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.

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 soul-feeding posts can be found on the Navigation Menu.

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