• From March 2010. It is human nature to look for shortcuts.  We are an ingenious species.  And it is no surprise that as Westerners we are prone to throw money at problems.  But, as in the case of the man ‘lame from birth’ in Acts 3, healing is not offered for money – it is offered as more valuable than money. (Note: You do not have to send money to read this column or receive the blessings it may provide.)

I’m always surprised when I meet someone who sends money to a television preacher who promises blessings in return. But I suppose it makes sense. There is appeal for some, sitting alone in their homes on a cold, dark night, drawn to that handsome man, who looks straight at you as he talks excitedly about God’s miracles.

But I understand the appeal. Miracles are great. Christ did many amazing miracles – miracles that showed us that the Kingdom of God was not some future dream but a present opportunity. And I see miracles happen all the time, but they are not as glamorous as the miracles that happen on the other side of a TV screen. I see miracles of healing, I see miracles of hope, I see miracles of people overcoming grief and religious abuse and unemployment. I see miracles of people who were once lonely and abandoned now being loved and encouraged. I see miracles of empty lives that are now smack dab in the middle of God’s purposes.

But most of these miracles take time. They don’t happen with a shout or a slap on the forehead. Neither do they happen by sending a check to a P. O. box or touching some (purchased) cloth. The miracles I see don’t happen in stadiums. They are not compelled by the shouts of traveling preachers with terrific haircuts and fancy suits that we’ll probably never meet or even get to sit down and talk to. And that is a problem for me: Why do these fancy miracles that are so appealing only occur where there is no accountability or community?

Sometimes I wonder if the dramatic miracles that only happen in the accountability-free setting of TV shows and traveling crusades have an unusual side-effect. Why settle for common miracles with the rest of us when you can turn on the TV or go to a stadium and get awesome, immediate miracles? And then, perhaps, you can pity us poor folk who‘s miracles are only sometimes dramatic but mostly slow and gradual. A word of advice: if your spiritual fare causes you to feel superior to your Christian brothers and sisters, you are in dangerous territory.

If you are sending your hard-earned money to a TV ministry that focuses on a “give-and-get-blessed” theology, it’s time to grow up and start reading the rest of your Bible. The kingdom of heaven is a lot bigger than the handsome men in makeup would lead you to believe. I know writing a check and expecting a miracle is a lot easier than visiting the sick, helping the exploited and actually building relationships with other Christians –but you can do it. And the blessings will far surpass the gilded promises from the money-for-Jesus crowd.

So turn off your TV sets. Stop sending money to people who will never speak your name or sit with you in a hospital room. Go find a church full of real-life people. No, they won’t be perfect or super-spiritual, but neither are you. You can grow together. And, yes, miracles will happen. They might happen slowly and quietly, but they will still be thrilling.