change. I shrugged, saddened, and turned to walk out towards the waiting room. I was resigned that since there was no change, I would pray with the family for God to take him. But before I reached the family, a nurse came running out behind me, “He’s stopped! He’s stopped” she told me as she rushed past to tell the family. Finally, the horrible moaning ceased after 72 hours. The family rushed in and I followed behind them. He was still, resting peacefully. He went on to make a full recovery though it took 9 months.

Theological Implications of Healing

The theological implications of this experience are clear; God is a God who responds to the prayers of His people and has the power to heal. Today, I think about our ability to access the healing power of God in this way:

  • There is a door between us and God, the barrier between the spiritual and the physical.
  • There is a lock on the door and our prayer is the key that opens the lock.
  • To release the lock, that key (our prayers) must hit a multitude of tumblers in the lock.

I have identified in the scriptures the bumps on the key;  essentials that must be met to open the door.

  • One of the bumps on the key that is our prayer is for someone that God want to see healed and healed at this time.
  • Another bump: our prayer must be for what is best for the person or situation we are praying for or about.
  • Another bump is that God must want the person who is praying to be the instrument of His grace.
  • Another bump is that the person who is praying must have his or her heart right with God so that when he or she prays they can live into being what Paul called us: temples of the Holy Spirit.

You can refer to “The Key to Effective Prayer” for a discussion of all the bumps on the key.  In this case all the tumblers lined up for this young man; the lock turned, and he was healed.

Conclusion

I would like to point out that it was not Pastor Tim’s extensive Biblical knowledge or pastoral experience that allowed him to be an instrument of God’s healing.  It was his personal connection with God that was the conduit for this miracle.  If you would like to develop a closer relationship with God a good place to start is by reading and practicing what you will find in:

How to Meditate to Reach Higher God Consciousness 

A Clear Mind Improves God Awareness

Demystifying Spiritual Growth

Are You Listening to God’s Messages?

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Relevant Scripture

There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us to his home and showed us generous hospitality for three days.  His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. (Acts 28:7-9)

Reference

The Long Road to Eternity by Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich
Hands holding bubbled tree

10 Ways to Save God’s Priceless Creation / Spiritual Meditations

Whether you take the Creation Story literally, believe God created the Big Bang or have another theory, Genesis tells us that God created all that is. And one does not have to look far to realize the amazing intricacies and magnificence of nature as a confirmation of this.

The earth is full of the glory of God. It is given to us to see, to hear, to taste, to touch, to smell and to enjoy. Thus, when you see the glorious sunsets, it is not just a thing of beauty, it is the Lords way of seducing us or calling us to himself. Likewise, the cool breeze stirring the trees, the birds that we see coasting on the air and the music they bring to us. The color and taste of food is all about seduction; it is the Lord calling to us and is part of what it means for God to be one with us, Emmanuel.  The more we recognizes the presence of the Lord via our senses, the greater is the context of the gospel understood.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” (Gen 1:24)
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food…. everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Gen 1:29-30)

All of it is ours, not only for our enjoyment but for our sustenance which means we need to maintain it to survive.  This is something that we have increasingly neglected to do, either through ignorance or greed, until we are on the brink of world-wide food deprivation as you will see later in this article.  And renewable energy alone isn’t going to solve the problem; in fact, it may create new problems as will be explained shortly.


What Have We Done to God’s Garden?

According to David Attenburrough  in his film “A Life on Our Planet”, our impact is global. Our assault on the planet has come to alter the fundamentals of the living world.

  • We are experiencing the fastest warming of the earth in the last 10,000 years. The oceans can’t absorb the excess heat caused by our activities. Sea ice in the Arctic has reduced by 40% in 40 years. Carbon that we’ve already put into the atmosphere will take decades to centuries to reduce. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution in 1750 we have put 1000 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Reducing emissions alone will do little to remove it.
  • We’ve overfished 30% of fish stocks to critical levels.
  • We cut down 15 billion trees each year. 
  • By damming, polluting, and over extracting rivers and lakes we’ve reduced the size of freshwater populations by over 80%. 
  • 1/2 of fertile land on earth is farmland, which typically eliminates biodiversity.
  • 70% of birds on the planet our domestic birds – mostly chickens.
  • 60% of the animals on earth we raise to eat.
  • Since the 1950s our wild animal population has been more than cut in half. We replace the wild with the tame.

The planet is run by humans for humans – there is little left for the rest of the living world. We have nearly destroyed the nonhuman world. If we continue our current trajectory:

  • The Amazon rainforest will become a dry savanna, resulting in a loss of species and the water that is contributed to the global water cycle.  60% of our rain come from the oceans, 40% from smaller inland water cycles.  We are losing these microclimates.
  • The Arctic will become ice free in the summer, therefore less of the sun’s energy will be reflected out to space. Without the reflection from the polar caps global warming will increase. In the North, frozen soils will thaw releasing methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, exacerbating climate change dramatically.
  • As oceans heat and become more acidic, coral reefs will die and fish populations will crash.
  • Global food production will enter a crisis as soils are overused. Pesticides are causing pollinating insects to disappear.  According to the UN the world’s remaining topsoil will be gone within 60 years. So, in other words, we have 60 harvests left. As fertile farmland turns to dirt, the disappearing water evaporation produced by plants will cause weather to become more and more unpredictable. 
  • The earth will become 4C degrees (39F) warmer resulting in regions becoming uninhabitable. 2/3 of the earth is turning to dessert with 40,000,000 people every year being pushed off their land as a result. Poor land leads to poor people, increased flooding and droughts, mass migration across borders and into cities and ideal conditions for recruitment. It is estimated that by 2050 there will be 1 billion refugees due to soil desertification. This is the beginning of a 6th mass extinction.

The Important Role of Soil

Erosion is caused by plowing and tilling the soil. Historically, civilizations have died because they’ve overworked the land around them. In the 1930s the United States experienced the worst environmental disaster in history (the Dust Bowl), as 200 million acres of cropland was permanently damaged. President Franklin D Roosevelt started the soil conservation service, now part of the Department of Agriculture. The division is called the National Resources Conservation Services (NRCS).

As the NRCS teaches farmers, carbon is pulled out of the atmosphere by plants. 40% of that carbon goes to the roots which feed the microorganisms and goes into the soil where a universe of life exists. In every handful of soil there are more organisms than the number of people who were ever lived on earth.  And this healthier soil holds and uses the  greenhouse gases creating healthy plants without chemicals. With healthier plants you have healthier animals and humans.  The plants also increase the rainfall cycles which creates a more consistent climate.

Our health and the health of our planet are connected. We humans are made up of 99% organisms. Taking care of organisms in soil, the source of our nourishment, is connected to human health. Toxic chemicals put on soil causes them to be almost devoid of microorganisms. Makes you wonder what our food is putting into our bodies.  Since chemical agriculture ramped up in the 1970s there has been a worldwide loss of 1/3 of the earth’s topsoil. As soil is turned into dirt, carbon dioxide goes back to the atmosphere, especially in the spring when fields are tilled  as evidenced by NASA photographs from space.  Desertification is the result – when fertile land is turned into desert.

Some say we will never be able to remove the CO2 that we have already caused.  But through drawdown agriculture, it is possible.  Project Drawdown estimates that regenerative agricultural practices such as the NRCS teaches, could be practiced on up to 332 million hectares by 2050 (from 11.84 million hectares today), which would result in a reduction of up to 22.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide, with an enormous return of financial investments.

If we can achieve drawdown (pulling  CO2 back into the soil through regeneration) by planting farms and trees without pesticides and nitrates we can grow more food per acre and expect the beginning of climate cooling in 20 years. And farmers can make more money without government subsidies.

What Else Can We Do to Restore God’s Garden?

We can restore biodiversity everywhere.

The world cannot function without a healthy ocean. it’s a critical ally in reducing carbon in the atmosphere and the more diversity the better it does that job. The ocean is important as a source of food. If we do fishing right, it will continue to be. Coral reefs are important for fish populations so they must be protected. No fishing zones over 1/3 of the world’s coasts will allow fish to increase and spillover to fishing zones thereby providing all the fish we will need.

As nations develop, people choose to have fewer children as can be seen in Japan during the second half of the 20th century.  By raising people out of poverty, giving everyone access to health care and keeping girls in school longer, we can make the world-wide population peak sooner and at a lower level. This improves the global standard of living without increasing human impact on the earth.

We can reduce areas needed for farming by changing our diet. When we choose meat, we are demanding a huge expanse of space to raise the animals. If we had a plant-based diet, we would only need half of the land  used today and we could increase the yield through education. The Netherlands have multiplied food production by 10 while using less water, fertilizer, and pesticides. They are now the world’s second largest exporter of food while using less land.

We can reverse the land grab. Forests are necessary for locking carbon and are centers for biodiversity.  100 years ago, Costa Rica consisted of 3/4 forest. In the 1980s logging reduce that to ¼.  The government offered grants to plant native trees and it only took 25 years for forests to cover 1/2 of Costa Rica. Imagine if this were done on a  global scale. Some say that the planet would absorb 2/3 of the CO2 that we have created by our activities to date.

We can phase out fossil fuels and move to solar, wind, geothermal and waterpower. Morocco now generates 40% of their power from renewable power plants – in the 1900s the country solely used oil and gas energy. They now have the world’s largest solar farm. With renewable energy we will never run out and cities will be quieter and cleaner. But there are some concerns.

Are Renewable Energy Sources the Best We Can Do?

Problems with renewable wind and solar energy include environmental issues related to the transmission lines running from the solar & turbine fields to the cities and the amount of land needed for the fields. Renewables have been resisted by conservation biologists concerned about the large birds, bats, and other animals. To build a solar farm you must clear whole areas of any animals. It is estimated that 6000 birds are killed every year over solar fields because their catch on fire.

Wind and solar energy can only provide electricity for 20- 30% of the year.  The variability of solar and wind production will require a supplement of natural gas, which increases carbon emissions, or hydroelectric.

Solar and wind electricity is more expensive than nuclear as noted by the 4x increase in cost to California residents as compared to the rest of the US and Germany. France, on the other hand, uses 75% nuclear power, which is more reliable.

But are nuclear plants safe and what do we do with the waste? You may remember the nuclear power plant fiascos at Chernobyl and Japan. However, with technological improvements  scientific studies that have been conducted over the past 40 years now say that nuclear energy is the safest. According to the WHO, 7 million people die each year from air pollution. Nuclear plants do not emit any pollution. Uranium fuel is energy dense and therefore more efficient and takes up less space. You don’t need much land for a nuclear plant. Solar energy fields require 17 times the space and 17 times the materials to generate the same power as a  nuclear plant.   According to Michael Shellenberger in his Ted Talk, the waste from nuclear power only fills a room the size of an auditorium. 

Another concern is that when solar panels reach the end of their life it is expected that they will end up being shipped to poor countries as are expired electronics. There are toxic elements in the solar panels that will be difficult to get rid of.

What Can You Do?

  1. Compost to enrich the soil
  2. Plant trees
  3. Recycle
  4. Don’t overfish
  5. If you are a farmer, stop tilling / plowing the soil but use regenerative techniques instead 
  6. Conserve biodiversity
  7. Don’t pollute water
  8. Reduce poverty and provide health care to reduce the population stress on the planet
  9. Convert to a plant-based diet
  10. Buy organically grown wherever possible (for the health of your body & planet)

Just choose 1 or 2 that you feel you can work toward and share this post with your friends so they can do the same. Together we can make a difference.

Conclusion

Nature is our biggest ally in the fight against global warming and food deprivation. If we take care of nature, it will take care of us. We need to live not apart from nature but to be a part of nature. This is about saving ourselves. God gave us all that we need to do so.  It is up to us to be good stewards of those gifts.

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Relevant Scripture

1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was chaos and waste, darkness was on the surface of the deep, and the Ruach Elohim was hovering upon the surface of the water.

Then God said, “Let there be light!” and there was light. God saw that the light was good. So God distinguished the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness He called “night.” So there was evening and there was morning—one day.

Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the water! Let it be for separating water from water.” So God made the expanse and it separated the water that was below the expanse from the water that was over the expanse. And it happened so. God called the expanse “sky.” So there was evening and there was morning—a second day. Then God said, “Let the water below the sky be gathered to one place. Let the dry ground appear.” And it happened so. 10 God called the dry ground “land,” and the collection of the water He called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

11 Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so. 12 The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. 13 And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

14 Then God said, “Let lights in the expanse of the sky be for separating the day from the night. They will be for signs and for seasons and for days and years. 15 They will be for lights in the expanse of the sky to shine upon the land.” And it happened so. 16 Then God made the two great lights—the greater light for dominion over the day, and the lesser light as well as the stars for dominion over the night. 17 God set them in the expanse of the sky to shine on the land 18 and to have dominion over the day and over the night and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. 19 So there was evening and there was morning—a fourth day.

20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

24 And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. 25 God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. (Gen 1)

References

Honest, revealing, and urgent, DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET (2020) is a powerful first-hand account of humanity’s impact on nature and a message of hope for future generations. Created by award-winning natural history filmmakers Silverback Films and global conservation organization WWF.   As of Dec 2020, this movie was available on Netflix.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt11989890

Narrated and featuring Woody Harrelson, Kiss the Ground is an inspiring and groundbreaking film that reveals the first viable solution to our climate crisis. Kiss the Ground reveals that, by regenerating the world’s soils, we can completely and rapidly stabilize Earth’s climate, restore lost ecosystems and create abundant food supplies. As of Dec 2020, this movie was available on Netflix.  https://kissthegroundmovie.com

Why Renewables Can’t Save the Planet – (Ted Talk) by Michael Shellenberger https://youtu.be/N-yALPEpV4w

Her Rejection Forced My Forgiveness / Spiritual Meditations

As we approach the end of 2020, many of us will formulate new year resolutions.  An overabundance of these will relate to our physical improvement.  Although our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, let’s also take a serious look at improving our inner Being as well. 

The following experience, as related by my friend Timothy W. Ehrlich in his book The Long Road to Eternity, shows us how important it is to God that we forgive others and the joy it will give us to do so.

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting.  Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. (Acts 2:2-3)

I flew back to New York practically not needing a plane: the vows we exchanged on the Peak went through my head again and again. I felt that we were truly married in the eyes of God, if not in the laws of man. I was so head over heels in love with Anna; she was so incredibly beautiful, so intelligent, and so talented. I was amazed that her talents as a banker were getting us both over to Hong Kong, to live in a huge apartment paid for by her bank. I began working extra hours as a bartender in addition to being the bouncer, so I could save up some extra money for the move.

Bartenders got a lot of quarters in tips in those days, and I saved the quarters I got from tips to use in the Schooner’s payphone (this being the era before cell phones when almost every business had a coin operated payphone). It cost $12 for an initial few minutes to call Hong Kong, and a dollar or two every minute after that. I accumulated enough quarters to speak with her every few days. 

One morning in August I called Anna at 10 a.m. my time, 10 p.m. her time; twelve dollars in quarters into the pay phone. There was no answer when I knew she should be home. The same thing happened the next morning when I called. Finally, the third day I reached her. Somehow, I knew what she was going to tell me, but it was still a shock to hear it: “I have decided I don’t want to be married to you.” I was stunned. I managed to ask why. She said, “I don’t want to be married to anybody right now, the opportunity here is too big and the job is too demanding, and I don’t want to be married.” I asked, “Is that it? Are we done? You are breaking up with me for good?” She said, “We can still be friends, I’m sorry if I hurt you but I need to do what is best for me.” She said she would be staying in Hong Kong for at least the next three years.

I literally felt like she had died. The breakup was as sudden and terrible as a fatal car crash, but even a little worse, in that she had chosen it. This was a rejection with no second chances; her declaration that she was staying in Hong Kong for the next three years meant that realistically I would probably never see her again. We had been together two years, but in two minutes I had gone from a head-over-heels in love guy about to get married, to a head-over-heels in love guy, whose love had been rejected and whose lover was 12,000 miles away and never coming back.

I said goodbye to Anna believing it was the last time I would ever speak with her and went upstairs to my room in the attic of the Schooner, to lay down on my bed. It was the lowest moment of my entire life. I was in the greatest emotional pain I have ever experienced. It was all at the same time a sudden and unexpected death of a two-year relationship, a rejection of my love, and a cancellation of my plans for a fantastic future life in Hong Kong. I was a mess; tons of negative emotions swept over me. The one constant emotion was pain; I felt like I was in a world of pain that I could not escape; everywhere I looked all I could see was more darkness and pain. I began to pray to ask God to help me with my pain.

Getting the Heart Right With God

In several instances when I was in emotional pain, God had pretty quickly answered my prayers,  but not this time. For an hour I lay on my bed praying for relief from the pain of my broken heart, but after an hour I felt no better. I was surprised; usually I can count on feeling better after an hour of prayer, but I was absolutely no better off.  I prayed, “God, I have been praying for an hour and I feel no better. I don’t understand why you haven’t answered me, never-the-less, I trust in you.” Instantly, I could hear these words from the Lord’s Prayer echo in my head; 

“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us…’ for if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your father in heaven forgive you for yours.” 

This was not God speaking but it was God calling to my attention the thing that was blocking out His Holy Spirit from giving me the help I needed. For years I had been neglecting forgiving others.

Hearing the words of the Lord’s prayer and Jesus’ explanation at the end of the prayer in the  context of my current situation, made me realize my hypocrisy; here I was asking God for help, yet I had not obeyed one of the central teachings of Jesus – a teaching that I repeated in the Lord’s prayer almost every day for last five years: “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” In that moment I suddenly realized that there were many people, at least a dozen I had not forgiven, and against whom I was currently holding a grudge or otherwise was still angry at. In my mind I began to see the face after face of the people I had not forgiven. So, I set about forgiving each one.

One at a time I pictured the face of every person I was holding a grudge against. I was either deeply hurt by that person, or still very angry at that them and had not forgiven them.

I started with Anna and there were many things I was angry with or hurt by or both. Picturing Anna I thought about all the reasons why I was still angry at her. I thought of everything I thought she had done to me that I thought was wrong, and then I gave my hurt and my anger up to God by actually saying the words in my head, “God I am really angry at Anna for…., so I am letting go of that anger and giving it to you. Please take this burden from me.” Then I would think of the next thing I was angry about or hurt by that she had done, and I repeated that formula until I had forgiven her for every single thing I was hurt, sad or angry about. Then I thanked God and moved to the next person.

It was not as easy to forgive Anna as I just made it sound. Before moving on from one hurt to the next, I first would pause and try to feel in my heart if I had truly forgiven her for whatever it was and if I had truly let go of it, or if I still felt anger or hurt when I thought of it. Most of the time on my first try the forgiveness I was saying in my mind didn’t make it down into my heart. Did you know you can forgive someone with sincere effort but not have your forgiveness of that person make the trip between your mind (where you have decided to forgive the person) and your heart where the pain is?

I was not going to settle for that; some of the things I was so hurt by or angry about that I would have to go back and repeat the whole process three or four times until I could truly feel in my heart that I had forgiven her and truly had let go of it.

After I had truly forgiven Anna completely, I repeated that same process for every person I could think of that I was still angry at or hurt by. God helped me bring them to mind. I would say, I forgive you John or Jane or whatever that person’s name was. Then I would see how I was feeling in my heart. If I could feel in my heart that I had truly forgiven the person I would smile and go on to the next person. If I did not feel full forgiveness for that person in my heart I would start at the beginning with that person and go frame by frame picturing in my mind the event or events I was angry about or hurt by and forgiving and giving it up to God until I could feel peace in my heart towards that person.

Anna was the hardest to forgive, after forgiving her the others were easier; but it still took a long time because there were so many people I had not forgiven. The next up was the guy who pushed a chair into me in Sunday school and broke one of my front teeth when I was 12. I forgave him. Next was the across-the-street neighbor from my childhood home who I detested for regularly punishing his two children, my friends Lori and Skipper, with his thick leather belt; I forgave him. There were a few people in the Marine Corps I thought of with anger, so I forgave each of them.  I was surprised at how many people I was carrying bad feelings in my heart towards.

It took about an hour but finally I had dredged up every bit of buried anger and resentment I was holding onto against every person I could think of until I had forgiven every person attached to each of those memories.

I lay there on the bed feeling drained but so much lighter, realizing how heavy unresolved anger and hurt are when you carry them around!   I said, “Wow, I did it! I forgave them all!” I set down a huge burden I had been carrying in some cases for over a dozen years. The pain of losing Anna was still there, but I had forgiven her entirely. Even though I was still heartbroken, I felt I had really accomplished something very good and memorable:

Finishing all that forgiveness, my heart was right with God, and I didn’t know it but that was what God was waiting for. I said to God in prayer, “Well Father, I have forgiven everyone, but I still feel such pain.” Immediately I heard the wind begin to blow above the roof. The noise of the blowing wind increased getting louder and louder until it was roaring.

The Holy Spirit Descends

I was lying on my bed on my back looking up at the ceiling. The ceiling in my attic room was the underside of the roof and looked pretty flimsy compared to the volume of wind so, I was deeply afraid that the roof was going to blow off.  Suddenly, in an instant the wind completely died, and the room became silent.  At that same moment, a golden, glowing, translucent, shimmering substance started coming down through the roof across the whole ceiling.

It came into the room kind of like a flat cloud descending slowly across the whole attic at once. As the edge of the golden substance was slowly coming down towards me, I could see the roof beams and nails through it. Feeling no fear, I was amazed as the edge of the beautiful golden, shimmering substance moving steadily downwards passed over me as it moved down to the floor; and then the whole attic was filled with it, ceiling to floor and wall to wall, but I could still see through it.

As the front edge passed over me, I was filled with complete joy and peace. I realized – this is the Holy Spirit! I could feel it passing through me and staying in me. Then I was shocked and amazed as I realized I wasn’t in pain. I thought, “Where is the pain?!!” Just seconds before I had been in the worst emotional pain of my life, I felt like the whole world was pain and darkness and my heart was broken. Now I realized there was still a little pain, but it had shrunken to what felt like the size of a golf ball. It was amazing that the pain now seemed tiny compared to the amazing joy!

As soon as I realized that my pain was all but gone, the golden shimmering substance started to rise back up from the floor. I did not want it to leave, but at the same speed it came down into the room it now went back up passing my bed, then above me and slowly rose right up through the ceiling and was gone. The wind immediately began to blow loudly again for a few seconds, then it faded way and there was silence again. I found myself grinning from ear to ear.

I lay there staring at the ceiling for quite a few minutes enjoying the wonderful feelings sweeping over me: relief from the pain of loss, lightness from all the forgiveness, and joy from what I had just experienced: hearing, seeing and being immersed in the Holy Spirit. 

I sat up at the foot of my bed grinning and looked out the little attic window facing towards the ferry dock. I remember thinking, “Now what should I do?” What do you do at a moment like that? I was kind of in shock, I felt overpowering happiness, I could not stop smiling; I was trying to wrap my mind around the fact that I had just experienced the Holy Spirit coming to me to wipe away my pain. People go into shock from being suddenly wounded or injured so I suppose it is not surprising to go into shock from being suddenly healed.

I got up still in shock, went outside and walked over the ferry dock next-door to try and find someone to talk to. I was so happy and hoped to find a Christian person to share what just happened to me with but there was no one. Never-the-less, for three whole days afterwards I could not stop smiling.

I have had many wonderful spiritual and secular experiences in my life, but this was the best; that moment has given me strength for the rest of my life. It was years later before learning enough to realize that God had given me my own personal Pentecost: I heard the loud wind then something that kind of looked like tongues of flame descended, and I was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

Though emotionally destroyed when Anna broke up with me, I now know what a good thing it was. It took years to fully realize what an unhealthy place I was in at that time both spiritually and emotionally. Before she broke up with me, I was unbalanced spiritually in that I loved Anna more than I loved God. I know now that it is a form of idolatry to love a person more that you love God, but at the time it was great fun to feel that much love for someone – it was intoxicating.

When you love a person more than you love God it creates an emotional problem as well. A human being is not God; therefore, neither is any person (other than Jesus) worthy of worship. If you love a person more than you love God what you are doing is loving the creation more than the creator, and that is suspending reason and logic to such a degree as to make you emotionally unbalanced. I was so attached to Anna emotionally that when she distanced herself from me, my emotional attachment pulled and dragged me over and I fell flat on my face.

God’s number one commandment by volume in the Bible is not as you might think it would be: to love God, or to obey God. The most commonly given commandment is – the first of the ten commandments:

“I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me.(Exodus 20:2-3)

So, God used Anna breaking up with me, the worst pain I ever experienced, to help me rebalance myself spiritually and emotionally, and at the same time giving me the best spiritual experience of my life. That day I put God in the place in my heart where He should have been, and He has remained first in my heart ever since. To this day I thank God every day for giving me my own Pentecost experience, hearing and seeing and feeling the Holy Spirit.


The culmination of Tim and Anna’s relationship will be revealed in a future post.

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man sees himself in mirror as king

Pride-the Good, the Bad & the Ugly/Spiritual Meditations

What do you take pride in? Is it your home, car or job? Or maybe your children or the organization you are a member of. Whatever it is, it is heavily influenced by society’s norms and values. Pride is the satisfaction, pleasure, or vindication that arises from having our self-image confirmed. And it is interesting that we have little control over it; if we perceive an insult to our self-image we automatically lift our chin and look down our nose.

As scholars have noted, we humans have had a somewhat tricky relationship with pride for hundreds of years.  It has been perceived both as vice and virtue.  And if pride is acceptable, how much is all right?

A relatively recent body of psychological research has been able to provide more clarity on this curious emotion. Researchers have published a study in which they analyzed both published and unpublished studies on pride, and they found compelling support in the scientific literature for two separate notions: authentic pride and hubristic pride (excessive pride or self-confidence). 

One study suggested that “authentic” pride is linked to beneficial approaches to leadership, while “hubristic” pride is connected to harmful leadership styles.

Bad Pride

Many religious traditions look upon pride, hubris, and vanity as self-idolatry. In the Christian tradition, pride is one of the seven deadly sins and is only referred to in the Bible as an undesirable trait..

Seven Deadly Sins are:

  • Pride
  • Greed
  • Wrath
  • Envy
  • Lust
  • Gluttony
  • Sloth

Pride is a sin hated by God because, along with greed, it supports all the other sins, blinds us to truth and reason, and severs our soul from God’s grace. Think about it. When you are proud of yourself you are feeling pretty good about your abilities….do you really need God?

Hubris has come to denote an inflated sense of one’s status, abilities, or accomplishments, especially when accompanied by self-righteousness, haughtiness, or arrogance. Because it is out of touch with the truth, hubris promotes injustice, conflict, enmity, and a belief in social inequality.

Hubristic pride is also related to hostility, withdrawal, nervousness, and mild depression.  People who are prone to false pride lack self-esteem, and their arrogance is their way of convincing themselves and others that they too are worthy of respect and admiration. Even if their posturing is hollow, it can do the trick—at least temporarily.  

In addiction work, pride makes itself known when one proclaims, “I can do this on my own,” “I don’t need help,” or “I don’t need God.” 

Good Pride and Dignity

To understand what is good about pride, I think we need to tone down the arrogant and conceit aspects of it and focus on the word ‘dignity’.

Researchers found the good side of pride is linked with qualities such as being friendly, responsible, broad-minded, understanding, forward-looking, and personable. It’s also connected to being inspired by reaching goals and advantageous results, feeling upbeat emotions, believing in our ability to take on challenges, and viewing accomplishments as a reflection of our exertion and capacity.  A feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by others.

This seems like a healthy aspect of pride.  But if value is tied to our accomplishments or self-image, it’s built on shaky ground.

There’s nothing wrong with feeling satisfaction when we achieve some goal. But if we allow these things to define who we are, we set ourselves up for future disappointment. Achievements are ephemeral and can become a trap. If too much of our attention goes toward accomplishing bigger and better things to feel good, then we become addicted to external sources of gratification.

In contrast, dignity can live inside us regardless of our successes and failures. We don’t have to prove anything to anybody, or even to ourselves. If an enterprise fails, this doesn’t mean that we’re a failure. If an attempt to communicate our feelings to our partner falls flat, we might feel sad, but we can feel good knowing we did our best. We can experience the dignity of having reached out to connect or to repair an injury to the relationship. We can experience the dignity of living with integrity, regardless of the outcome.

As the light of our dignity shines more brightly, we realize that we don’t have to be perfect. Showing vulnerability and humility invites people toward us. We become approachable rather than intimidating. We don’t see ourselves as better or worse than anyone else. We recognize that we’re all a part of the human condition; we all have strengths and weaknesses.

It is freeing to hold ourselves with the dignity that comes from simply being human. We don’t need to achieve “greatness” to have worth and value. We’re great just as we are. We might be inclined to pursue excellence because it feels meaningful, enlivening, and expansive, but not because it defines who we are as a person.

When pride is substituted for our human dignity, it disconnects us from God. Affirming our dignity and allowing others their dignity, we become more available to honor ourselves and connect with others as equals. Pride is a burden we don’t need. Living with dignity allows us to move more freely through life

Conclusion

On the one hand, pride is the most blinding and unforgiveable of sins, but, when redefined as dignity, it is a vector of virtue.

A more genuine and stable self-worth is based upon validating, affirming, and valuing ourselves as we are. Self-worth is a function of living with dignity, which exists apart from any accomplishments.

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Relevant Scripture

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Who is it you have ridiculed and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel! (2 Kings 19:22)

In his pride the wicked man does not seek Him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God. (Psalm 10:4)

When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. (Proverbs 13:10)

Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor. (Proverbs 29:23)

Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the Lord is a God who knows, and by Him deeds are weighed. (1 Samuel 2:3)

The Lord detests all the proud of heart. Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)

References

Why Pride Is Nothing to Be Proud Of | Psychology Today by John Amodeo Ph.D., MFT

The Value of Authentic Pride | Psychology Today  by Holly Parker, PH.D

Pride: Vice or Virtue? | Psychology Today  by Neel Burton MD

beach breakwater blue sky clouds

God’s Voice Told Me to Help / Spiritual Meditations

Have you ever heard God’s voice?  I don’t mean through scripture or as an urging by the Holy Spirit, but God’s actual audible voice.  Not many have, but probably more than you would guess.  The following is an account from one of my pastors, Rev. Dr. Timothy W Ehrlich, which he has included in his book The Long Road to Eternity available on Amazon.  This took place when Tim was a young man, and it relates the first time God spoke to him. 

Every day in my daily prayer I thank God for speaking into my life nine times. I say “into my life” instead of speaking “to me,” because twice God spoke to others on my behalf, and, seven times God spoke directly to me. God has never spoken to me in long conversations like He had with Jeremiah and others; in every instance God was economical with His words. Eight of the times He spoke only a single sentence; and once He spoke two short sentences. God always used the fewest number of words to communicate His message and each time it was at an important moment in my life or that of someone else. This account is about the first time that God spoke to me in words I could hear.

As a theologian it is surprising to me that this time and three of the other times, I heard God speak, His words were not in answer to a prayer request but rather they were given unsolicited! When I say they were unsolicited I don’t mean that God’s communications were unwelcome, far from it, I wish God would speak to me even more though being spoken to by God is also a weight to carry. On this occasion I was not asking for a word or anything from God.

While in the Marines, on a day of liberty; I got off the ship and rented a small motorcycle at the end of the dock and rode around San Juan for hours. I love to ride motorcycles and wanted to take in as much of the city as I could. I traveled around on busy streets and quiet back neighborhood streets and was enjoying the beautiful weather and the interesting scenery. In the late afternoon I was heading back to the ship on a two-lane road that ran parallel to the beach.

As I was thinking about God, I suddenly heard a deep, booming male voice speaking to me. It commanded, “Go to the beach!” Instantly I knew this was God and this was an urgent demand.  Turning the motorcycle into the first street, I drove towards the beach. I spotted a women’s clothing store on the left a short distance from the beach, so I jumped off the bike, and ran into one of their changing stalls and quickly put on my bathing suit. I ran out of the shop smiling an apology to the shop clerks and ran toward the ocean.

In front of me and a little to my left was a long breakwater made of huge concrete blocks that were shaped like the metal jacks I played with as a boy. The breakwater was fifteen or twenty feet wide and extended from the beach straight out into the ocean about 200 feet. There was a strong fast-moving ocean current that was sweeping along parallel to the beach from right to left.  When it hit the concrete breakwater, it turned to flow out away from the shore.

Looking around, I noticed two girls being carried along in the fast-moving current. I could see from their faces that they were scared. As I watched, one of the girls wrapped her arms around the other. My Red Cross lifesaving class taught me that this is a classic drowning scenario; one person panics and grabs the other to keep his or her head above water. But the other person can’t stay afloat with someone wrapped around them.  So they both drown. I knew I only had seconds to act before they both slipped below the surface and were carried away by the current.

There were three Marines, unfamiliar to me, sitting on the sand to the right side of the breakwater. Fortunately, one of the marines had his Marine Corps issued field air mattress, used by the infantry for the many times we were required to sleep on the ground. I ran up to them, grabbed the mattress saying, “Somebody needs this!”  I then ran into the surf, jumped on, and paddled out to the girls. Sliding off, I pushed the mattress into them. They let go of each other and climbed on, draping themselves over it. I hung on to the end of the mattress and let the current carry us out, knowing that it was too strong to swim against and that as soon as we reached the end of the breakwater it would let go of us.  Once we were passed the end, I pulled the mattress and them down the other side and back to the beach.

After many thanks for saving them, the young ladies went their separate way and I walked the mattress back to other Marines. After drying off in the sun, I got back on the motorcycle so it  could be returned on time.

[In the post entitled “Your Inner Being Could Save Your Life. Are You Listening?” you, the reader, will find more current-day examples of God’s spoken directions that saved someone.]

Conclusion

Two things are significant theologically about this experience:

First is that when God chose to speak into my life here (and at other times), it was like a family member who knows they are welcome to come into your home without knocking: although it was a forceful command His voice was familiar and comfortable.

Secondly God demonstrated His foreknowledge; He knew these girls were going to drown and directed my path to beach without a second to spare, on behalf of one or both of those two girls who He obviously wanted saved.

I thank God every day for speaking to me that day and for allowing me to save those girls. I could have no way of knowing then that God would speak to me directly six more times.

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security direction sign

Why Did God Make Me _______? / Spiritual Meditations

“Why did God make me ugly/ gay/ black/ short/ stupid/ fat?”

These are some of the most asked questions on the internet. I can add to this list: “Why did God make me handicapped/ sickly?” What comes to your mind? They sound more like complaints than a question of God’s purpose.

I don’t know whether God tweaks our genetics to make us who we are or if He created the genetic code and waits for the  developments.  But either way He loves who you are and has a mission for your life, should you choose to accept it.

Our Insecurities Bring Us Closer to God

Everyone has self-doubt about who they are physically, emotionally or mentally.  Insecurities can come and go or be something we live with all our lives.  They could develop out of a traumatic experience or imagined threat. They are often a response to ridicule from peers or strangers.  Or we could just be wired to worry about our lack of perfection as impossible as it is to achieve.  The moment when we are at the end of our rope, that’s when God finds us. That’s when that relationship is revealed. You can link to an account of a young man who made a bargain with God to save his sister.

God Cares for His People

God draws us, He calls to us. He longs for us to come to Him so He can heal us. Yes, physical miracles are possible (as can be seen in this account), but more often God heals our spirit.  Often, we are unable to hear His call because we’re so busy with other things – our lives, our families, our work, our own problems and unhappiness. Sometimes we must be broken before we realize that our deepest need is to be reconciled to God.  When we surrender to Christ we can be restored and transformed.

When we recognize our need for God, we’re able to take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on God and Jesus Christ. When we stop thinking about ourselves and start thinking about what Jesus did for us, our insecurities begin to melt away. Only when we admit our need and ask God into our life, can God begin to make us whole. When we confess that we are broken God can make us into what He wants us to be. Once we let go of self and place God at the center of our lives, everything else falls into place (Matthew 6:33).

God Wants You to Use Your Experience

Survivors of horrific or heart-breaking events are usually quite resilient. We’ve experienced the worst and came out the other side as a stronger person. We can face things that scare others.

The broken and cracked are the ones that people can relate to.  We are the ones who see our need for God.  We are the ones who see no reason to boast but rely on God’s grace.  We are uniquely positioned to channel God’s love to those we best understand because of the common bond of our particular and unfortunate experience.

I believe the experiences you face in life are not just for you. They happen so that you in turn can help someone else. How can you help another overcome something you never had to deal with? This is what Jesus did for us.  If you have been broken or cracked, God wants to use that. Remember what it felt like and remember how God brought you through it. Take that and go help someone else who needs your insight.  You empathize with their pain and don’t want to see it continue.  You can see through their defensive behaviors and love the soul beneath.  You can help them interrupt their self-destructive patterns.

So instead of being defensive about the special attributes that we believe are deficiencies, let’s accept their benefits and use them.  We all have a niche and are someone that God can use for His glory. God uses flawed people to show us that He can equip anyone to do His work. And He does.

The Brokenness that May Not Heal

There is another group of broken people, although they don’t think of themselves that way; Those who are arrogant, lack empathy, are self-absorbed and self-righteous. It is often necessary for a traumatic experience to bring them to their knees before God so that He can speak to their soul.  Healing, according to Jesus, is for those who are broken and admit it.

Conclusion

At some point in our lives, most of us have been hurt, broken, troubled, crushed, bruised and in need of help and the comfort of God.  Trauma, heartache, and pain can hold us back if we let them, but they can also make us stronger. The experiences that create damaged people can also create kind and appreciative people. With God’s help we can look beyond ourselves.  Our brokenness enhances our empathy and we have a great capacity to share love and kindest.

So why did God make me _____?  He may not have tweaked your genetics to make you who you are, but if you seek Him (how to seek Him), He will certainly heal your spirit and use you for the betterment of those in need.  Broken people become trophies of God’s grace and the best conduits for His love.

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Relevant Scripture

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33).

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Save me, O God,
    for the waters have come up to my neck.
I sink in the miry depths,
    where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
    the floods engulf me.
I am worn out calling for help;
    my throat is parched.

My eyes fail,
    looking for my God.
Those who hate me without reason
    outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
    those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
    what I did not steal.

You, God, know my folly;
    my guilt is not hidden from you

13 But I pray to you, Lord,
    in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
    answer me with your sure salvation.
14 Rescue me from the mire,
    do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
    from the deep waters.
15 Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
    or the depths swallow me up
    or the pit close its mouth over me.

16 Answer me, Lord, out of the goodness of your love;
    in your great mercy turn to me.
17 Do not hide your face from your servant;
    answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
18 Come near and rescue me;
    deliver me because of my foes.

19 You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
    all my enemies are before you.
20 Scorn has broken my heart
    and has left me helpless;

I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
    for comforters, but I found none.
21 They put gall in my food
    and gave me vinegar for my thirst   (Psalm 69)

I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit (Isaiah 57:15).

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
And as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account. (Isa. 53:3 referring to Jesus)

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matt 6:33)

References

God Uses The Weak – 4 Reasons God Uses Broken People by Diane Shirlaw-Ferreira

3 Ways God Uses Broken People for His Glory  by Diane Shirlaw-Ferreira

Why the Most Broken People Are Usually the Kindest by Sherrie Hurd, A.A.

What does the Bible Say About Brokenness? | GotQuestions.org

Jesus in clouds

India Pilgrimage Yields Vision of Jesus /Spiritual Meditations

Have you ever had a spiritual experience that confirmed for you the existence of God?  In the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category on the Navigation Menu you will find several firsthand accounts from people who have experienced God’s presence. One of them is entitled “A Miraculous Intervention by Accident”. It reveals a young man’s promise to turn his life over to God in exchange for God’s miraculous healing of the young man’s critically injured sister.  The following account is the sequel to that post and reveals the young man’s unconventional search for God in India.


Timmy writes:

After God had healed my sister and baptized me with the Holy Spirit, my senior year at Barlow High School was focused on trying to get answers to these questions:

  • What was the meaning of what had happened to me?
  • What did God want me to do with the life of service that I had committed to Him?
  • How could I learn more about God?

I spent time reading and re-reading two books: The Bible and Be Here Now, a book by the former Dr. Richard Alpert, (now Ram Dass). The story line of Be Here Now is that Alpert had gone to India to meet a holy man, the guru Neem Karoli Baba, who he had read could perform miracles like Christ. His encounter with the holy man convinced him of the guru’s miraculous abilities and their encounter so transformed him that he gave up his job as a professor at Harvard to become a disciple of the holy man. The main point of his book was that all of us can achieve Christ consciousness and amazing spiritual power if we will follow the Buddhist Eightfold Path (right effort, right thought, right employment etc.) and use spiritual disciplines and practices outlined in the book, such as meditation.

The religious philosophy of Be Here Now is that of Zen Buddhism that God is an impersonal power in all and through all, which we can tap into through carefully following Buddha’s Eightfold Path. I already knew that God was not an impersonal God because God heard my prayer and healed my sister, but I was interested in Zen Buddhism because of their spiritual disciplines and the practices they promoted to help one attain Christ consciousness.

Alpert reported that practitioners of the spiritual techniques of Zen Buddhism were able to achieve real spiritual power and obtain amazing spiritual experiences. In contrast, Christianity does not offer an Eight-fold path or any systematic plan to attain Christ consciousness or having the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). The key point was that Neem Karoli Baba could allegedly perform miracles like Christ; that was fascinating to me and I hoped it was true.

The weight of my experience and my commitment to God was continually pressing on my mind; it pressed so hard that by the time I graduated from high school everything else seemed trivial in comparison. I knew that I must, for the sake of my sanity, my peace of mind, and my personal integrity find proof that God is real so that I could get on with the process of giving the rest of my life to God in whatever form that was going to take.

When I graduated from high school in June of 1974 my only goal was saving enough money to enable me to go to India, meet the holy man, and if I was convinced that he actually could perform miracles like Christ then I would know that he would be able tell me if God was real, and thus I could put my mind at ease about serving God for the rest of my life.

I immediately started working at a job my father got me, as a dishwasher in a pub on Fire Island NY, working 6-8 hours a day for minimum wage. Fortunately, within two weeks, due to a happy set of circumstances, I was promoted to bartender. The pub I was working in, the Schooner Inn was at that time a transplanted British pub. It had about six tables and the bar itself could seat only about a dozen. It had a limited menu, and the bartender was also the cook and the waiter.

I opened the bar every day at noon and I closed it at midnight on the weekdays and 4:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. Working those long hours, six days a week I was able to save enough money so that by the time the beach season ended in early October I had enough saved for a round trip ticket and living expenses for, at least, a three month stay in India. I will never forget Peter’s typical English reaction when I told him my plans; he announced to everyone in the bar, “Bloody Timmy’s going to bloody India to see the bloody guru!”

I flew to New Delhi in October 1974. My plan was to spend a few days getting my bearings, then get a train ticket and set off for the mountains in search of the guru. Alpert (Dass) didn’t want to turn the guru into a tourist attraction so only vague information was given as to his location; the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in the north of the country. True pilgrims would find their way to him. I had his name and photo, a rough idea where he was, and he was famous; I figured it would not be too difficult to find him.

India however was a giant culture shock to me; within a day or two I realized that I was never going to get my bearings; I was in way over my head. I didn’t have the life skills, knowledge, or experience to cope with or take on a solo journey from New Delhi to the Himalayan Mountains and from the end of the train line to who knows where else. My dad had an idea of what I was in for; he tried to talk me out of going, and failing that he gave me his Air Force dog tags to wear saying, “that way when they find your body they will know where to send it.” Once I was in India and saw how difficult it would be to make this journey alone, I thought, “If I go off into the mountains, not only will I likely be robbed and killed, but my body will probably be thrown off a cliff and they will never even find my body or the dog tags to send it back home.”

I didn’t realize until my first day in India what a sheltered and relatively privileged life I had led up to this point. I was shocked by what I saw, from the moment I walked into the arrivals terminal; it was obvious that I was definitely in a third world country, and in a culture that did not value human life the way it is valued in Western nations. Over a million people still to this day live on the streets in New Delhi. I saw homeless people all over the city and almost everywhere I was besieged by beggars of all ages. I had to keep a sharp eye out for the con artists and criminals who mingled where tourists might be found and quickly went after likely targets like me.

I would have given up and gone home after two or three days, but the airline ticket I had purchased had a variable return date: I could stay in India as long as three months, but I had to stay at least two weeks.  So, I decided to make the best of it and get to know the city of New Delhi. I walked around, took in the sights and did some shopping.  Always foremost in my thought was my prayer – “God if you are real, would you please give me a sign? God if you are really God, please give me a sign?”

Each day in New Delhi brought its own adventure. Every morning, as I stepped outside my hotel, little children in rags crowded around begging for money. One day I found a man dying on the sidewalk, ignored by passersby and I spent the day trying to help him. Another day I was eating a banana while standing on a crowded sidewalk in a working-class neighborhood. I put my hand to my side for a moment and something warm and wet took the banana right out of my hand. I turned around and was face to face with a holy cow that snuck up behind me to grab the banana with her tongue. One evening there was a huge commotion on the street outside my hotel, a religious parade was going by, complete with an elephant and many musicians. I decided to go down to the sidewalk and check it out, but I was grabbed by some young men, told to “dance rock and roll” and pushed into the middle of the parade and had to be rescued by a policeman.

On one of my days around New Delhi I took a motorcycle taxi (a three wheel vehicle where the driver sits on a motorcycle up front and the passengers sat in a covered two person cab on the back) to visit a jewelry shop to buy a present for my mom. My cab was traveling through a poorer section of the city down a busy major road that had three lanes in each direction. All the traffic suddenly slowed way down; I could see up ahead.  

Four large cows were crossing the road a few cars ahead of us and traffic came to a stop to allow them to cross. But instead of strolling across the road, they laid down blocking all lanes. We could not back up because of the traffic behind us; we could not go around them because there were tall concrete curbs.  We were stuck.  I discovered that while cows are considered holy in India, and no one would kick, poke, or hit them, apparently yelling at them and beeping one’s horn is allowed.

But the cows were not going anywhere so, accepting the situation, I started looking around. I sat in the tiny motorcycle taxicab looking out to my right side. There were some two-story buildings set back about 50 feet from the curb. It was an incredibly beautiful day; above the row of buildings the sky was deep blue and there was not a cloud anywhere. I looked around the driver to see if there was any movement on the part of the cows and there was not, they were laying there on the road and seemed to be enjoying the sun as unconcerned by the many horns blowing, as if they were in some bucolic pasture in the country.

I looked back to my right and there was Jesus standing in the air only seven or eight feet away from me, and he was looking right into my eyes. I quickly took in the whole picture: He had long dark brown hair, brown eyes, a beard, and mustache and was dressed in a full-length beige tunic or robe with a rope belt around his waist.

He was standing inside a door sized and shaped area that started about three feet off the ground; it had a bright white background that was completely opaque and blocked out my view of the buildings and sky behind him. His sandaled feet stood on the same white as the background. I looked into his eyes and he was looking deeply into mine; His gaze was piercing yet compassionate.

I wish I could tell you that my immediate reaction to seeing Jesus was to exclaim, “Thank you God for this amazing miracle!” but I was being the scientific observer. I said to myself, “How is he doing that?” I leaned out of the cab to get a closer look. It was literally as if a door to heaven had opened in front of me, three feet up from the pavement.

I looked down at the bottom edge of the doorway, the closest part to me, trying to understand what was going on. There was no frame around the door, but I could see that at the edges the opaque white faded into amazingly bright rectangular blocks of the primary colors. They looked to be about ½”high and 1/5” wide and were staggered like bricks in a wall. Those tiny blocks of light were intensely bright and the most beautiful and perfect colors of blue, yellow, and red that I have ever seen. They formed a boarder around the door around an inch wide with six rows of blocks. The blocks closest to the door were the brightest and the outer two lines of blocks the colors were not as bright or intense, the fifth line being somewhat transparent and the sixth line fading into invisibility.

I looked back up at Jesus’ face and He was still looking into my eyes. I could feel the full weight of his presence, Christ was standing here in front of me, but I felt no fear or even shock – it somehow seemed natural. It looked from his expression that he had complete knowledge of my every thought, including my recent “How is he doing that?” but there was no condemnation in His eyes, just compassion. I felt immediately unworthy to meet his gaze and I turned my eyes to the inside of the cab. Instantly the thought flashed through my mind, “This is Jesus and as long as he is here, I need to be looking!” I looked back but he was gone. The whole vision had lasted no more than 10 seconds.

I settled back in my seat. The cows stood up and began to move off the road and we were rolling again. I was stunned; what had seemed so normal when it was happening now hit me and I tried to take it in. It is now forty-seven years later but as I think about it, I sigh, and my heart still beats faster. I saw the living savior with my own eyes! He came to me in the middle of a clear blue-sky day. He didn’t say a word, but he didn’t have to, I got the message: He is alive and of course God is real, and He knows and cares about everything that is going on in our hearts and minds all the time.

It was such a relief to get the answer to the question I had been seeking for so many years. God is definitely real! I could not ask for more powerful proof. Since that time I have reflected on how cool it was that God answered my request for a sign of His reality by sending Jesus because the next deep religious question I was going to have was, “God, now that I know you are real, is Jesus really your son?” How amazing it is that God would answer my prayer in such a spectacular way as a vision of Christ which answered both of my most important spiritual questions at once.

It is a great advantage for me as a pastor to have seen the risen Christ; I don’t have to take it on faith that He is the risen savior alive forever, I have looked Him in the eye. To this day I thank God for that experience every day. It remains a most important moment of my spiritual life because that experience confirmed that my path was set; the rest of my life was to be spent serving God. Now that I have the benefit of education and experience, two things stand out to me about that vision:

  • the shocking realization that God has an amazing knowledge of what is going on in our hearts and minds.
  • God’s compassion for us exemplified by giving a vision like that to an eighteen-year-old who was nobody special in the eyes of the world.

When I was begging him for a sign, I never would have expected such a powerful and perfect answer to my prayers.

Finally, it was my last day in India. I went to the American Express office to cash a Travelers Check for the trip back. As I walked towards the office, I saw a group of attractive looking young women standing at the end of the block talking. I walked in their direction to get a closer look when I saw a bundle on the sidewalk which they were ignoring. The bundle was the general size and shape of an infant. It was wrapped in a dirty light-colored cotton blanket.

I walked towards it; I had to look; and as I knelt on the sidewalk I said, “Please don’t let it be!” but it was. I gently pulled back the blanket: and it was a dead baby! I gently touched its face, but the baby’s skin was cold, I checked it several times but no pulse. If the baby had been alive, I would have taken care of it, even if it meant missing my flight. Dead, it was India’s problem. I covered its face again with the blanket, stood up and walked slowly away; it was I thought a symbol of how I found India to be: overwhelming poverty everywhere and a resignation to the plight of the poor.

On the plane that evening, I thought about all that had happened in the two weeks I was in India: the several other narrow escapes (I haven’t bored you with), the amazing things I’d seen; the few friends I’d made, and of course the miraculous vision of Christ that answered my prayers. My disappointment at not seeing the Guru was forgotten.

About an hour into the flight I began to pray, and I finalized my agreement with God. I gave God my complete and eternal loyalty to the agreement with God that I made on the day of my sister’s accident. I simply said, “Okay God, I will serve you for the rest of my life!” I was relieved to be on the plane and exhausted; my mission was accomplished – I had a clear and undeniable sign of the reality of God. I slept almost the whole flight back.

Conclusion

About a year ago I did a Google search for Neem Karoli Baba; I was shocked to discover he had died on September 11, 1973, over a year before I got to India. I would have loved to have met him, but it would not have altered my path which obviously was not with gurus, but with Christ.

In India God gave me the answer I had been seeking, proving Christ’s words to be true, “seek and you will find.” God also gave me a second demonstration of His knowledge of us and compassion for us. Each subsequent miracle I have seen or been a part of has shown that to me more and more – God truly knows what is in each of our hearts, and He truly loves each of us. Still to this day God’s omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence thrill and amaze me.


This post is an excerpt from Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich’s book entitled The Long Road to Eternity available at Amazon.

Pastor Ehrlich has consented to publication of more posts describing his spiritual experiences. Watch for them in the next few months.

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Relevant Scripture

Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.  1 Corinthians 15: 8 (NLT)

birth of Christ nativity with wise men & shepherds

Little Known Christmas Fun Facts / Spiritual Meditations

We’ve heard the Christmas story so many times that we can’t imagine there’s anything new to be added.  But my friend, Dr. Frank Leeds, has spent a lifetime doing Bible research and he has come up with some great facts and points of interest with which you can amaze your friends and relatives during the holidays. If they have heard of Jesus, they have probably heard of the “Manger Scene” and may have some ideas about who was there and what the events were that surrounded this cosmic event for Christians.

Setting the Scene

Since the beginning of time, ‘birth’ has taken place in fields, in tents, at home and in probably every conceivable location. The story of Jesus’ birth is reported to be in a humble place;  a lowly stable. In attendance were various characters. In addition to Mary the mother, there was Joseph the father and some unnamed persons. There were shepherds, and some wise men, referred to as “Magi” from the East. Who were they and why were they there?

Dr. Leeds writes:

What I often thought was obvious, turns out to be merely a ‘mind-set’ that I somehow either assumed, or perhaps was taught, or perhaps my mind just connected dots that should never have been connected. The Reformer John Calvin wrote about “total depravity”, explaining that none of us have minds that will ever understand it all, interpret all clearly, and have emotions that are in tune to the workings of the universe. So, I want to take a fresh look at Shepherds, at Magi, and the gifts [or gift] that they brought to the manger.

The Back Story about the Shepherds

What do you know about them? OK, they take care of sheep. But I assumed that being a shepherd was a dirty smelly job that was given to the youngest son in the family because sheep are a stupid animal and it does not take too much brain power to take care of them. Maybe I thought the youngest son filled this role because David was both the youngest son and the family shepherd before he was chosen to become King.

But imagine for a moment that you have sheep. The more sheep you have, the richer you are. Your wealth is in your sheep. Who would you choose to protect your family resources? If you operated a small business, I bet your shepherd would be a family member rather than a hired employee. Why? You would want someone who is as interested in the business as you are—for your family. Many times, families did not have a son to take care of the sheep and so they would hire ‘professional shepherds’.

Professionals are usually good at what they do, but if a bear is attacking a sheep, the shepherding owner, or family member would go after the bear. The professional would be more apt to say “I am not going to risk my life for $10.00 an hour. Let the bear have that one.” There is an understandable difference between a family owner and the professional. One is doing the job for the money, the other is doing it because the sheep are his.

The good shepherd is in ‘harmony’ with the job he is doing. He wants what is the very best for the sheep, because they are his sheep. That is why Jesus is described as “The Good Shepherd”.

Like all professionals, shepherds had varying skill levels. The very best worked for The Temple in Jerusalem which owned all the sheep given to them at Passover.  Their sheep were the first-born, spotless and without blemish; show dog quality sheep. These sheep were Holy-Sheep meaning they were set apart for a particular purpose in the temple.

The shepherds not only watched these sheep so that the large animals would not eat them but protected them from the smallest of animals that could get into their wool. No flies were allowed on these sheep. They were even wrapped in blanket material to protect them. Was it a ‘wool’ blanket?—I do not know.

The shepherds that took care of these sheep worked around the clock in teams. They even had a tall tower from which to watch over the large surroundings. The tower was called Migdal Eder. In non-Temple pastures the shepherd would corral the sheep at night and sleep at the gate of the coral to protect them. Not so with these sheep. There were different shepherds at different times of the day, so the shepherds of these sheep were never asleep at night. There were always shepherds on guard.

If you were asked to guess, just make a guess. Where do you think the Temple Sheep were kept? They could not do their grazing on the stone roads of Jerusalem. They went to the nearby grazing fields just south of Jerusalem. They were kept in the fields of Bethlehem!

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.  (Luke 2:8)

As a side-note: Bethlehem is a combination of Hebrew words. “Beth” means “house”. “Le” means “of”. “Hem” means “bread”. Bethlehem means “The House of Bread”. The Messiah is The Bread of Life. It’s worth noting the connection.

The Back Story about the Wise Men and Their Gift(s)

Now, who were these unnamed fellows and where are they from? And, more importantly, why did they come? In truth, we do not know who they were nor where they were from. We do know, they came from the East, literally “from the direction of the rising sun”. They are referred to as Magi. For this reason, some scholars believe they were from Persia, which is present day Iran, where the term “Magi” is used.

However, some of the early Church Fathers, Chrysotom [circa 349-407, Archbishop of Constantinople] in particular, maintained they were from Yemen. What most people do not realize about Yemen, is that in years past, they had several Jewish Kings. It is believed that the Magi came from Yemen because they knew that the coming Messiah would be revealed via a different star in the sky. Aware of Jewish tradition, they were also aware that the gifts or gift that they brought was a part of Hebrew Temple worship….gold, frankincense and myrrh.

If I were to ask you how many wise men were there, you might say three because of the Christmas Hymn “We Three Kings”.  But scriptures never say how many.   It could have been two or it could have been 10 or more. The “Three Kings” assumption is based on their being “Three Gifts”.

Before getting into the three gifts, let me give you an illustration. I would often take Holy Communion to people who were home-bound or in nursing homes who could not get out to go to church. I have a kit for such a purpose. If I were to come to your home to give you Holy Communion, I would be bringing Bread, Wine, and Glasses. If you said I came with three gifts, you would be correct. If you said I came with one gift, a communion kit, you would be correct.

The wise men, or Magi, or Jewish Kings, came with Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. These are all very highly expensive items. Now I do not know anyone who believes that Baby Jesus was one of the richest babies in the middle east because of the extreme wealth that He was given by the Magi. What is translated as gift/gifts, ‘gorbana’ is translated as ‘gifts’ in most English Bibles but as a singular ‘gift’ or ‘offering’ in the Aramaic Bible. (Aramaic was the common language of Jesus and the people in his region.) 

This is what I believe. The wise men or Magi brought one gift. It was a gift of what was used only in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem. It was totally prohibited to ever be used elsewhere.

Here is how it worked. In the Holy of Holies, the High Priest would use a small gold plate and a small gold cup. Into the cup, the priest would pour a little Frankincense oil, and a little Myrrh. They would have included a small amount of spices. Flame was added to the little cup and the frankincense and myrrh would smoke. The rising smoke would let the high priest know that the Holy One was present. Those outside of the Holy of Holies would then smell the sweet fragrance of the burning spice. The sweet smell would also let them know that the Holy One of Israel was present within the Holy of Holies.

Without getting too sidetracked, what is this about ‘smoke’ and ‘fragrance’? Consider yourself for a moment. I could weigh you. I could take your measurements. I could test you mentally. I could test you physically. I could take your vital signs. But I could never objectify your personhood. Why? Your essence is spiritual. Throughout the centuries, the church has called this your ‘mind’, ‘spirit,’ ‘heart’, or ‘soul’. The you that is essentially you and you alone, is spirit. I could never hold it in the palm of my hand.

We are made in God’s image, and the idea behind the smoke is that it could be seen, to the extent that one could see smoke. As with the fragrance, one could know that it was present, but one could not grab hold of it. It was to let the high priest know that the Holy One of Israel was present and invite the high priest to “move his spirit closer” in order to experience the Presence of the Holy One.

The purpose of this in the temple was not to conjure up the presence of the Holy One in order to present your ‘wish list’ but rather to draw yourself closer to the Holy One in worship. Please keep in mind the difference between ‘magic’ and ‘worship’. Magic is the intent to get the Holy One to do what you want. Worship is to get yourself closer to the Holy One to do what the Lord wants. The Pharisees are frequently rebuked for confusing the two. Quoting from Isaiah, Jesus says “These people honor me with their lips but their hearts are far from me.” (Matt 15:8)

So that was the gift, the supreme offering that the Magi gave to the baby Jesus. But wait a second. You thought I said it could only be done in the Holy of Holies, in the presence of God with the smoke and the fragrance of God’s presence.

Exactly !!! That is the whole point!

The Magi knew they were in the presence of the Holy One and did what they did because of that. They did not come to make baby Jesus rich. They came for one reason and one reason only— “We saw his star in the east and we have come to worship him.” {Matt 2:2} Once they had worshipped the LAMB OF GOD, which was going to take away the sin of the world, they picked up their kit with the little gold plate and left. The frankincense and myrrh had been burnt. Their ‘offering’ had been made.

Note: The big trading center for frankincense and myrrh was located in Yemen.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed Dr. Leed’s research results found that as interesting as I did.  Temple sheep, the only flock that would have had shepherds awake at night, were kept around Bethlehem. These are likely the shepherds to whom the angels appeared, who went to see the baby Jesus and who spread the news of what they saw.

Contrary to the common belief created by the song ‘We Three Kings’, the number of Magi is unknown. They brought a gold cup, frankincense and myrrh to make an offering which was only used in the worship of God.  They knew who Jesus was.

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Relevant Scripture

Luke 2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told

Matthew 2 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

man holding crutches over head

Miracle Recipient Reveals God’s Memos /Spiritual Meditations

How many times have you watched the rising or setting sun over a beautiful landscape and appreciated the magnificence of God’s creation?  How many times has the Bible addressed  your need?  There are many ways in which God speaks to us, but I know one person to whom God has spoken loudly and he is going to tell us what he’s learned.

How God Speaks to Us

The pyramid below not only represents the ways in which God speaks to us, but also how frequently He does so. (Relevant Bible verses can be found at the end of this post for each level of the pyramid with links to example accounts)

ways God speaks to us pyramid

The top level of the pyramid falls into the realm of miracles; when God speaks to us directly through word or action.  This is what I want to explore today.

What are Miracles?

In its most basic sense, a miracle is an unusual, unexpected, observable event brought about by direct divine intervention. Because they are rare, I want to share with you the insights of my friend Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich who has experienced 46 divine interventions. 

But let’s start with a Biblical example; notice that the lame man did not request a miracle.

One day Peter and John went to the Temple at three o’clock in the afternoon, the hour for prayer.  There at the Beautiful Gate, as it was called, was a man who had been lame all his life. Every day he was carried to the gate to beg for money from the people who were going into the Temple.  When he saw Peter and John going in, he begged them to give him something.  They looked straight at him, and Peter said, “Look at us!”  So he looked at them, expecting to get something from them. But Peter said to him, “I have no money at all, but I give you what I have: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth I order you to get up and walk!”  Then he took him by his right hand and helped him up. At once the man’s feet and ankles became strong; he jumped up, stood on his feet, and started walking around. Then he went into the Temple with them, walking and jumping and praising God.  People there saw him walking and praising God, and when they recognized him as the beggar who had sat at the Beautiful Gate, they were all surprised and amazed at what had happened to him.(Acts 3:1-10 TEV)

Pastor Ehrlich sees a pattern in when and how God acts in our world.  The following are conclusions he has reached and outlined in his book The Long Road to Eternity available on Amazon.

Miracles range in intensity from low intensity things which could be considered fortuitous coincidences or God-incidences, to high intensity things or events which are undeniable manifestations of God’s power and/or presence, such as the healing described in the passage above.

The good news is that the miraculous power of God, that was clearly present in the miracles and resurrection of Jesus Christ, is still available to God’s people today. 

God’s Three General Rules for Miracles

God’s first rule is that God always uses the smallest amount of miraculous power, and on the fewest possible number of occasions, to accomplish His goals.

God limits the use of His power because He wants to preserve our free will and our ability to choose God freely. As we go through life, we unintentionally provide God many opportunities to save us or help us, or to comfort or encourage us. God responds to our needs in varied ways, but in general God’s response is always as limited and small scale as possible in order to bring about the needed result. This hiddenness or unprovability of God was a part of God’s plan because if we could prove God, it would take away our need to have faith, and it is important to God that we have faith.

Why does God want us to have faith? Faith is the overcoming of doubt, hopefully substantiated by reason. Faith, the Bible tells us, is the activating agent of worshipping in the Spirit (James 5:15). God is all around us all the time (Acts 17:28) in the form of the spiritual energy that holds us and all things together (Colossians 1:17), and faith is what opens the door to the Spirit to come into and intervene in the physical world. (Matthew 21:21-22). Because frequent, large, splashy displays of God’s power would take away our need for faith, God uses the least amount of His power and the smallest level of intervention to accomplish His purposes.

God’s second general rule of miracles is that miracles are always for the benefit of God’s people.

God reaches into the lives of those who trust in Him, those who earnestly seek Him, and those who love Him wholeheartedly, and generally, but not always, in response to our prayers.

Sometimes God uses a non-believer to bring about a miracle to save a believer; and God sometimes gives a miracle to a non-believer to reach that person or to reach others who witness the miracle to help them become believers or to comfort or encourage them in their faith.

God’s knowledge of each person is complete and entire, and His wisdom, power, knowledge, and abilities are without limit. God knows what is going on in each of our lives, minute by minute, and God really cares about what we are going through.

God’s third rule of miracles is that His miracles are a gift of his grace: we cannot earn them with good deeds or buy them with a donation to a ministry or other good cause.

Unfortunately, some preachers I have heard twist Paul’s statement that “a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.” They say giving money to their ministry is just like planting a seed, that it will always produce an abundant plant of blessing – expect up to a one-hundred-fold return for every dollar you give.

Others who claim to be Christians try to convince people that X number of prayers for X number of days will get a guaranteed result. These beliefs trivialize God and would have you believe He behaves like a cosmic vending machine: put in the dollar and out pops your hundred. All we can do is ask God for a miracle or make ourselves available to be used by God.

What Inspires a Miracle?

Miracles come in two varieties;

  • the first type of miracle are those that occur as we reach up to God in prayer making a request and God responds.
  • The second type of miracle are those that occurs because God intervened without our asking; that is why I said miracles happen generally but not always in response to our prayers. [There are times, as you can see in the scripture regarding the lame man in Acts 3, where God knows what is needed and provides.  Though the man may have hopelessly wished for health he did not ask for or expect it.  In this case Peter and John were the conveyors of the miracle.]

Barriers to Miracles

Anyone can ask God for a miracle at any time, and God may grant one; but for a number of reasons that you and I may never understand, what we ask for may not be granted by God. Among the reasons we don’t receive the answers we are looking for are lack of faith, and improper motives. James writes: “You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures” (James 4:2-3 TEV). Miracles are rare and hard to come by, that is why they are so special.

Miracles are More than Just the Miracle Itself

Miracles are just one of the ways that God speaks to us.  His love for the recipient of the miracle and those witnessing the miracle is introduced into our everyday life.  And these manifestations make a big impact on us internally, externally or both.

Miracles are a bit like fishing with dynamite – they blow you out of the water. They change lives, not just by physically rescuing a person, but by opening people’s eyes to the reality of God and to the nature of God, thus inspiring us to learn more about God and to obey God.

I spent many hours speaking with an atheist who was genuinely curious about what I believe and why. At the end of our talk I convinced him to at least keep an open mind to the reality of God. A few weeks later he told me that he had really been praying intently and God baptized him in the Holy Spirit. He said, “This changes everything!” He wanted to become a pastor and tell everyone what he had discovered.  When we are confronted with the reality of God that knowledge has the effect of causing us to reevaluate our priorities and behavior, and even, for some, to reevaluate our understanding of the universe.

Conclusion

To experience the miraculous, we cannot elicit it from God by using some magical incantation, neither is a life of study required. All that is required to move into miraculous levels of interaction with God is to have enough faith to seek God with all of your heart, and to have a willingness to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength until you find that God is real and knows and cares about you.

You will find several accounts of miracles experienced by Pastor Ehrlich, myself and others in the ‘Spiritual Experiences’ category on the Navigation Menu.

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Relevant Scripture

God speaks to us:
Through Nature  


(Romans 1:20)  For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.  

(Psalms 19:1 – 4)  The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.  Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known.  They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.  Yet their message has gone throughout the earth and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun.

Through Scripture
What to Know About the Bible

(2 Peter 1:20 – 21)  Above all, you must realize that “no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.”   

(Hebrews 4:12 NLT)  For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.   

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.   

Through Signs

(Matthew 16:1 – 4 NLT)  One day the Pharisees and Sadducees came to test Jesus, demanding that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority. He replied, “You know the saying, ‘Red sky at night means fair weather tomorrow; red sky in the morning means foul weather all day.’ You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!  

Through Dreams and Visions
What No One Tells You About Your Dreams
Stunning Vision Reveals Heaven’s Lobby

(Job 33:14 – 16)   For God speaks again and again, though people do not recognize it. He speaks in dreams, in visions of the night, when deep sleep falls on people as they lie in their beds. He whispers in their ears and terrifies them with warnings.

Through Angels
Angels in Our Lives…Literally  

(Luke 1:26 – 27 NRSV)  In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 

Directly and through Jesus
God’s Faithfulness Changed My Life
An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing 

(Hebrews 1:1 – 2 NLT) Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.  

(Exodus 3:4-6) When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!” “Here I am!” Moses replied. “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground. I am the God of your father—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” When Moses heard this, he covered his face because he was afraid to look at God.   

fire imposed on top of key and handwritten pages

An Astonishing & Undeniable Spiritual Healing/Spiritual Meditations

We don’t often hear about spiritual healing experiences and when we do we are usually left wondering if there was a logical or scientific reason for what appeared to be a miraculous event.  After all, our bodies have an amazing ability to restore themselves and time can be a healer.  But in his book, “The Long Road to Eternity” (available on Amazon) my friend and pastor, Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich, describes a life-threatening burn incident that was miraculously healed within one hour.

In January 1989, my second year as pastor at the Olivebridge church, I attended a seminar at a church in Kingston New York on healing through prayer and the laying on of hands. It was being put on by the International Order of Saint Luke, an interdenominational religious order dedicated to the Christian healing ministry. Part way through the afternoon session as I was sitting in a lecture, I heard the pay phone in the hallway ringing. Ordinarily I would not leave an educational seminar to answer in someone else’s church, but I had a strong feeling I should answer that call so I left the classroom and answered the phone.

I was amazed that the call was for me. I don’t know how they found me but it was a member of my Samsonville church calling to tell me there was a gas explosion in the church kitchen and Edith, one of my parishioners, was severely burned with third-degree burns over most of her body. The caller had been there and seen what happened: the oven had been turned on to preheat but no one realized the pilot light was not lit. Edith needed to use the oven and found it was still cold so she started to light the stove but it was filled with gas. It caused an explosion and a fire ball blew her backwards, set her hair on fire and burned all the clothes off the front of her body. An EMT who treated Edith before she was put into the ambulance told the woman who called me that Edith had third-degree burns over her whole body, and that it was not easy for a woman her age to survive something like that.

This was terrible news; it literally could not have happened to a nicer person. Edith was practically a living saint; she was filled with the fruits of the spirit, a dear sweet lady, humble, simple, generous, kind, patient and had a great sense of humor. She practically lived at church; when the church doors were open for anything she was there. Edith was in her 70s at that time. She had come over from England at the end of World War II as a war bride. She missed England but definitely had bloomed where she was planted.

I was told she was taken to a hospital in Kingston; it was not far from me. I got off the phone and interrupted the class to share the news and ask for prayer for Edith. The leader of the class who happened to be the president of the order of Saint Luke stopped the class. He said, “we need to pray.“ He took me out into the hallway, put his hands on my shoulders and I put my hands on his shoulders, and we bowed our heads and pray together for several minutes. It was a powerful prayer time and I felt like an electric current was going through us as we prayed. I immediately felt better.

When I took the call about Edith, he had been teaching that when you pray for healing, you need to have faith that you have received what you prayed for. He said, “you always need to end your prayers requesting healing by sincerely expressing your thanks to God in the confidence that God will grant your request.“ As we prayed, we thanked God for miraculously healing Edith but honestly, I wasn’t expecting a miracle. I thanked the teacher and drove as quickly as I could to the hospital.

It took less than an hour from the time I received the call until I walked into the intensive care unit. At that hospital the intensive care unit was one large room with beds separated by curtains. As I walked into the room I could hear Edith singing! Edith sat behind me singing in the choir every Sunday for the previous 18 months; I knew her voice very well and I was expecting to hear moans of pain, not singing! I found the curtain she was behind and stopped before stepping into her area. I knew that her clothes have been burn off and my earlier experience as a hospital chaplain taught me that third-degree burns victims are often left naked and I was hesitant to walk in on her. I called out “Edith, are you there? She said, “Oh Tim, it’s a miracle! Praise God!“

I said, “Are you decent?“ She said she was so I stepped behind the curtain and she was sitting on the edge of the bed in a hospital gown, her hair was singed and she was grinning widely. She broke into laughter as she told me the story. When she lit the match the explosion blew her across the room, it had blown off or burnt off all of her clothing and it was horrible. She said, “Tim I was in the worst pain of my life. The worst pain ever! And then about a half hour ago the pain just went away. The doctors don’t understand.  The doctor said to me, ‘you were brought in with third-degree burns but now they are first- degree and even less in some places. I can’t explain it’. He can’t explain it, but I can. It’s a miracle! Look at my skin, it is like a sunburn; I am just a little pink and it doesn’t even hurt! “

I have often heard God called the great physician, but it is really amazing to see God in action, to see a dramatic healing like that in response to prayer. The theological lesson here is don’t be afraid to pray for healing for yourself or someone else, and don’t forget to pray with enough faith that you can genuinely thank God for the healing in advance.

Yet we must ask, “Why isn’t everyone we pray for, healed?”  Pastor Tim explains:

God responds to the prayers of his people and He has the power to heal. There is a door between us and God. It is the barrier between the spiritual and physical. There is a lock on the door and our prayer is the key that opens the lock. To unlock the lock the key (our prayer) must hit all the tumblers and each bump on the key represents a different aspect of an effective prayer.

* One of the bumps on the key is that our prayer is for someone that God does want to see healed and healed at this time.

* Another bump: our prayer must be for what is best for the person or situation we are praying for or about.

* Another bump is that God must want the person who is praying to be the instrument of His grace.

* Another bump is that the person who is praying must have his or her heart right with God so that when he or she prays they can live into being what Paul called us: temples of the Holy Spirit.

In this case all the tumblers lined up, the lock turned and she was healed.

Your prayer life can be more effective by developing greater Spiritual Consciousness through the practices mentioned in the Biblical verses found in Key to Effective Prayer.  Miracles are rare but God is present and active in our lives.

If you found this article interesting, inspiring, informative or helpful, please follow us and share by clicking on one of the social media icons.  Many more posts to feed your soul can be found on the Navigation Menu.

Relevant Scripture

Does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard from Christ. (Galatians 3:5)

Reference

The Long Road to Eternity by Rev. Dr. Timothy W. Ehrlich