Everything is a Miracle — reblogged — Part 4 (WITH ONE LAST THOUGHT)

What got this series started? That is Everything is a Miracle by insanitybytes22. When violetwisp and rautakyy  asked some challenging questions in the comment trail following ‘s post, I decided to answer in posts of my own (starting here). This is the final post in that series.

The Definition Of A Miracle

In my mind, this had become a rather complicated post. What should I do with it? Then I remembered, when confused we must go back to the fundamentals (That is what I call Fundamentalism.   :wink:    ).

So what is fundamental? In “Ownership of the Christian Message?”, takes on a critic of Christianity. That critic played up all the divisions among Christians. Instead of  observing the flaws in human beings, the critic claimed the divisions among Christians suggests the teachings of Christ do not come from God. Nevertheless, as the Apostle Paul explained, to those who are called the Bible provides a clear message.

1 Corinthians 1:22-24 New King James Version (NKJV)

22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

So what do miracles have to do with this? Later in 1 Corinthians, Paul emphasizes the importance of the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:12-19 New King James Version (NKJV)

The Risen Christ, Our Hope

12 Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. 14 And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. 15 Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. 17 And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ serves as the central miracle of the Christian faith.  We must accept this miracle or our faith is pointless. As I 53:5 Project observes:

Truth is, by nature, intolerant of falsehood. If Christianity is not true, then Jesus was not God, then Jesus did not do miracles, then Jesus did not heal the sick, then Jesus did not walk on water, then Jesus did not die and rise from the dead after three days. (from here)

Everything is a miracle, but we do not ordinarily call everything a miracle. Instead, what we call miracles are mysterious events for which we can perceive no immediate cause. Because God makes special use of miracles, we associate miracles with Him. Consider this definition provided by Don Merritt.

The gift of Miracles is the ability to perform supernatural acts as an instrument or agent of God which altered the expected course of nature; its purpose is to change or alter the expected course of nature in order to draw attention to God and glorify His name. (from here)

Rob Barkman has observed that God uses miracles with restraint, that over Biblical history His servants have performed miracles for short bursts of time. Then they performed sign miracles to establish their credentials as servants of God.

In each case, the “sign miracles” were in existence for approximately 70 years.  In each case, a “silent time” existed after each group of miracles, where no sign miracles and few, if any, other miracles were performed.  Why?  Once God established the validity of each of the above segments, there was no need for miracles until another segment was about to take place. (from here)

So it is that about 2,000 years ago, Jesus came, and we had a burst of “sign miracles,” the greatest of which was the resurrection. The resurrection proved the divinity of Jesus Christ, that the crucified Christ had died for our sins.

Is there proof? How can we know that this miracle, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, truly happened? altruistico has considered that issue. Here are a couple of good posts.

  • Is there proof for the inspiration of the Bible? looks at the Bible itself. Because the Bible is the inspired Work of God, it constitutes proof, our proof. The Bible itself is a sign miracle.
  • Is faith in God a crutch? considers the charge that Christianity is only crutch versus a rational choice. Contrary to the suggestions of some, belief in the Bible requires serious commitment. Before we can make such a commitment, we have to weigh the costs.

In the end, however, we don’t know anything for absolutely certain. Hence, to act upon our beliefs, even the notion that the sun will come up tomorrow, requires faith. That’s why we speak of faith. To act upon our belief in Jesus Christ, we must must have faith in the salvation He offers.

Here is how Wally Fry explains.

Not only is there the chance that faith not accompanied by works is not true saving faith, but our works are the only way believers have to illustrate to a non believing world that our faith is a real faith. Here is a quote I found in The Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible that seems to express the thought perfectly.

The proof of the pudding is still in the tasting. The only test of a man’s salvation is through his works. A silent believer may be indeed considered a saint before God, but he remains a sinner before man until he walks the walk and talks the talk of Christian service

What is the proof that matters? That is the significance of having Jesus Christ in our life. Christianity has significance — the fact the Bible is God’s Word has significance — because acting upon the teachings of Jesus Christ produces a heart change above and beyond what we can rationally explain. If the Bible is not the Word of God, then what we know about Jesus and the effect of Christianity upon our world makes very little sense. We don’t really know how to explain how one day a man can be a great sinner and then repent.

We can pretend we do understand such a change. We can speak of the supremacy of human wisdom, of Man’s ability to perfect himself, but we cannot do so with honest humility. We may want to believe that the heart of Man is naturally good, but we each know better.

Each of us knows of the depravity in our own heart. We know of some prideful, unrepentant sinner who is always doing something wrong. We know of the outbursts of temper, the twinges of greed, the delight of humbling our enemies…. We know that wayward soul may not wish to admit it, but deep down we also know just how much we need a savior to change our stony heart.

Ezekiel 36:26 New King James Version (NKJV)

26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

One Last Thought

I thought this post complete, but I was still curious to see what others think of miracles.  So I checked out BJ‘s blog. John 6:28-29 (Great Works) begins with a quote from the Book of John and a string of psalms. then asks us to contemplate something.

What was God’s greatest miracle?

Finally, he nominates his own candidate.

You see, about thirty-three years ago I was a young child sitting in a Sunday school classroom at Greece Assembly of God. The teacher was talking about one of these great moments where God displayed His awesomeness and power. Or perhaps it was one of the many, many other great things God has done that I didn’t get a chance to mention here. Then that Sunday School teacher asked a simple question. Would we like to invite Jesus to come live in us. I said yes. She had us bow our heads and I said a simple prayer that went something like this, “God, I know that I am a sinner. I have done things that have made You sad and for that I am sorry. Please forgive me. I know that You died on the cross to take my sins away. Please take them. I invite You to come live in my life. I surrender my life to You. Thank You for forgiving me. Amen.” At that moment, when I made that prayer real in my life, the great God of the universe came and took up residence in me. To me, that was when God was at His greatest. What about You? (from here)

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Extremism — reblogged


Here the object is to tag a fairly simple thought onto a more complex post, Extremism byKeith DeHavelle. Extremism considers the possibility of reforming Islam.

The Middle East is starting to look more sensible about Islamic extremism than is the Obama administration. Isn’t that a sad thing to say?

Here is a Saudi Arabian author being interviewed on television, and he describes the problem. He notes, correctly, that there is little difference between the “moderate” Muslim clerics and the most radical Muslim Brotherhood jihadist supporters: Both groups preach the same concepts from the same revered sources. He suggests that Islam needs a Reformation like Christianity had, and not just a Luther but a Calvin as well:

Turki Al-Hamad: “I don’t want to make generalizations, but most of our sheiks and preachers – or those who call themselves preachers – are incapable of producing discourse that would counter the extremist discourse, because the extremist discourse draws upon the same texts and sources as most of our sheiks and preachers. Their interpretation may differ, but the source is one and the same.”

What would a reformation of Islam look like? Sadly, we are seeing a reformation of Islam, but we just don’t see it as reform. However, ISIS and other radical Muslims probably do.

Perhaps we should try putting ourselves in their shoes. When Europe experienced the Protestant Reformation, what happened? Didn’t Christians make a large-scale effort to return Christianity back to its first century roots. Because those in charge of the status quo fought the change, many associate the Protestant Reformation with religious warfare. However, because Christianity does not support violence (Substantial numbers of Christians are pacifists.), when people began reading the Bible in large numbers, the violence subsided.

What would Islam’s 6th/7th century roots look like? When Muhammad started spreading Islam, he did so with force. Muslims warred upon infidels and punished those who refused to accept their religion. The violent spread of Islam is still the way large numbers of Muslims view at least one aspect of jihad (Jihad: holy struggle or holy war?), and their efforts to form an Islamic Caliphate in the Syria and Iraq looks altogether too much like what has happened before.

Would publishing the Qur’an and encouraging people to read it help? No. The Qur’an encourages Muslims to war against and maltreat infidels. Therefore, when we consider how to deal with radical Muslims, we may wish to review the events that stopped Islam from spreading into Europe. We may wish to remember that Christians fought back because hostile Muslims left them no other option.

Battle of Vienna, 12 September 1683 (from here)

Battle of Vienna, 12 September 1683 (from here)

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In a previous post, SO YOU LIKED MY POST?, I expressed considerable ambivalence about the like function. There is no restriction on its use by spammers and trolls and various other troublemakers. Thus, the fact that spammers now like everything they can get at does not surprise me much.

Nevertheless, I am still somewhat puzzled by people who like what I have posted when I in fact know they don’t. I suppose they do it for the same reason as the spammers. By pretending they are what they are not, they want to bring unsuspecting people to their websites.

There is also another possibility. Frustrated trolls may just want to remind me and their other victims they are still around. That thought actually caused me to chuckle. The gravatar of one of guys I kicked off my blog refers to an Egyptian pharaoh. It is long time since that pharaoh been around.

So what have I learned. Be wary. The Internet is a wonderful place except when it is not. If we don’t recognize the gravatar, there is a good chance that clicking on it will just take us where we did not want to go.

Anyway, while it is thoughtful to “like” what others post, we should not expect anyone to click on an unfamiliar gravatar. If we want a visit, we must now do what a spammer can’t do and what a troll won’t do. We must leave a thoughtful comment.

Posted in culture, Humor, Philosophy, US Blogs | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

Feminist? No! A Woman Of Strength? Yes! — reblogged

Loneliness by Hans Thoma (National Museum in Warsaw).

Loneliness by Hans Thoma (National Museum in Warsaw).

Feminist? No! A Woman Of Strength? Yes! is about the nature of strength. It is also about the difference between domination and cooperation. Some people emphasize the use of force to get their way. Other focus upon working in cooperation for shared goals.

Consider why the author rejects feminism.

A woman should be proud of her femininity not down on it. A woman can be soft yet having strength to get the job done. She gives of her heart yet not a patsy. She speaks kindness but stands her ground. She believes she compliments her spouse as he compliments her. She can be a leader yet a servant at the same time. She can knock down a wall yet be feminine. She can make her life the way she wants it not what somebody else says. She is not perfect but works towards change. (from here)

One of the things that many politicians try to do these days is pit us against each other. There is an appalling senselessness to listening to such people. In the end, not even the schemers who promote dissension benefit from it. Increasing strife eventually leads to war. In war we pull each other down. Even those who lead the “winning” side often find themselves among masses of dead bodies and rubble — if they survive.

Without a good commentary, Ecclesiastes can be confusing. It is a seemingly gloomy book. It tells of a man’s quest to seek happiness without God. Yet these lines are easily understood.

Ecclesiastes 4:7-12 New King James Version (NKJV)

Then I returned, and I saw vanity under the sun:

There is one alone, without companion:
He has neither son nor brother.
Yet there is no end to all his labors,
Nor is his eye satisfied with riches.
But he never asks,
“For whom do I toil and deprive myself of good?”
This also is vanity and a grave misfortune.

The Value of a Friend

Two are better than one,
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
10 For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For he has no one to help him up.
11 Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm;
But how can one be warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him.
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Schemers who think of nothing but their own status and their own gain live alone, suffer alone, and die alone. Even if someone loves them they perceive it not. They are too full of themselves and what they must have. There is always something.

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I have never been a big fan of horror movies. So I never bothered see The Silence of the Lambs (film). Nevertheless, because the film’s makers advertised and talked up their film, it became popular. So I heard a little about it.

I wondered about the title. I supposed Lector’s victims were lambs, and he silenced them. We are capable of that sort of thing, silencing the weak, the helpless, and those in the minority.

Imagine being a Jew in Nazi Germany, incarcerated in a Communist gulag, dying in Cambodia’s killing fields,……..  There is no end to the examples of persecution. Because  many of the people who immigrated to America came here to escape persecution, they were familiar with persecution. At first they even persecuted those with beliefs that differed from theirs. However, many came here resolved not to do others what others had done to them. Thanks to such people, the colonists slowly established the notion that God gives us our rights, not a majority, not a government, not a king, and certainly not a tyrant.

What are our rights? In our day, the term has become almost meaningless. When demagogues run for office they promise us everything we might want, and they tell someone else will pay for it. They tell us we have a “right” to whatever we want, that we deserve it. Convenient, right? Of course, they are lying. We know they are lying, but what they offer is convenient, right? No, it is not right.

For some reason (God only knows why.) the Americans who lived about 240 years ago decided the demagogues were wrong. Perhaps that is because the king of England wanted to use their wealth to pay the bills for the promises he was making. Perhaps, they were also more discerning. Wherever the reason, in the Declaration of Independence they spoke of rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and they did not speak of rights to free housing, clothing, or food (or even to an education).

Even later, when they considered adopting The United States Constitution, the colonists did not demand something for nothing. Instead, they demanded something very strange for that day. They called it a Bill of Rights.

When we read the Bill of Rights carefully, we cannot avoid noticing a pattern. The ten amendments in the Bill of Rights have one thing in common. Each explicitly limits the power of the government, especially the power of the people who run it. What concerned the people who favored those amendments? Apparently, they wanted the right to live their lives as they saw fit, and they feared the government would take away that right.

That’s why we celebrate the formation of our nation on Independence Day. The Declaration of Independence says why the people who fought to create this country did what they did.

So what did those who lived in 1776 really think about our “rights?” There is an old quote that originated a hundred years later, before the welfare state and big government, that I think most aptly describes what they thought.

The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.

That quote (above) is attributed to various people, but it seems to have its origin in a speech given by John B. Finch. Here is an excerpt.

This arm is my arm (and my wife’s), it is not yours. Up here I have a right to strike out with it as I please. I go over there with these gentlemen and swing my arm and exercise the natural right which you have granted; I hit one man on the nose, another under the ear, and as I go down the stairs on my head, I cry out:

“Is not this a free country?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have not I a right to swing my arm?”

“Yes, but your right to swing your arm leaves off where my right not to have my nose struck begins.”

Here civil government comes in to prevent bloodshed, adjust rights, and settle disputes. — John B. Finch (from here)

What was the point the man was trying to make? We can do what we want, but we don’t have a right to harm others.

What constitutes harm to others? When does government have the right to restrain us from harming others? That determination requires wisdom. Using the government to give us our “rights” and to brutalize others to get our “rights,” however, merely requires that in various ways we manifest seven deadly sins.

It is when we forget we are sinners, that we are all sinners, that we are tempted to abuse the rights of others. Because we are all sinners and too easily tempted, any of us may be tempted to harm another. We don’t need a government to force others to fulfill our needs or to conform to our values (and our prejudices, perhaps). We need government to protect us from each other, and that is we best we can hope that a government of the people, by the people and for the people might accomplish.

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