Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Touched by God

In a famous picture painted by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel in Rome there is a depiction of God reaching out His finger to touch the reclining form of Adam. The first man also holds his hand outstretched towards God. It is a famous picture and for many it is a powerful representation of God's creative and connecting power with humanity. The picture is quite dramatic, but does God always touch us in this fashion.

In describing the power of God's touch Jesus says "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit." John 3:8 This is a more subtle representation of God's touch. But it is no less powerful. In fact the creative power demonstrated by God's restorative power in reclaiming the life of the soul is just as much a testimony to his omnipotence. But it is perhaps this method of interaction that speaks more to God's desire to love each member of his creation.

The true touch of God will not leave a life unchanged. Just as the finger of God in Michelangelo's painting gave physical life to Adam, so too the touch of the Holy Spirit gives life to the souls of Adam's descendants. Perhaps the next time we seek God's touch we can be open to the touch of the heart that He so longs to provide.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Forgotten Stories

We stand on the shoulders of giants, but we forget to kneel in the shadow of humble servants. How many of us have forgotten the lowly and humble of heart in our lives? There have always been people that walk the earth with modesty. Do we know these people? Do we strive to emulate the simple stories that are woven through our lives and the history of God's people.

Growing up I was often attracted to characters in the bible like Moses, Samson and David. Their gallant leadership or their amazing abilities spoke to my childlike wonder. But I am afraid that I did not see their true greatness. Moses was called the meekest man on earth. Samson, while proud in the prime of his life surrendered himself ultimately in humility. David was a conqueror of giants and tens of thousands of Philistine enemies, yet God calls him a man after his own heart. In retrospection perhaps David was given this title because of his compassion and humility as he sought not to elevate his own interests, but wait until the God raised him above the former "Lord's anointed."

I think this is why we should look closer at the lesser known stories of the bible. Maybe we can learn something from people like Obadiah and Amos in the Old Testament and John Mark and Timothy in the New Testament. As I write these examples I am struck by my inability to recall the more insignificant stories.

David understood the significance of the lesser known when he sought out Johnathan's posterity: Mephibosheth. Finding the soul remaining heir of the now desolated Benjamite kingdom he elevated the crippled Mephibosheth, bestowing upon him blessing after blessing. Maybe it's time that we focused on the forgotten stories so that we can see how God remembers ours.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Standing Alone

For those of us who actually attempt to let go of worldly interests there is often an attempt to stand alone amongst life's difficulties. However we do not have the power alone to resist the devil. Our constant source of strength must be the Lord.

In the same way that Christ did not rely on his own strength but surrendered to the Father so too we must make a complete surrender to Christ. It is his choices to do right that will enable us to overcome. Literally the old self must die and the new creation born of God must be allowed to live without the fetters of the habits that we have nourished. God gives us a new nature when we surrender to him, but the habits formed in our old life are still there.

God does not take away the tendency to sin, because in this life he cannot. Yet we can resist sin through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. By allowing the Holy Spirit to keep alive the new nature that was given to us when we first believed we can put to death the habits that are left over from our old nature. These habits are the result of the character that we built in our previous life. If we will continue to surrender to God each day He will help us to cultivate new habits that will strengthen our characters.

Many people attempt to crucify self by living an austere and ascetic life. However that is not possible. Love is the only principle that can change the soul and love does not exist in the vacuum of isolation. Countless monks throughout the ages have thought themselves wise by removing themselves from the world. Their decision only removed the mechanism by which they might be truly changed. In a dynamic world loving those whom we can see is a tool of God to develop love for what we cannot see. 1 John 4:20