Do Miracles Still Happen Today?

Do Miracles Still Happen Today?

In our postmodern scientific world, the general consensus is that miracles can be explained away by our vast knowledge of how things work. But there are some amazing occurences that still transcend the rational mind, especially when it comes to something you experience personally that has affected you in a profound way.

What is a miracle? The dictionary definition is: “a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.” I agree.

I have personally received several miracles from God.

And I am nobody special. But nevertheless, God has been good to me. If you have a moment, I’d like to share a few of these miracles in hopes that you may be encouraged to believe for a miracle in your life. And maybe you have received some miracles too. If so, please share–I’d love to hear about them, and I’m sure others would too. I’m not talking about the Red Sea parting or walking on water, but just things in your life that you know was exceptional, out of the ordinary, and you treasure in your heart because it took you out your ordinary routine and lifted you up to the spiritual or divine (even if you don’t think in theological terms.)

Reflecting on Milwaukee

“Reflecting on Milwaukee:” Scene from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Original 2.5″ x 3.5″ painting by Matt Philleo

Miracle#1: …and Step on it, Mister!

For me, the first that comes to mind was when I was in Milwaukee back in ’96. I was going to art school there at the time, and I was visiting a new friend on the north side of town. I had to get back to the downtown to the Greyhound bus terminal to hop on a bus back to Merrill. The only problem was both my friend and I didn’t drive, and I had very heavy luggage with me that would make it a slow walk to the terminal. I could maybe have made it on time by foot without the luggage, but with the luggage (before they had those handy wheels on the suitcases) that would have been impossible.

Yet, I tried my best to amble along. And I was getting tired in the heat and knew I would miss my bus. So I prayed for help (I wasn’t a believer at the time like I am now, but I would pull God out of my back pocket when I needed Him) As soon as I got done praying, a taxi cab rolled up to the stop sign in front of where I was walking! And this in a residential part of town! So I hailed the driver, and away I went to my destination, on time. Was that a coincidence? I think not.

Miracle #2: Solo I Can Hardly Hear You!

Prior to that, when I was up to sing a solo in a musical in high school (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) I caught laryngitis from my sister just a few days before the opening night. The doctor said I wouldn’t have a voice for a few weeks. My mom, however, was watching the 700 Club and the lady on there was praying for someone in the audience with a scratchy throat or blockage in their throat and that God was healing it. My mom said, “Matt, I want you to claim that healing in Jesus name.” Again, I wasn’t a believer like now, but I did it to humor my mom. I guess I had a shred of faith. I wondered if maybe I could be healed.

On opening night, I basically had to lip-sync the other parts in the musical, because my voice was like a frog getting a tonsilectomy. But when my solo came, I got my voice back in full! Nobody in the audience even knew I had laryngitis. Praise the Lord! He healed me, no doubt about it.

Miracle #3: The Scale Never Lies

I will share two more miracles. The next one occurred when I was 19, after coming home from art school. I had always been very skinny growing up. Even at this age, I was 140 lbs soaking wet at 6’3.” I was skinny enough to get my hand to completely wrap around my upper arm, like you would be able to do with your wrist. I hated it, because I often got teased for it and had a bad self-image. I would eat like a horse and still couldn’t put on any weight.

One day, after complaining about it, my mom urged me to instead pray to God to be healed. I said, “Mom, that’s like praying to a brick wall. But I will do it for you.” Oh, the things a mother can get her son to do!

So I went upstairs to my bedroom, prayed a quick prayer, and came downstairs. My mom said, “Matt, you look different. Your face looks fuller.” I thought, “Yeah, right,” but then I touched my face and indeed, it did feel like I had more flesh on my cheek.

I ran to the bathroom and hopped on the scale: 145 lbs! I had never weighed that much in my life! I could hardly believe it, especially since I obsessively weighed myself on an almost daily basis, and I knew this happened instantly.

Well, in about a week, I was up to 150. And then over the course of several months, I was up to about 175. Today, I’m at about 215, so maybe I need to go the other direction a little! But regardless, God healed me!

After all these things, you think I would have given my life to Jesus Christ, as my mom had been incessantly urging me to do for some time. But it took four more years. God was patient with me. I came to the Lord as I read John 17, and knew that Jesus wanted me to be with Him in heaven and see His glory. His sacrifice on the cross and resurrection from the dead made it all possible.

Old Iowa Farmhouse Original painting by Matt Philleo

Old Iowa Farmhouse Original 2.5″ x 3.5″ painting by Matt Philleo

Miracle #4: An Extra Push

The last miracle I’ll mention happened a few years ago, when I was returning from a visit to see my dad in Iowa while he was dying from cancer. My family and I were very strapped for cash, and we spent the last of our money on putting gas in the tank. According to my calculations, we had only enough gas to get us to the southern part of Wisconsin, maybe a little bit past Dubuque. I knew God would get us home, but I didn’t know how. I had visions in my mind of our car stranded on the side of the road with a good Samaritan stopping and helping us out.

Anyway, after putting the gas in, I prayed and started on the journey back home. I had an insatiable urge to look constantly at the gas gauge, but I felt it wouldn’t be trusting God and it would open a door to fear. So instead, I prayed, sang, did whatever to keep my mind occupied. (My wife was asleep, if I remember, so I couldn’t talk to her)

We made it through Dubuque. I just had to check the gauge. It said, “1/4 full.” That was a relief! But still, not enough gas to get home with nearly 200 miles to go. I prayed and kept on rolling through that meandering road, Hwy 61/27. Somewhere around Sparta, I looked again. (Sparta is about 70 miles from Eau Claire.) Still, “1/4 full”. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. “Thank You, Lord!! I think we’re going to make it!”

We were still 70 miles from home with only a quarter tank of gas, but I was feeling pretty good at this point. I kept going, and we made it past Osseo, 20 miles from home. The tank read, “1/8.” I had no doubt God would get us home. When we finally pulled in the driveway, the gauge not only wasn’t on empty, it was still 1/8 full!

The next day, I did a calculation on the gas mileage we got, and it was somewhere close to 50 miles/gallon on a car that normally got 30-35! So I don’t know if God sent us a tailwind to push us along, had angels pushing our car, or just supernaturally charged our carburetor, but it was a miracle in my book! God was so faithful to get us home and had mercy on me, my wife, and my young children, where they could just stay sleeping in the car the whole time.

God is Still in the Miracle Working Business…Just For You.

I have to admit, I borrowed the above phrase from a Latino preacher who lives constantly from miracle to miracle. And it’s true. God loves you so much He will do just about anything to reach you and make you His child. The Bible says that God doesn’t want anyone to be destroyed or be lost, but He wants everyone to turn from their sin and trust in Him. He also thinks of ways to bring people who are estranged from Him into a relationship with Him, so that when they die, they will not be separated from Him forever, but rather enjoy fellowship with Him forever.

Miracles are one way God does that. Yes, ultimately it is the Word of God that gives us life. (That’s how I was changed into a new person.) However…

If the Bible could be compared to a restaurant, and the words on its pages like the food, then miracles are the signs you pass on the highway alerting you: “Food, next exit.”

Miracles draw our attention to God out of all the mundane activities in life, and scream to us that He really is real, and He is trying to get a hold of us. And when we start to look to Him, then He wants to tell us something: how much He loves us and how much He wants us to enjoy and respond to that amazing love.

QUESTIONS TO PONDER: Have you ever had a miracle happen to you or someone you know? How did it change your perspective on life?

Deacon or Derelict?

Deacon or Derelict?

Artwork: “Greatest Commandment,” Acrylic on Panel, Copyright 2009, by Matt Philleo.
Did you know that it is possible to be perfect?
It’s true, but we can’t be perfect–at least in the sense most people understand–in this life. As born-again believers in Jesus Christ we will be perfect, but only once we reach our heavenly home.
For those of us who have recognized our depravity–our sinful state before God–and received His free gift of eternal life through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we often see positive, instant, sweeping change in our lives. But before long, we soon discover sinful tendencies in our life that are deep-seated and much harder to uproot.
If you have any true desire to follow Christ, and yet hit the glass ceiling of unyielding, stubborn sin, it’s not long before you can get really discouraged.
I know I have.
Here’s the deal: Jesus said, “Be ye perfect, as my Father in heaven is perfect.” Easier said than done, right?
Of course, the Lord’s words are entirely true and should be obeyed. We should be perfect. However, we need to look at this verse properly.
In a sense, we are already perfect if we have accepted Jesus and His gift of righteousness to us. He takes our sin and imperfection, and trades it for His perfect record of obedience and perfection. We are clothed in His perfection and righteousness.
And yet, in another sense, we are not yet perfect. Our actual day-to-day performance is anything but perfect. Any honest person, Christian or not, knows this. We all struggle with sin. Though it amazes me that, throughout the history of Christianity, there have always been some that say they have achieved a state of sinless perfection. I don’t buy it. Our society and our churches prove it’s not true.
What’s vitally important is that we are in the process of being made perfect.
That, I believe, is the message being conveyed by Jesus’ saying.
I have wondered, why can’t we have complete victory over sin in every area of our lives? Shouldn’t sin be completely obliterated once we believe in Jesus as our Lord and Savior? Isn’t salvation great enough to do that for us?
God showed me something recently while I was doing the dishes (I seem to get more ideas when I do the dishes than at any other time–don’t tell my wife!) I was wrestling with this idea of perfection, and yet why we still struggle with sin.
I thought of the ancient Israelites, and how after 40 years of wandering in the desert, they finally entered into the land of Canaan, the promised land. God promised them that He would drive out the inhabitants of the land. They would be moving into a land with cities and homes already built, water wells already dug, roads and pathways already paved–in other words a land with an entire infrastructure already intact.
But God also said He would not drive the inhabitants out all at once, lest the wild animals become too strong for the Israelites and overpower them. This is key.
While praying and thinking of this, it dawned on me that, today as Christians, our lives–our minds, souls, and bodies–are like this land. God goes ahead of us and drives out the inhabitants (sin) by His grace–the effective cleansing of the blood of Christ, brought to us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And yet, He doesn’t do this all at once. Why? I asked the Lord. The answer?
Because of pride.
Aha! So those wild animals, then, are like pride. If we had complete, immediate victory over sin, pride would just as quickly fill in the vacancy. The only difference, we would be even worse off than we were before. Because now, the ravaging beast of pride causes us to look down at others, feel superior to them, and be incited to attack them with our “holier-than-thou” attitude. Not only that, but if we are “perfect” why would we feel like we even need God?
It is our constant struggle against sin that alerts us to the fact that we need a Savior. And we need Him every day.
If we feel we don’t need God, we close the door to His mercy and help for us. Jesus used this illustration to drive the point home. I will retell the story in my own words:
There once were two men. One was a deacon in his local Full-Gospel church located in the “good part” of town and the other was skid-row bum. One night, the derelict wandered around town after finishing off a bottle of brandy, and ended up sleeping on a park bench in the deacon’s neighborhood.
That next morning, the deacon was going out for his usual jog in the neighborhood park. The derelict was just waking up–his head throbbing–and he could see through his glazed, bloodshot eyes, the cleanly dressed deacon approaching. Instantly, he began to loathe himself, remembering how, not too long ago, he used to go to church and was a respectable member of society, but through many bad decisions ended up a homeless man with an insatiable dependence on alcohol.
By this time, the deacon was close enough to catch several sickening whiffs of the bum’s booze-drenched body odor. Glancing at him quickly as to avoid eye-contact, he thought to himself, “What a shame, somebody living like that. Hopeless drunk–it’s in his own fault. I thank you, God, that I grew up in the church, and my parents raised me to be respectable and not like that man. He probably has never even been to church once in his whole life.”
The down-and-outer could only look down. Waves of humiliation and shame cascaded over him.
He cried out in desperation, in half-formed mumbling words, “God, I hate what I am. Help me God! I remember how someone at church once told me about Jesus, that He is a friend of sinners. God, I’m just a no-good drunk. Please God, have mercy on me and help me out of this mess!”
It is this second man, by the way–not the first–that was made right with God. We often don’t like that. Instead, we give honor to the accomplished, respectable, even braggadocious people in our society.
God is different than us. He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
So, who is better off–the deacon or the derelict? Who would you rather be? When I give my kids a choice they don’t like, they say, “nothing!” While I’m not advocating living like a person on the streets, I am saying, like the derelict, we should look at our hearts and see ourselves as we really are–sinners in need of a Savior. That is the root of humility. And we should act like we believe it, in the way we relate to God and people.
As for being perfect, we will reach that goal–when we get to heaven. For now, let’s be content with getting to the finish line, inviting others on the sidelines to get in the race, and offering help to those who trip along the way. There are a lot of lost, lonely, hurting people out there. Let’s reach them and invite them to share the joy of fellowship with God through Jesus Christ!
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
  • If you are a Christian, how has God changed your life after you believed? How has seeing sin in your life drawn you closer to the Lord?
  • If you are not a Christian, what do you think of “Christians” who look down at others? How do you think Jesus treated the “down-and-outers” around Him?
Share your thoughts!
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