I am so thankful I stuck with it to the end!!
When I first started reading it, though impressed by Kevin Belmonte's eloquent way with words and choice of quotations by well-known theologians and commentators, I must admit, I was bored. And disappointed. I thought I was about to read a book documenting miraculous events that might encourage me and move me to wonder. Instead (and perhaps this says more about me than it does the book!), the first few chapters were reiterating stories I already well knew. They are wonderful bible stories of God's faithfulness and propensity to use ordinary people to accomplish magnificent tasks in His name. But they were stories I was very familiar with, and just not what I was expecting... So I nearly wrote my first review of a book I didn't read cover to cover (don't worry, I would have admitted that in the review!)
But then the chapters changed to stories of para-biblical historical figures-- people and stories I wasn't so well acquainted with, or had never before been introduced to. And their stories stirred up my soul to wonder, to awe, to conviction, to longing, to joy. Documenting the miraculous testimonies of such intriguing figures as St. Augustine, Perpetua, Julian of Norwich, D.L. Moody, G.K. Chesterton, William Wilberforce, Corrie Ten Boom, and some I had never before heard of but am so thankful that I have now, like Clyde Kilby (whose childlike wonder in the halls of academia challenge me to find more wonder and beauty and joy in each moment I have wherever I am!), Holly Ordway, and a doctor emboldened by Jesus whose tale touched Cecil B. Demille so much that he wrote about it in his autobiography.
Cecil B Demille was a movie director back in Hollywood's golden age. Though remembered most for his The Ten Commandments, he directed an earlier film called King of Kings which was powerfully used to touch people the world over. In Demille's autobiography he writes of a Polish pastor he called Wallner who was so moved after seeing the film King of Kings that he decided to become a pastor and serve that King all the rest of his days. This pastor related a story to Demille of a doctor in his congregation who was a Messianic Jew-- a Jewish man who recognized Christ as his Saviour. When Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, this doctor was sent to a concentration camp, and gained the special attention of the gestapo because of the way he encouraged the other prisoners.
"Suffering and torture were brutally inflicted on this steadfast believer. He was repeatedly struck with an iron rod until one of his arms had to be amputated. Still, he refused to be silent about his faith. Ultimately, as Demille's autobiography reveals, 'one Gestapo officer beat the doctor's heard against a stone wall until blood was streaming down his face.' The officer then brandished a mirror before the doctor's face. 'Look at yourself now,' he said with incredible cruelty. 'Now you look like your Jewish Christ.'
Lifting the one hand he had left, the doctor said, 'Lord [Jesus], never in my life have I received such honor-- to resemble You.' Those proved to be his last words."Belmonte continues to tell the story Demille wrote in his autobiography. The Gestapo officer was so pierced by those words, by the witness of the doctor, that he was wracked with guilt at having killed him, and he sought out the doctor's pastor-- Wallner-- and was led to faith in Christ. Pastor Wallner told him, "Perhaps God let you kill that good man to bring you to the foot of the Cross, where you can help others." When the Gestapo officer went back to the concentration camp, it was to work as an insider with Wallner and the Czech Underground to free many Jews.
As Cecil B. Demille reports it, Wallner told him that if it had not been for him seeing that film which God used to draw him to Himself as a young man, he never would have become a pastor, and "Three hundred and fifty Jewish children would have died in the ditches."
These are the stories that I RELISH hearing! That give me gooseflesh upon reading and renew the faith in my heart and being part of something so much bigger than you or I simply in belonging to Jesus!
And it's these sorts of stories that Belmonte so expertly relays to us in his book Miraculous: A Fascinating History of Signs, Wonders, and Miracles. Go out and find yourself a copy! Or come over and borrow mine :)
* *I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255