Dr. S.W. Mitchell was a well-known neurologist in Philadelphia. One evening, a little girl, poorly dressed and deeply troubled, knocked on his door. She told Dr. Mitchell her mother was very sick. Could he please come with her? It was cold and snowing, and Dr. Mitchell was tired, but something in the girl's plea compelled him to go.
This was in the era when doctors made house calls. Dr. Mitchell dressed and followed the girl. When he arrived at the home, he found the mother ill with pneumonia. He arranged for the medical care she needed. Before leaving, Dr. Mitchell complimented the sick woman on the intelligence and persistence of her daughter. The woman stared at him for a moment.
"My daughter died a month ago," she said. "Her shoes and coat are in the clothes closet there."
Dr. Mitchell was perplexed, and his curiosity compelled him to open the closet door. Hanging in the closet was the same coat worn by the little girl who knocked on his door. The coat was warm and dry and obviously had not been recently worn.
How do you explain such a thing? Was it a coincidence? A vision? An angel?
During the Japanese occupation of China in World War II, a truck carrying Japanese marines stopped in front of a Christian bookstore in Shanghai. The back of the truck was half-filled with books. The shopkeeper realized the soldiers had come to seize the books in his store as well. The marines jumped from the truck, but before they could enter, a man entered the shop. The shopkeeper knew practically all his customers, but this man was a stranger.
The soldiers did not enter the shop. They seemed unable to follow the stranger into the store. They looked in the windows and loitered on the sidewalk for two hours. The man who entered the store asked the shopkeeper what the men outside wanted. He replied the Japanese were seizing books from many stores in the city, and now they had come to seize his books. The stranger suggested they pray. While the men were outside - looking but never entering - the men prayed together, and the stranger encouraged the shopkeeper. Finally, the Japanese soldiers left. After the soldiers left, the stranger left as well, though he bought nothing.
Billy Graham tells about his grandmother's death. She was lying in bed, and suddenly, the room filled with bright light. Though she had been ill for a long time, she sat up in bed and spoke with a hint of laughter, "I see Jesus. He has his arms stretched out toward me. I see Ben (her husband who had passed away years earlier), and I see the angels." Then she slumped over and died.
How do you explain such a thing? Was it a hallucination? A vision? A glimpse into another realm?
I was at the barn on our ranch loading fence posts onto the bed of a pickup truck. As I reached for a fence post, I saw a quick movement inches from my hand. I jumped back. It was a rattlesnake. I've often told this story as a humorous tale (it took a while for me to find a way to kill the snake). The serious question of the story is this: Why did the snake not bite me?
How do you explain such a thing? Was it a coincidence? My quick reflexes? An angel?
I believe there is another realm of reality that we see only dimly. It is a spiritual reality. There is much that is unexplainable in our physical world. Science, when it is honest, must say some things cannot be proven or disproven. The spiritual realm operates by different laws.
According to the Bible, in this spiritual realm there is a war between forces of evil and forces of good. The forces of evil fight dirty. The forces for good fight the good fight. Jesus followers believe the death and resurrection of Jesus are the turning point in this battle. The forces of evil, though still strong, are fighting a losing battle, maybe even deluded they can still win. The problem with evil is it lies, and it begins to believe the lies it tells.
The Apostle Paul said, "We see through a glass darkly." We only catch glimpses of this other realm, where the battle rages. But there is enough evidence to tell us God is at work. That same evidence suggests God intervenes in our realm, so that his will may be done.
To deny the existence of this other realm requires faith: Faith in science, in your own senses and in your own construct of reality. To believe in the existence of this other realm also requires faith: Faith in the signs of a loving God, faith in the evidence of story after story, faith in God's construct of reality. The question is, where will you put your faith?
The Rev. Dr. Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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