The Touch

Do you believe that there is power in the human touch..? When we as children, were ever faced with something that felt far beyond our years.. we’d on impulse run to our mother or father. We’d hold on to them. Remember how, with their touch, every fear of ours would fade..?

With the years passing though, the magic of that touch may weaken. When we stand as adults.. if we can’t deal with that which we face, who else can for us..? But even then, life finds a way to give us a chance to feel the power of that touch.

When you’re faced with the pain of the loss of a beloved.. when words can scarcely provide comfort, the warmth of that simple touch is sometimes all that can keep you breathing. When we feel that before us stands an insurmountable mountain, even if the hand that holds us can do little to lead us through, a touch can let us know.. there is someone here to hold on to, should we fail.

The touch can mean compassion. The touch can mean forgiveness. The touch can mean acceptance. The touch can mean sympathy. Even empathy. The touch can mean so much when it comes from someone filled with love within.

Whether there is a power or not in the human touch, life has lead me through days that has made me understand the value of this means of connection to another soul. The touch that lets you feel the existence of love. Because sometimes, there is no other way left to feel love. And it is with this understanding that I read this verse from the Book of Isaiah:

For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:13‬

In a moment of loneliness and faced with fear, when perhaps nothing else could’ve reached my troubled soul, His Word reached me through this verse to comfort me. Reminding me of all those who have held me.. the touches that kept me sane through the miseries of life. Reminding me that there is a touch filled with more comfort than any other.

But more than the comfort, there is this sense of amazement, that when God purposed the revelation of His nature through His Word, He made it a point to let us know how near His love extends toward us. That the Lord of all creation, seeing that we need His love expressed in a way we could grasp even when all seems lost, stretches out His hand to take hold of us. To touch us…

This is but one meaning that we can ascribe to the touch of God. When the Son of God walked among us in the flesh, He touched people with a greater purpose. Think of the leper He touched, for instance. Another man condemned by sin. Separated from contact with his people, and even from the presence of his God in His temple.

But Jesus touched him. The touch healed him. What that touch also would’ve done was fill those in presence with hope that despite the Law that condemns, the heart of God does not delight in separation from sinful man, but His desire is in bringing the sinner into union with Him in holiness, through the healing in Him. The hope He would go on to fulfil on the cross.

The touch can mean so much when it comes from someone filled with love within. The touch can mean even more, when it comes from the God who is love…

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His Light Will Shine

[…continuation of, ‘Through The Darkest Night‘]

Have you ever tasted that feeling..? The despair you feel, when one fine day you stand exposed by your actions. When what you have done, belies every good you’ve ever believed yourself to be..? Emptied of all reason to love yourself for who you are..? Emptied of all reason to believe that those who see you for who you are, could ever love you in truth..?

In Peter’s brokenness, there are lessons to take for all of us who have ever tasted such pain. For one, while Peter was unaware of his weakness, God was not. He always knew him for who he is…

When Peter proclaimed, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death,” Jesus had no reason to believe, for He knew him. In fact, He prophesied the failing of His disciple. In the Last Supper, replying to Peter,

Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭22:34‬

When the Christ looked at Peter that night, as he denied Him the third time, there could’ve been a mix of emotions in the expression on Jesus’ face. But if there is one thing He couldn’t have been, He couldn’t have been surprised. For He had known Peter all along, even the ‘Peter,’ that Peter hadn’t yet known.

Your failings can take you by surprise, but you can never do anything that surprises the Lord. Your actions are but a reflection of the condition of your inner being. And He has always seen you, even to the depths of your soul. If your inner strength has limitations, He knows. If your moral fibre is falling apart and you’re hanging by the last thread, He knows. Trust me, He knows.

But is this a good thing that He knows..? Those of us who have lived life with secrets too dark to bare with ease, will know of the dread that takes over at the thought of being exposed to the glances of people. We do long to be known, even despite the scars and gaping wounds. That we may never deny. But there are consequences in letting people in.

What if there are consequences in being known by Him too..? That I’ll leave you to decide, whether Him knowing us, is Good News or not. But before you make that choice, let’s delve deeper into the person that is Simon Peter, and his relationship with the Christ…

The hours passed since the denial, and Peter’s loneliness continued. Put yourself in Peter’s place for a moment. Imagine him in his despair. He had bailed out on his Friend. The purest of souls He was, and Peter had let Him down. Here he is, hearing one news after the other: “Jesus has been sentenced. He has been crucified. Jesus has died. He has been buried.” Peter sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. “Happiness could never again be mine,” he could’ve thought.

Hopelessness all around. No thought could lend him solace. Peter could have remembered the time when Jesus taught the disciples that He, the Messiah, must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. Even if Peter could’ve found the strength to believe Him, could that thought erase his pain..? Even if Jesus did come back to life, would their relationship still be the same..?

“But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him.”

‭‭Mark‬ ‭16:7‬

With the dawn of a new week though, the darkness began to recede, and the Light began to shine. The women who had gone to Jesus’ tomb, to anoint His body as per Jewish custom, returned in excitement with a message. Jesus Christ was no longer dead but risen, they said. They had seen the empty tomb. They had seen an angel, who told them that Jesus is heading toward Galilee. The angel urged them to tell the message to Jesus’ disciples.. and peculiarly, to Peter in particular.

“…tell Peter.” The other disciples could have wondered why those words were there, but imagine what those two words would’ve done to Peter. The questions that lingered in Peter’s head. The doubts that weighed like lead in his chest. Imagine, when the women brought in this message, what those two words would have done to all those doubts and questions..?

With those words, Jesus made sure that Peter was called by name. He made sure that Peter felt reassured that he still belonged. The Lord who knew Peter’s brokenness to the intimate details, cared for him with a love as intimate. As soon as Peter heard the message, the Bible says he ran to the tomb. Not a hesitant walk. He ran. Whether the others understood the depth within those words or not, I believe that Peter couldn’t have missed them.

Again, through the Christ, we get to gaze into the heart of God. Through His love for Peter, we know that He is a God of compassion. We know that the Lord forgives the worst of sinners. He forgave the man who denied Him to His face. He has forgiven even worse in me. And through Peter’s [and my own] experience with Him, we know that He doesn’t stop with forgiveness, but the broken heart of the sinner, He yearns to comfort.

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

And there is more… The Lord knows our weakness, and He understands. He loves us despite our failures. That is Good News in itself, isn’t it..? But.. do you know where the Good News, becomes even better..? He doesn’t cease with comforting the broken hearted, but as we draw closer to Him, He heals all that is broken in us.

That hope, is the final learning from me from Peter’s night of brokenness. Peter’s life provides hope to all of us who have had the [mis]fortune of having seen our broken selves. Because all that Peter found missing within him on that fateful night, would later be found to abound in him.

The man who faltered when faced with the suspicion of a servant, would go on to become someone who would be bold to stand up for the Truth, in all circumstances. In prison. In persecutions. Even in death. Though he be weak, Peter found strength in abundance for through Christ Jesus, the Spirit of God worked in him. And Peter in the end truly became Peter, or as the name means in Greek, the ‘Rock.’

How dark are the nights that you are facing in your life..? Are they as dark as the night that Peter endured..? Perhaps they’re darker still..? Take heart. Morning will come. The Light will shine. Through the Christ there is reason to hope. The Lord who knows you by name. The Lord who has seen your tears. He is the Lord who calls to be Saints, the broken things of this world…

God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.

‭‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1:28‬

Voice of Thanksgiving

Perspective. Adversity is one thing in life that enables us to see things in perspective. When we lose our health, we begin to realise how blessed we were just to be fully able. When we lose wealth that we were so accustomed to, we realise how rich we were once and how we may have never truly taken to putting it to best use. When we go through a time of deep depression, what wouldn’t we give to be able to taste a moment of peace in our soul, one more time..? Peace we once failed to even notice.

When people come out of a season of affliction, when all that was once lost is restored, life seems far more brighter than before, even if all that we have, is no more than what we once did. Take the life of Jonah, for instance. In Jonah 2, we read of his prayer to God from the belly of the fish. As he concludes, there is one line that captures my attention.

But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;

‭‭Jonah‬ ‭2:9‬

Making a sacrifice, in order to serve someone else, isn’t something which comes easy to us. Our desires tend to take us on our own way, and to let go of that desire and instead spend on another, what we believe is ours – whether it be money, energy or time – isn’t something we readily do. And even if we do, how many times would we find ourselves doing it with ‘the voice of thanksgiving..?’

And that wasn’t what Jonah found himself doing either. In fact, he wasn’t even willing to serve God, at the beginning of this tale, let alone with ‘the voice of thanksgiving.’ Jonah turned his back on God, when he was called to serve Him, by being His spokesman in Nineveh.

The storm. Being castaway. The fish. We know what followed and that Jonah eventually found himself standing on the shore, heading toward Nineveh. But somewhere in between, we find the heart of this man transformed from that of one who thought it a burden to serve God and fled His presence, to one who willed to serve Him with ‘the voice of thanksgiving.’

When I was a child, when I was told of the story of Jonah, I always believed that this was the tale of a lesser man. I mean, if God calls me to serve Him, I would readily walk the path where I am lead, I thought. ‘What was Jonah thinking..? He must’ve been one big fool to turn his back on God.’ But it’s only as I’ve grown in faith, could I see that the tale of Jonah isn’t the tale of a lesser man, but of a man much like me.

How many times, when God has called me to serve Him with what I have, have I chosen to flee His presence..? How many times have I thought that what I have, is mine to use for my own pleasures, and to use it in His service, is to waste. Perspective. The right one, wasn’t something I had.

In the belly of the fish, Jonah who was almost stripped of all that he had, including his life, had time for contemplation. With his heart desiring a second chance to rejoice in all that he previously had, Jonah could see that all that he had were never in his power to either take or hold, but were given to him from God above. Jonah’s heart was transformed, from someone who believed it wasn’t worth to serve God, to a man who could see how grateful he ought to be to be able to.

Perspective. Jonah gained this, through the adversity in his life. I pray, that it is something I will gain through the adversity in mine, to serve the Lord with a voice of thanksgiving….

Immersed in the River

Last week, I happened to listen to a sermon, and in the course of the message the preacher mentioned an account from the Bible: the healing of Naaman the Syrian. Naaman commanded the army of Syria and was held in high favour by his king. But he also happened to be a leper.

In a journey of faith, Naaman headed from Syria in search of Elisha, a prophet of God in the land of Israel, who he believed could lead him to healing. And Elisha did lead him, but Naaman couldn’t readily accept the path. Naaman’s rejection of the way prescribed by Elisha, I feel, gives us a glimpse of our own nature as people….

So he turned and went away in a rage.

‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭5:12‬

Have you ever been in a position when someone offered you something that just seemed, ‘too good to be true’..? More often than not, our decision would be to pass on the proposition simply because we could never believe that someone would offer something so precious, for something far too little. And you see, Naaman wasn’t unlike us….

When he received word from Elisha that all he had to do to be healed, was to dip in the Jordan seven times, Naaman felt mocked. Which of us could blame him..? Naaman came to Elisha, expecting some religious rite to be performed over him. Perhaps, Elisha would lead him to some acts of penance, where he would have to inflict suffering upon himself in order to be healed. Or maybe he would have to make an offering to God or give them away in the name of alms, for the sake of his sins..? Naaman came from Syria carrying quite a load of wealth: nearly a dozen kilos of gold and over three hundred kilos of silver. If Elisha had set a price for his healing, I wonder, would he have sounded more authentic in the eyes of Naaman..?

Through Elisha though, God offered Naaman healing from his disease, without any religiosity or penance, and even without a price. All God asked of Naaman, was to believe in His word, and do the most simplest of acts and he would be healed. And this certainly was one occasion where an offer that was ‘too good’, happened to be true too.

And his servants came near, and spoke unto him, and said, “My father, if the prophet had bid you do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much rather then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean?'”

‭‭2 Kings‬ ‭5:13‬

While Naaman’s reaction was typically human, another act that wasn’t typically so is what lead him eventually to his healing. As Naaman turned away to leave, he paused to listen to his lowly servants, as they pleaded with him to take up Elisha on his offer. While the Jordan was – and still remains – powerless to heal, Naaman witnessed the power of the One who could heal him, in a single act of faith….

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

How much similar is the healing of Naaman to the healing that God offers you and me, from the burden of our sins, through Christ Jesus..? Without religiosity..? Without acts of penance..? Without price..? All that He asks of us, who are burdened by our sins, is this: To believe in the message of the Christ, that He has borne all our sins – past, present and future – once and for all, when He died as an eternal sacrifice for us on the cross. To those of us who deeply repent of our sins, can there be any other offer that is as good, and yet so true..?

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28

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