Posts Tagged With: spirit

God is Spirit: Like the Wind

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24, ESV).

A recent post pondered the meaning of the word “spirit” in relation to several scientific theories. The Bible tells us that God is a spirit but never specifically explains what a spirit is.

However, the Bible provides an illustration, if not a definition. In both Greek and Hebrew, the word for “spirit” can also mean “wind” or “breath.” The Greek word is pneuma, the root of such English words as “pneumonia” or “pneumatic.” The Hebrew word is ruach. Pneuma is translated as both “spirit” and “wind” in John 3:1-8:

“Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit’” (John 3:1-8, ESV; emphasis added).

So, although the Bible does not clearly define “spirit,” it allows us to associate it with “wind” and notice some of its traits.

First, the wind is invisible, but it is real. We do not see wind, but we see its effects. When we see a tornado, we do not actually see the wind. We see the stuff that the wind is blowing around: dirt, debris, some rain or water vapor, etc.

An F5 tornado. Photo by Justin Hobson via Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons license [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

Wind can have some powerful impacts. During Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, we got a lesson in the power of wind. At the height of the storm, we could feel our house shaking! The house survived, but not long thereafter we saw fire trucks pulling up in front of our house. Apparently, the tree in front of our house did not survive. It had fallen, yanking a power line down, which then sparked a fire on a utility box of the house next door. Fortunately, the firemen responded quickly enough to avoid any serious fire damage to either house. There was also minor damage to our chimney and some roof tiles missing. All this damage from an invisible force.

One of the trees in front of my house could not withstand the winds of Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Photograph by Michael E. Lynch

I share the story about Hurricane Sandy because I remember it most vividly and can share a few pictures. Having lived for eight years in Missouri, I could probably share a few tornado stories, but I was usually a few blocks away when the tornado actually hit and did not take photos.

Another photo I took after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This is all that was left of a segment of the boardwalk in my childhood hometown, Long Beach, NY. Wind and water tore away the boardwalk, railings, benches, etc. Photograph by Michael E. Lynch.

Yes, wind is invisible and powerful. It is also uncontrollable. We cannot predict when the wind will pick up or slow down. Yes, meteorologists can tell us it will be windy and that the wind will come from this or that direction. But, we do not know when a sustained 20 MPH wind will suddenly speed up to a 40 MPH gust.

Nor can we do anything about it. In the words of the”Alive, a Bee Gees’ song from 1972, “And I can’t change the wind or make it blow the other way.” Try to make a northerly wind change direction. Make it slow down. Let me know how that works for you.

Wind is like spirit. This becomes a beautiful illustration of what God is like. We cannot see Him, but we can recognize His presence and power in what He does. Not everything He does is like Hurricane Sandy or a tornado; some of it is like the windmills one sees in rural areas, providing electrical power for local communities.

Windmills. Image by Piotr Zakrzewski from Pixabay.

Nor can we control God. Sometimes it is tempting to think that we can coerce or manipulate Him with our prayers or piety. Don’t try it. He is God. He is Spirit. He is powerful. He is unchanging. He is uncontrollable. He is Lord. God blows where He wishes; if you look with the eyes of faith, you will see Him in action, but you do not know where He comes from or where He goes. But, you can trust and worship Him.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

God Is Spirit: But, What Is a Spirit?

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:23–24; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Image created using the YouVersion Bible app.

In some recent posts, we have thought about some of God’s majestic attributes, the qualities that set Him apart from everything He created. He is self-existent. He is eternal. These qualities are beyond full human comprehension.

Jesus also tells us that “God is spirit.” This can exceed our comprehension as well, even though we have a spiritual nature. We bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26–29); Christians have the Spirit of God dwelling within us (Romans 8:9–11); and we can be spoken of as “spiritual people” (1 Corinthians 2:15). In spite of that, we have a hard time understanding the meaning of the word “spirit.”

Perhaps most of us imagine something spiritual as being somehow less real than the physical world we see. We imagine life in heaven seeming more like a dream than an awakened reality. I suspect that we will be surprised and find that heaven seems even more real than life on earth; after a while in heaven, we might think our earthly lives seemed like a dream we had while asleep. We hear “spirit” and we think of a shapeless transparent ghost.

People in twelve-step recovery groups will say that theirs is a “spiritual program.” Yet, many describe it in terms that can more accurately be described as “psycho-social” rather than “spiritual.” The same confusion can exist in the church.

In light of this, I will share a few thoughts I have had about the concept of “spirit” from the world of science. Keep in mind, I am not a scientist. As an editor, though, I spend a lot of time reading scientific papers. I often watch science programs on television. I am fascinated and curious about many of the theories that float around. As a Christian, I often look at these theories and ask, “Can this relate to the Bible, the Gospel, my faith, etc.? Can this science inform my faith?” So, here are just a few thoughts.

Is the spiritual realm somehow intertwined with the natural realm we see? More than 15 years ago, I came across a book (I wish I remembered the title and author’s name) which looked at the concept of “intelligent design” from a Hindu perspective. Much like Judaeo-Christian creationists, the author believed a divine being created the universe and his handiwork could be seen in the natural realm. He believed you could see scientific evidence supporting the belief that our world was created by a deity. Frequently, he would refer to electrons as “spiritual particles.”

Electrons are interesting. As we learned in high-school chemistry and physics, atoms are composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Electrons have very little mass: so little that, when we refer to the atomic mass of an element, we mean the combined number of protons and neutrons, ignoring electrons. Yet, they have a charge, equal and opposite to that of a proton, which makes them essential to most chemical reactions. The merger or exchange of atoms in the formation or change of molecules is largely the result of electron transfer. They are very small, but they wield great power in the natural realm.

Could electrons or some other subatomic particles be “spiritual particles”?

Is the presence and work of God and spirits evident in the universe, but not adequately explained? Scientists now believe most of the universe is “dark matter” and “dark energy.” They propose that most of the mass and energy in the universe cannot be measured or directly observed. However, this so-called dark matter and energy must be there, because you cannot explain the universe without it. Galaxies are moving apart too quickly. There must be inobservable forces or matter preserving order.

Could it be that the effects of dark matter and energy are nothing more than the work of God Himself as He sustains the universe that He created? Scripture says this about Jesus:

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17).

Are scientists using the term “dark matter” or “dark energy” to refer to the work of Christ?

Does the spiritual realm perhaps exist parallel to the natural world that we see? We think we live in a three-dimensional universe, where things are measurable in terms of height, width, and depth. Albert Einstein’s theories proposed that it is actually a four-dimensional universe, with time being intertwined with these three spatial dimensions. However, some theories propose that space-time has eight or more (I think some scientists have suggested 20 or more) dimensions: They are just as real and physical as the ones we know, but we cannot observe or experience them. Is the “spirit realm,” including heaven, linked to dimensions of space-time that we simply do not see or experience, even though they exist alongside the four dimensions we experience? Could the spirit realm be in, with, and under our natural world, fully a part of it, yet manifested in dimensions we do not see or hear?

Like I said, I am not a scientist, so perhaps I misunderstood and misrepresented some of these theories. I share these ideas to encourage thought, dialog, and reflection. We say that God is a spirit. Christians believe in the presence of spirits, including angels and demons, and we believe that our spirits and souls will live after we die. This is not mere symbolism. When we say that God is a spirit and there are other spirits, we are making a statement about reality, even though we may not fully understand what that reality is. Perhaps one or more of these ideas can help us to envision the spirit world described by the Bible as something that is real, not merely a dream, fantasy, or symbol.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, God's Nature and Personality | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

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