Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Hiding from the Blazing Light Part Two

Several years later, another opportunity to witness a miracle arose. I was married with three children and attended a church that I was quite unhappy with at the time. The doctrine contained a mixture of anti-holiness sentiment and popular psycho-babble, but we labored through the experience, having made too many friends to want to leave. Unfortunately, the poor teaching often resulted in false conversions, thereby creating nominal Christians, some with whom we had rather close relationships. Although the easy-believism doctrines of the church were prevalent, "Bill" and "Olivia" frequently questioned the teachings but never really opposed them. Our mutual dissatisfaction created a common ground between them and us, and we nurtured our bond with them. I was never quite sure at the time if they were true believers or not, but we loved this couple and tried to model genuine faith for them.

The family had recently suffered through Olivia’s miscarriage of twins. The pregnancy had progressed past the first trimester, so Olivia’s anticipation of delivering her new children into the world was dashed, replaced by the horror of knowing that two dead babies lay within her. The pain was indescribable, and the nightmare of having them removed must have left permanent scars in her mind. A few months later, she was pregnant again, but after several weeks, she began hemorrhaging. A sonogram revealed that the terror was beginning again. The placenta was detaching, and the doctor told her to go home and wait for the certain miscarriage to complete its course. Nothing could be done.

Knowing that they already had three other children to care for during this difficult time, we offered to bring the family their evening meal and keep them company if necessary. While driving to their home, I had a vision. I saw myself inside their house, at the entrance to the hallway that led to the master bedroom. I knew that Olivia was in that room, but everybody else was outside. I then heard the Lord speak to me. “Go to her. Lay your hands on her and make her whole.” The vision ended and I returned to reality, still driving, and with no one aware of what I had just gone through.

When we arrived, I told my wife that I would take the food inside. I set the dishes down on the kitchen countertop and started to walk back to the door when I noticed that I was in the exact position that I saw in the vision. I looked all around and saw that no one else was in the house. I almost expected to hear the voice of the vision, but as I listened, I could hear only the muffled sounds of children playing outside. Suddenly it occurred to me that a voice wasn’t necessary; I had already heard it once. I summoned my courage and walked down the hall, knowing from the vision which way to go and not really concerned about the improprieties of entering a bedroom where a woman lay inside, alone.

When the light from the doorway illuminated the room, Olivia looked up to see me and greeted me kindly. I told her that I was there to pray for her, and she allowed me to lay my hands on her as I beseeched God for the life of her child. Olivia wept silently during the prayer, and I excused myself as soon as I was done. No other words were exchanged.

We were told the next day that the bleeding stopped immediately after the prayer. Olivia said she could feel the healing but wanted to confirm the fact after we were gone. The danger of the miscarriage soon ended, and a healthy little girl was born a few months later.

Although the miracle brought happiness and the joy of a child, the rejoicing was short-lived for us. Olivia rebelled against the Lord in a dramatic fashion, even viciously attacking those who tried to help her physically and spiritually. Our ties to them were cut in pieces, and to this day, I don’t know where they stand with the Lord. Apparently they turned completely to an emotionally based religion, and followed the church’s harmful doctrines. Again, I was confused. To me, this was the second major miracle that God had worked through my obedience, and, for the second time, the person whom his power benefited turned away from the blazing light of his love and mercy. Soon after, we left that church, finding nothing to redeem its tremendous shortcomings.

I have since had several years to deal with my questions. Why did God perform these miracles? Are signs and wonders effective in bringing someone to Christ? I had often thought that if God would show his power like he did in Bible times, then bringing people to faith would be much easier. But when he actually did perform mighty deeds that could hardly be denied, the result was a complete turning away, seemingly worse than if nothing had happened at all. The light of God’s glory shone so brightly that the sinner couldn’t stand in his presence. Guilt became heavy and real, and although they had the choice to repent and be saved, they turned and ran, hiding from the truth of the God with whom they had to deal.

In my own experience, I have had more success in bringing people into the kingdom through demonstrating the miracle of a changed life and the gentle persuasion of the word of God. The light breaks through slowly, and the word begins its work from the inside out. Great miracles dazzle the eyes, and clearly some are turned to the truth through their witness, but it is the word of God that cuts like a two-edged sword, and it is the love demonstrated by his followers that opens the door of the Spirit-prepared heart.

I thank God for these two miracles. They increased my faith, and although the two for whom they were performed did not turn with gracious hearts to their Master, they were mercifully given that opportunity. They each had free will, and they each chose to turn away. They would not listen to the Word, so the miracles had no effect. As the Scripture says, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead.”

To this day, I still pray for my friends. The memory of those mighty deeds must still burn within their minds, and maybe someday God's blazing light will shine again, and the Word will do its work, this time illuminating any remaining darkness in their hearts and minds and drawing them to the light's everlasting source.

Bryan Davis

Hiding from the Blazing Light Part One

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign,” Jesus taught us so long ago. Does that mean he was opposed to miracles? That verse might lead a person to think so, but the Bible also teaches us that our Lord was willing to perform signs, thereby establishing his ministry and proving that he was the Messiah, the Son of God. I have often wondered about this apparent tension between two ideas. On the one hand, we are warned not to seek after miracles; we should not look for God to prove something in order for us to obey. On the other hand, God has graciously worked wonders throughout all of history, not just to bring about a desired end, but also to demonstrate his existence and power.

I have personally witnessed some of these wonders. I thought at the time that God was graciously trying to break through to people’s hearts by letting them see his works with their own eyes, but their unexpected responses to his mercy made me wonder if there might be another purpose.

While I attended the University of Florida in the late seventies, I befriended a young man who labored through an advanced Physics class with me. "Kevin" and I made a habit of studying together, and as we gradually became friends, I took opportunities more frequently to initiate spiritual conversations with him. For several weeks his response was polite, listening, nodding his head, and giving an occasional, obligatory “yes” or “no” in response to my simple, probing questions. One fateful night, however, the dialogue changed dramatically.

As was our habit during a late-night round of studying, we holed up in the equipment room of a dormitory amid volleyballs, horseshoe sets, and a considerable pile of books. After a couple of hours of attempting to decipher the latest chapter in our lessons, I was able to turn the conversation toward God. Our brains were becoming tired and numb, so Kevin didn’t seem to mind the break. At one point in our discussion, I tried to search my mind for a particular Scripture, but in my state of fatigue, I drew a blank. I knew the passage was in Ephesians, but I couldn’t come up with the words to save my life. I said aloud, “If only I had brought my Bible,” knowing I could have found the verse quickly if my spiritual sword had been available.

Kevin stared at the shelves on the wall, seemingly in a daze. “There’s a Bible,” he said blankly, pointing toward a mess of sports equipment. I reached over our pile of books, grabbed the small, white bible, and whispered “Thank you, Lord” loud enough for Kevin to hear.

“I’ve never seen that Bible in here,” Kevin said, amazed, “and I work here all the time.” Indeed, Kevin was a part-time employee of the school, working the front desk of the dorm, and one of his jobs was to police the equipment room, checking out the sports items to the students and putting them back in place in the evening.

“It shouldn’t be too surprising,” I said, trying to act as if this were an everyday occurrence, although I was secretly very pleased that God had provided in a dramatic way. “God has always been in the miracle business,” I added. I then flipped open the Bible, turned to Ephesians, and read the passage I had been looking for.

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Kevin was more attentive than usual as I started, but he was distant and quiet as I read the last few words. Clearly the word of God had brought about a sincere meditation.

“Is something wrong?” I asked.

Kevin shook himself free of his trance, but his mood became dark and somewhat angry. “No, nothing. Just the usual.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you think this Bible showing up was a miracle, but there are other explanations.” As he spoke the level of his passion grew. “I’ve listened to you for a long time, and it’s great that you believe God does stuff for you and all that, but God’s never done anything for me. I’m just an unlucky person and you’re not. I don’t think there’s really a god involved.”

I listened carefully to his heart-felt words. The sincerity in his expression was as real as his anger. I wasn’t sure what to do, but the work God had already done that evening made me feel rather bold. “Kevin, what could God do that would make you believe in him? I’ll pray for whatever it might be.”

He didn’t have to think for very long. Apparently many troubles were at the forefront of his mind. “I don’t really believe any god will do anything for me, but what have I got to lose?” Kevin looked toward the ceiling, ready to give me a laundry list of his inner turmoils. He sighed. “My father has terminal cancer and the doctor’s given him one month to live.”

Already I was struck to the core with anguish. All this time, and I had never asked him about his problems. I swallowed the sorrow and began writing as Kevin continued.

“I’m supposed to graduate in nine months, and his dream has been for one of his kids to get a college degree. I want him to stay alive long enough to see it.”

“Okay, I got it,” I answered, writing it down confidently, in spite of the fact that our session was beginning to get a little scary for me. I was sure that God could do anything, but I had never experienced any “big” miracles before.

Kevin went on. “My sister is a drug addict and lives in the streets as a prostitute. I want her to get her life cleaned up.”

I kept writing as Kevin listed three or four more terrible problems that dwarfed any that I had ever faced. I was nearly in tears when he finished, but I was grateful for the opportunity to minister to him. Just speaking all of his needs seemed to have a calming effect on him.

“I’ll take these to my prayer group,” I said with all the sincerity and compassion I could muster.

Kevin smiled. “I don’t expect anything to happen, but thanks for listening.”

My prayer group met on Wednesday night, immediately after the evening service. The leader was a Vietnam War veteran, an unusually godly man in my eyes, and as the group filed into the little room, I handed him my list and explained the circumstances. He took out his own pen and copied the list to a card he had in his pocket, and the confidence he exuded in prayer that night was truly a blessing. As was our custom, we prayed for an hour, and we continued a weekly vigil over Kevin’s concerns for the next few months.

I didn’t see Kevin very frequently during the next semester. We had no classes in common, and he no longer worked in the dormitory. I would see him on campus on occasion, but constantly asking him about his father and sister quickly seemed inappropriate. His father was hanging on, but his sister was showing no progress. We continued to pray.

Finally, graduation day came. I was excited, hoping to see Kevin, but I had no idea how our prayers had been answered. I did run into him, almost by “accident”. He was dressed in a Navy uniform, having completed his NROTC training, proudly standing with family members. When he saw me, he beamed. He excitedly introduced me to his father and mother, along with his other guests.

I pulled him to the side for a moment. “I see your father made it.”

“Yes, he did.”

“And your sister?”

“You’ll never guess,” he said, sounding like an excited teenager. “She’s in the Air Force now. She’s off drugs and doing great!”

I immediately went on, asking about the other items on the list, and his mood became sober as he gave me good news concerning each problem.

“Why are you so glum?” I asked, filled with so much joy I could hardly speak. “Every prayer request you had was answered completely! God has proven himself to you! What’s to keep you from believing in him now?”

Kevin’s expression grew ever darker, and I could tell that the big, burly Navy man was near tears. “I can’t believe in him,” he said, fighting his emotions. “Not yet, anyway.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. “Why not?” I nearly shouted. “Can’t you see what he’s done for you?”

Kevin did have a tear on his cheek now. “That’s the problem, Bryan. I know if I believe in him, I’ll have to change my life, and I don’t want to do that yet.”

I was speechless, and I’m sure my jaw dropped open in utter amazement. He looked at me sympathetically for a moment, and I was finally able to talk again. “Kevin, God has extended his hand to you in a way that most people never see. You may never get an opportunity like this again.”

“I know,” he said, gathering more courage and becoming increasingly hardened by it. “I’ll take that chance.” He turned and walked away, rejoining his happy companions.

I was dumbfounded for days. God had worked mighty miracles, and they seemed to come to nothing. My friends at church tried to help me understand, including my prayer group leader, who pointed out that the faith of each prayer warrior had been increased through this experience. He was right, but there was something missing in the puzzle, and I wasn’t able to grasp it at that time. (Part 2 in next post)

Bryan Davis

Monday, March 28, 2005

Embracing Change

I remember a day over 15 years ago when I told my wife that I had a funny feeling that things were about to change ... a lot. Well, during the following month, she became pregnant, I changed careers, and we moved from Maryland to Florida. So, now, whenever a funny feeling comes over me, she hopes it's just a rash.

That funny feeling is working overtime today, and it's not just a feeling. The gears of change are grinding in a very visible way. And these changes are big, exciting, and, in some ways, scary.

As the changes become manifest, I'll report them here and let you know how we're coping. If you feel so inclined, please pray for us. But don't worry. Our family bonds are stronger than ever. Our faith is rock solid. God's grace is ever present. We know in whom we have believed.

Bryan Davis

Sunday, March 27, 2005

A New Life!

It is Resurrection Day! Let us celebrate with joy and gladness. He is risen!

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:4-7, New American Standard)

Jesus died and rose again, thereby giving us the ability to live a holy life. With this power dwelling within, how could we ever want to do anything less?

Bryan Davis

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A New Creation

I spent a lot of time yesterday working on a new book project. Although I still have book four of the Dragons in our Midst series to finish, I wanted to get a couple of chapters under my belt for a new series concept. In many ways this process invigorated me more than the usual charge I get from writing.

Why? I think it's because I participated in the process of creation at it foundation. My favorite part of writing has always been writing something new. Editing and re-editing is the tedious part, and the toiling hours can be mind-numbing. But when I put new ideas on my computer screen and create a story, I feel the one aspect of the image of God springing from my soul, the art of genesis.

With the new series, this feeling has even more of a creative cutting edge. I am generating new characters, a new male and female protagonist. It's as if Adam and Eve are springing to life from my own imagination. God, a first-cause being, the ex-nihilo creator, has implanted in me the same ability. No, not the ability to form a physical man out of dust, but the capacity to form a new idea out of the dust of my mind. And when I place that man and woman in my new world, it is so exhilarating to be able to say, "It is good!"

Well, there is still much to do in this new world, so my Sabbath rest still lies in the future. I'd better get back to work!

Friday, March 25, 2005

Good Friday

For my first entry into my inaugural blog, I want to make a comment concerning Good Friday. While Terri Schiavo suffers at the hands of her murderous husband, I feel helpless to do anything about it. Sure, I called and e-mailed the governor and spoke up on her behalf. I have prayed for her several times a day. But I still feel helpless.

I wonder what Jesus' supporters felt while watching Him hang on the cross. Helpless? Probably. Desperate? Angry? Despondent? Maybe any or all of these. I think I'm feeling all of these today.

I am thankful that there is always the hope of Sunday morning. Though skies are dark today, I know there will be a final resurrection that will wipe every cloud away. Justice will be done. The innocent will be exonerated, and the guilty will be swept into judgment. May God bring His righteous hand to bear soon.

In the meantime, I fear that our nation is plunging into a culture of death far more quickly than I had imagined earlier. If Terri dies at the hands of her husband, this will be a watershed event that may dwarf the significance of Roe versus Wade. Not only will there be a precedent for cruelly starving human beings based on the word of an obviously unfaithful husband, we will likely move into an era in which it will become our duty to die when our lives become inconvenient. Mark my words. Those days are upon us.

Bryan Davis