(Photo: Courtesy Pure Publicity)
James (Jim) Garlow and writing partner Keith Wall have written the latest in a series of books about heaven, hell, angels and miracles entitled "Real Life, Real Miracles." The book focuses on the stories of everyday people experiencing the miraculous in their lives. Garlow spoke with The Christian Post about his own belief in the miraculous and the process used to develop the book.
The Christian Post: What led to your belief in angels/miracles?
Garlow: I'm an unlikely candidate to write a book about such things; I personally have never witnessed an angel or had an angelic or supernatural experience. I believe everyone else's account. As for miracles, I read the Old and New Testaments and see God's power demonstrated. Some say that miracles stopped with Jesus, but I see no evidence.
CP: Did you have a hard or easy time finding people to speak about their experience with angels?
Garlow: People seem to have an eagerness to talk about it … for one reason, if it involved near-death experiences, they felt like they had been discounted or written off by people. They felt they were being respected with our writing; we put our net very wide in order to collect the stories.
We didn't intend to write a series; we were asked in 2007 to write a book about heaven, near-death experiences, and the supernatural. I jumped at the chance to do more study about it, but right after the publisher met with me, both his wife and my wife were diagnosed with cancer. He ended up taking off six months; I took off eight months.
When we came back to start writing the book, so much had happened in our own lives that the book was no longer academic but became more personal. His wife went into remission; my wife went into remission as well, but the cancer has returned seven times and now we can't even get her into remission. She has been battling this cancer for five years and eight months – of this kind of cancer, she is in the top 99.99% of people with this disease are deceased by now. The topic of miracles is something we need now; we need one desperately!
As I've written about heaven, it's certainly been a season of our lives where we're taking very seriously the reality of miracles and longing to see the miraculous occur. When we started looking for the stories, I put out quite a few emails (more than 45,000 in total) and then we had to categorize them, check their credibility; we did not accept secondhand stories … had to be able to speak to the person directly. We also tried to vet them through their pastors for accountability.
We have so many stories that we could just keep going, but this will probably be the last book in the series. We had a plethora of opportunities. My task was to choose the stories and do the background research with the pastors, etc. We found we had a lot of stories about healing, but we had an overabundance of those, so we were looking for something different. Our search led us to the minority of the stories, other types of stories. It was a strong factor in picking the stories for this particular book.
CP: Do you believe everyone can have a miraculous experience or does one have to have faith in order for miracles to happen?
There's a sense in which there was an expectancy that provided a bit of an incubator to the miraculous, particularly in the realm of healing. But there were other times when the miraculous happened to those who least expected it. The question is: Why do the miracles have an appearance of randomness? The dancing hand of God (manifest), means that it touches some people, skips others … We came to the conclusion as we outlined these miracles, that there are a couple of things happening.
If you look at New Testament miracles, those miracles present a pattern that reveals the nature of God or unmask another aspect of God's love or Christ. When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, just a few miles away, the Pharisees are plotting his death. What is the message there? It's not just Lazarus' raising, John is showing what his happening right next to the Pharisees, which should have been a sign to them that Jesus had the power over death. Luke seems to be emphasizing the spirit of God; if you go to John, he's trying to make the case so that you'll believe.
We have to understand why miracles happen to some people and not others, otherwise my wife and I may become very bitter. The way to grasp miracles is to understand that the world was made perfect, it will be made perfect once again; the cumulative sin of billions of people has added up to a messy world with wars, death, sickness and disease.
We're on our way to a new heaven and a new earth. The reason we know something's not right about this world is that we know we were made in the image of God … we're not experiencing permanence or perfection (which we're made for). When Jesus does a miracle, he reaches into the future kingdom and pulls a piece into the present and allows people to see the permanence and perfection. Instead of going "That's not fair!" we have the reaction of "Thanks, God!" and feel blessed to have seen the future … It's a glimpse of what it will be like when all is restored.
"Real Life, Real Miracles" is available in bookstores and online. You can learn more about James Garlow at www.jimgarlow.com.