What do we do when confronted by news that is so astonishing that it beggars belief? How open are we to (re-)discovering that God is mind-blowingly good? If we’re honest, many of us have fallen by degrees into tired, doubting unbelief. Our expectations of God fall over time, until we wonder if he’s the good God of miracles we see in the gospels at all.
There’s one thing that’s real. Heaven. I heard somewhere that kids today (loads of adults too, I guess) think that Jesus is about as real as Father Christmas. It’s just a story, right?
I mean, everybody knows that a virgin birth is about as likely as a reindeer flying… so it’s a myth, isn’t it..? That’s what they think.
But it’s not a myth.
There’s more historical evidence about Jesus’ life, birth, existence, death AND resurrection than anything. There isn’t evidence like that for Santa Claus.
But these kids (and adults) don’t know that.
And while they’re editing out the reality of the most significant (and good) person who has ever REALLY lived on earth and REALLY died for us, they still subscribe to a fuzzy fictional concept of floating-on-the-cloud-heaven, because it’s much nicer to think that, than to think about not-existing after we die.
Heaven’s not full of clouds – at least not like that stereotype. I’d be arrogant to say I know exactly what it’s going to be like, but all the indications* are it is a fearsome and awesome place. A place of trembling holiness and glory. A place where hundreds, thousands, millions of angelic beings shout (SHOUT) God’s praises and worth. A place of heart-stopping holy judgment.
It’s real. Really real.
*This blog post raises a lot of issues, for example: who do we trust and whose report do we believe concerning events we’ve not personally experienced?
Is it possible to believe in heaven or healings without recognising that the Bible isn’t just the manual-for-being-a-religious-person-written-by-men but actually a collection of historic documents and letters? With all the familiarity I have of the Bible, I still find myself treating it as that – just a book – and forgetting it’s real, true… not a ‘magic book’, but words written by real people who are real witnesses of a period of history a long time ago. They’re not perfect infallible people, but these eye-witness accounts are an astonishing case of information preserved and conveyed across the centuries. People died throughout history for us to know this stuff and be able to read it in our language.
We have to decide whether or not their witness testimony was vision or hallucination or mind-blowing reality. Do miracles happen? If God made the world, then doesn’t it stand to reason he can bend/break the rules of the world he made, for good? That he might heal, or raise the dead? Why am I so afraid to assimilate this character and nature of an unpredictable, rule-breaking miracle-working God into my worldview? Surely it means that nothing can be the same again. As the disciples discovered, walking with Jesus each day – you could never tell what he might do next.
There are witnesses to astonishing events and healings living among us here today. Do we treat their experiences with contempt too? Do we dismiss the evidence of those who say ‘I was once [literally, medically confirmed as] blind, but now I see.’ How do we respond to their statement, ‘and Jesus did it.’?
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” Acts 2:22