Thank God For Science, Week 4 — The “Do You Believe In Miracles?” Sermon Rewind

Thank God For Science was such a departure for us.

As Chris Macedo told me, “It’s the LEAST life application and yet the MOST impactful series we’ve ever had.”

I tend to agree.

Yet all good things, as they say, come to an end, and so did this series. Here’s the wrap up, riffing off Al Michaels with “Do You Believe In Miracles?”  A message that lands at this bottom line having less to do with HOW and more to do with WHY:

God will do whatever it takes to show he’s all that you need.


It’s the most iconic call in TV Sports History.  At the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid NY, the US hockey team – a collection of collegians, amateurs, and castoffs – was playing the USSR professional team.  It was a classic case of David v. Goliath as the Soviets had won the last game between the two 11-0 (!).  And due to certain geo-political realities patriotic fervor was rampant.  Even people who didn’t care a thing for hockey (like, um, everyone) cared about this game. Anyway, against all odds, as a good chunk of you know, the US team found itself up 4-3 as the clock wound down.  In those waning moments, Al Michaels – in a move that MADE HIS CAREER – called out, “Do you believe in miracles?!” And we wait.  And wait. And wait.  And for most of us the answer to that epic question is a resounding Maybe!.

                Because we’ve been thanking God for science this month here at GS.  We’ve seen that physics and faith are in fact not enemies but friends.  Yet no exploration of the subject is complete without asking the question do you believe in miracles?  Do you believe the laws of nature are ever suspended or broken for some larger, grander purpose?  Because let’s face it: the science for which we are thanking God has certain ironclad laws.  Nature has its rules and it does seem that they are meant to be broken.  Laws like …

                Gravity works.  Every time.

                Water is not a weight bearing substance. Ever.

                Planets have orbits. The Patriots always win.

                Illnesses need medicine and injuries need surgery.

                The universe has been expanding, unimpeded, ever since the Big Bang started things off. The Kardashians are always annoying.

                Virgins don’t have babies.

                Dead people stay dead.

                These laws, these rules, from all appearances and evidences, are fixed, stationary, and immovable.

                Which puts believers in Xnty in a challenging place.  Because the Xns faith is NOT a philosophy.  It’s not a value system for your behavior.  It is instead a faith based on history, and specifically a kind of history where a virgin conceives a child who grows up to have water bear his weight, illnesses flee at his touch, and when he dies he doesn’t stay dead.  Faith hinges or falls on that intervention, especially the one where dead Jesus didn’t stay dead. 

                And then, and then, even if you get to the place where you accept THOSE bible miracles, you’re faced with yet another dilemma:  why don’t we see stuff like that anymore? Especially the NON-Jesus miracles like parting a Red Sea or a burning bush or calling water from a rock.  I mean, we have an occasional healing or something unexpected or even a hockey game that becomes a cultural touchstone, we don’t see that big stuff anymore.  It’s a bit like the kid who hadn’t grown up in church who went one day and came home after & said to his parents, “The pastor told about the Egyptians chasing the Jews to the Red Sea.  Real fast, the Jews built a bridge and got over the water just before the Egyptians showed up.  When Pharoah’s army tried to cross, the Jews blew it up and all the Egyptians drowned.  The dad questioned his son:  “Did the pastor actually tell you that?”  Answer:  “Not exactly, but the way he told it you’d never believe it.”  Nope, no you wouldn’t.

                And that’s why some of you have never really considered Xnty. The bible seemed more like a book of legends & fables with a healthy dose of guilt thrown in.  And you said, for better and for worse, “No thanks.”

                And here I am today, trying to address these scientific questions rationally and helpfully, and to do so we’re gonna dig in to the most obscure and least plausible of them all, a cosmic level miracle in Joshua 10.  On that, I believe will help us answer not only the question of “do you?” but the even larger one of “why would?”

                Here’s the situation:  it’s about 1400 BC or so, Moses has died, Joshua has taken the mantle of leadership, and he is leading the Jews into the Promised land.  Yes, there is violence and war involved, which brings up a whole nutha can of worms: why is the OT violent and the NT nice?  Why was he a mean god before and then a nice God when he sent Jesus.  Well … if you read the whole way, the NT is pretty violent, too; it’s just that God does his own vengeance at the end.  In both testaments the enemies of God pay the price for their rebellion against God. It’s just that there’s no human agency in the New … vengeance really is his, not as a reminder but as a reality.

                Anyway, as part of his march on the PL, Joshua has entered into an unholy alliance with people called the Gibeonites.  Why?  Because he had a secret suspicion that God was not enough.  He needed more.  God wasn’t totally sufficient, couldn’t be completely trusted, so let me hedge my bets with this alliance.  Anyone here ever done that?  Because you weren’t sure God was ENOUGH, because you thought it was Jesus PLUS not Jesus PERIOD, you got in some relationships, made some investments, compromised your integrity.  And now you’re paying the price.

                Which Joshua did.  Because of that alliance, he finds himself compelled to fight against the Amorites (Stalagtites would be next) to protect the Gibeonites. Got that?  The result of all that is that he needs a miracle to help him get out of what he never should have gotten in to.  Anyone like that?  Need a financial miracle to get you out of a debt you racked up?  A relational miracle to rescue a marriage you knew was as bad idea?  A parenting miracle to help those kids you neglected?  Yep, these miracle needs don’t change so much.

                That’s where we picked it up, with Joshua chasing the Amorites (in a battle he didn’t NEED to fight!) in 14:10-11:

10 The Lord threw them into confusion before Israel, so Joshua and the Israelites defeated them completely at Gibeon. Israel pursued them along the road going up to Beth Horon and cut them down all the way to Azekah and Makkedah. 11 As they fled before Israel on the road down from Beth Horon to Azekah, the Lord hurled large hailstones down on them, and more of them died from the hail than were killed by the swords of the Israelites.

  Hurled hailstones.  Love it!  The only ppl who say the bible is boring are the ones who don’t read it!  Then 14:12-15:

12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel:

“Sun, stand still over Gibeon,
    and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 So the sun stood still,
    and the moon stopped,
    till the nation avenged itself on
[a] its enemies,

as it is written in the Book of Jashar.

The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel!

15 Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal

Now stop there.  Joshua need to prolong the daylight so the enemies wouldn’t escape under the cover of dark.  So he prays SUN STAND STILL.  We love science here, right?  The sun’s not moving!  He was really praying for the EARTH TO STAND STILL!  So: does God listen to a prayer based on incomplete knowledge of astronomy?  Or does he say: come back in 1500 years when Copernicus figures it out!  Maybe the real miracle here is that God listens to a bad prayer!

                Well, whatever happened – earth or sun – something incomprehensible to both ancient and modern minds took place.  But even that isn’t what intrigues me on the miracle quest today.  It’s the summary statement in 10:14: READ.  Ah, the miracle wasn’t for its own sake.  This is not a God Vanity Moment.  Not a “Look At Me, World!” display.  It’s for the sake of his people.  His people who – what? – had been convinced that he wasn’t enough, the he couldn’t be trusted, that they needed to hedge their bets.  For the sake of the guy – Joshua – who, innocently or not, though God PLUS was the answer.  The miracle didn’t speak for itself; it spoke to Joshua.  And to you and to me.

                Here’s what it says:  God will do what it takes to show he’s all that you need.  Yep!  He will suspend the same laws of nature THAT HE HAS WRITTEN to show: a) the he wrote them but b) more importantly, b) to demonstrate to his people that he is completely enough.  That it’s not Jesus PLUS.  It’s Jesus PERIOD. 

                See, when it comes to science, nature, creation, God is like the author who still holds his edit pen.  He’s like the painter who still grasps the brush.  He’s like the engineer who even though the project has been turned in, still has his calculator.  He’s like the accountant still in control of the spreadsheet.  And he’s like the carpenter who, when construction is finished, still has his hammer at his side.  He designed, made it, rules it, and he can suspend the very laws he has woven into the fabric of it.  But remember: his purpose in doing so does NOT revolve around his vanity.  It centers on your need for victory.  God will do what it takes to show he’s all that you need. He longs to show himself strong and loving in you and through you.

                Maybe that has something to do with why cosmic level miracles are not part our daily existence.  That, post Resurrection, things are different?  I don’t know.  But consider this.  The children of Israel … what did miracles do for them? They saw the Red Sea parted, they had manna dropped down from heaven, they had one of their own partially digested in a fish and survive and on and on and on.  And what did that do to their faith?  It gave them faith in miracles.  It made them demand the next miracle.  All the light and power show in the world did not grow faith in the one spoke light into being and launched the power of forever.  And I have noticed that pattern continues today … that churches built on Signs & Wonders (less on THE sign of resurrection and THE wonder of virgin birth) tend to be rotating doors of ppl looking for the next miracle, the next high.

                Because you know, don’t you, that there was another day in which either the sun stood or earth stood or things got inverted or there was simply darkness at noon.  THAT day.  On the cross.  The miracle of God at the same time demanding payment for sins and then footing the bill.  The prelude for the miracle three days later when he pushed through death on the other side and gave us a foretaste of what will happen to our bodies.  Because virgins don’t have babies.  But one did.  And water doesn’t bear weight.  But some did.  And dead people do stay dead.  But one didn’t.  Hallelujah.  One didn’t.  That’s the miracle I’ll never be too scientific to believe!  God will do what it takes to show he’s all that you need.

                You know what.  Did miracles happen?  Well, yeah. But does miracling happen?  Ongoing?  Not as a way so much of creating faith as affirming faith?  Like with almost all this stuff, I believe it’s not a matter of seeing to believe.  It’s more believing to see.

                You know it’s goes from the ALMOST explicable.  My shoulder. Should have had surgery. All messed up as a 22 year old.  Friend laid hands on, prayed in Jesus’ name, prayed in tongues, invited Julie to pray with me, shoulder healed, surgery averted.  God will do what it takes to show he’s all that you need.

                Or my friend here who went into cardiac arrest and while on the treatment table left his body, overheard the doctors talking about him, and watched from over the doctor’s shoulder while they worked his heart back to rhythm.  What?!  Yep!  And the cool thing – he responded to that miracle (not a resurrection but as close as he’d want to come) by getting serious about Jesus, faith, bible, living relationship.  God will do what it takes to show he’s all that you need.

                Or the Noll Family. Check it out:

                Do you believe in miracles?  Yes!

                Even better: I believe in their author.