Tuesday, March 19, 2013

1 John 3:1-2

"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."

Dwell on this for a moment. Read it a few times and listen to what the Spirit speaks to your heart.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Do you see?

I recently read The Invisible Gorilla, a fascinating book by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. The author discusses a study done in 1975 and repeated many times since which was designed to inform the researchers about how the brain processes and stores information. The study went like this. Participants were brought into a room to view a video. They were told that people on the screen would be throwing a ball back and forth. The participants were then told that they were to count the number of times the ball was thrown back and forth. However, at the end of the study the participants were asked how many of them saw the gorilla.

While the ball was being passed back and forth a person in a gorilla suit entered, walked from one side to the other side of the screen and exited. About 50% percent of the individuals did not recall seeing the person in the gorilla suit. The participants were then shown the tape again after which all of the participants saw the gorilla. While debriefing the events, those that saw the gorilla pass were convinced the other people were lying or crazy, while those who did not see the gorilla were convinced that somehow the tapes were switched and it was a hoax.

The book continues with additional studies and research including the same study done years later which was supplemented with sophisticated eye-tracking technology. Using this technology the researchers were able to view where on the screen the participants were looking. In this way, they were able to answer an additional question: did those participants who did not recall seeing the gorilla actually look at the gorilla? The answer? Yes. While the results were similar to the original study with about half the people reporting to have not seen the gorilla, everyone actually spent about half a second looking at the gorilla.

The author makes the point over and over with different studies that our brains don't work the way we think they do. We aren't walking around with video recorders in our heads, subconsciously recording every detail. We don't have untapped capacity waiting to be unlocked if only there were a certain combination of brain exercises. No, the study findings indicate that our brains look for patterns - and they do it really well. Our brains look for faces and will attempt to find a face sometimes in things that are not faces, including images burnt on toast. Further, the more our brains are trained to recognize certain patterns the more they see the pattern. And this scientific fact brings me to a spiritual thought.

Many people go through their lives not seeing God at work. Whether in a relationship, a particular event or circumstance, or even a broad arc of an individual's life and development, they just aren't looking for God. And it's not because God isn't there. No, he is active and always moving and if we were to look for him, he would be seen plainly. But for many people, they aren't told to look for him. The Bible asks the question "how will they know if no one tells them?" (Romans 10:14). The Bible also confirms a promise that God will be found if we seek him and that he is not far from any one of us (Acts 17:27, 1 Chronicles 28:9). That's all great news for us!

We can often be like the participants who miss the obvious because we haven't attuned our spiritual eyes to see. We glance at the obvious, don't give it a thought and in the process miss something profound. But if we were to look, if we were to open our eyes, if we were to train ourselves to recognize the pattern, God is at work all around us. Or perhaps you have an opportunity to tell someone else and show them what you see.

So the question is - do you see?

Thursday, February 28, 2013

For His Name's Sake

One of the most encouraging things I find in the Bible is the affirmation that God acts. I find it encouraging not only to know he acts, but because he acts purposefully, in just the right way, at just the right time. He acts purposefully in the right way, at the right time not because we as believers have all our stuff together. He acts not because we ourselves have aligned all the necessary pieces to make the puzzle complete. No, God acts "for his name's sake."

That message is spoken of a number of times in the Bible and today it was spoken to me again in Psalm 106. It begins with the encouragement:
Praise the Lord!
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Then it begins recounting all the ways that Israel rebelled against God. It states that they didn't consider his "wondrous works" despite God parting the seas. The Psalm continues and states that they exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox. They sacrificed their sons and daughters and despised the land that God gave them. It's clear that Israel didn't live up to their name as God's chosen people. Yet in the middle of man's sin and mess-making, God was working. Verse 8 states:

Yet he saved them for his name's sake,
that he might make known his mighty power.

In the middle of man's sin, God saved "for his name's sake" - because that's who God is: mighty and powerful. Mighty and powerful is how God wants to be known. It's who he is - it's wrapped up in his name. Again, God had raised up the right man for the hour, Moses who, in verse 23, stood before God and pleaded for mercy on the Israelites:

Therefore he said he would destroy them—
had not Moses, his chosen one,
stood in the breach before him,
to turn away his wrath from destroying them.
The rest of the chapter goes on to talk about many more things the Israelites did wrong. Reading it, one could get the idea that there was no good reason that God would continue to hold his promises to them. One could reasonably think that God should have sent them right back to Egypt. After all, who were they to grumble about their circumstances having been brought out of slavery and in such miraculous ways? But God's heart was not - and is not - to punish, but to restore:

Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress,
when he heard their cry.
For their sake he remembered his covenant,
and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love.
Abundantly loving, always loving is how God wants to be known. It's who he is - it's wrapped up in his name.

The chapter ends with:

Save us, O Lord our God,
and gather us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
And then a promise in Romans 10:13: " For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

How can we not be encouraged? God, mighty and powerful, abundantly and always loving is ready, willing, waiting to act purposefully in just the right way at just the right time. And perhaps the greatest act he will do for us is to save anyone who will call on his name. It's who he is, and he'll always do it - for his name's sake.