When I Fall, I Will Arise

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Yesterday, my friend shared a bible verse that completely blew me away.

“Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness.” Micah 7:8-9

I’m going to go through it bit by bit to explain why I’ve fallen so in love.

1) Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

In this one sentence there is honesty, strength, and persistence. Honesty, it is accepted that we will fall and we will have dark days. It’s not written ‘if’ I fall or ‘if’ I sit in darkness, rather ‘when’ these things happen. This is humility: to know we are inherently weak and that we will sin and make mistakes. We are not perfect.

The next part is key, however, in preventing humility becoming insecurity. There is strength available to me and this strength comes from the Lord. Every time I fall, I will arise. Every time I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. This is also persistence. I don’t give up because I fall or because of tribulation.

2) I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me.

You may not like this line initially, it seems a bit frightening to bear the indignation of the Lord. But its actually beautiful and important for two reasons.

1. The Lord has already redeemed us through His incarnation, His life on earth, and His crucifiction but I must access this redemption through repentance. Redemption doesn’t mean that I don’t bear the consequence of my sins but it does mean that I have eternal life with Him and that He will be by my side in my suffering. For example if I kill someone, I will be put in jail. Repenting and confessing this sin to our Lord Jesus Christ does not mean that I get out of jail. I must bear the consequence of my sin. Jesus, however, will come into my heart and into my jail cell and keep me company with His presence.

So then acknowledging my sin and repenting to Jesus is important because it reunites me to Him, the source of life. From this union, I have access to forgiveness, joy, peace, and rest.

2. God is our judge but he is also our lawyer. He will execute justice but He will also plead our case. Lamentations 3:8 says, “You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.” It is not as scary to sit before the judge when He is also our defence. Someone in a court case who hires a famous lawyer, whose won every case, feels more confident sitting before the judge.

3) He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness.

I love the conviction and faith in the last sentence the most. Many of us can recite God’s promises and declarations of love by memory, but do we really believe them in our hearts? Do we believe that He will save us, heal our wounds, fill our emptiness, lift our darkness, and grant us eternal life lived in His presence? If we do, we will also be able to tell our enemy not to rejoice over us because we will believe in the redemption of our Lord.

I pray the mentality of this verse becomes a reality in each one of our lives. May we live always with hope in our God!

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The Man Who Ran Away Naked

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There are two odd verses in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14, situated between the exodus of the disciples from the Garden of Gethsemane and the arrest of Jesus:

“And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.”

As I was reading last night, these verses took me completely by surprise. I couldn’t understand the importance of including such a vague statement at one of the most climactic moments of the Gospel. The verse immediately preceding these lines is the infamous Mark 14:50:

“And they all forsook him, and fled.”

So if they ALL forsook him, why single out this one man? I checked my three trusty bible commentaries for an answer and only one gave any sort of explanation, which is that this is assumed to be Saint Mark’s confession of deserting Jesus. But even if it was a confession by Saint Mark, I still wasn’t satisfied with why he chose to be so explicit about running away NAKED and why he placed it at this particular moment in the Gospel.

As I meditated on these verses, I remembered another man in the scriptures who is famous for running away naked: Joseph. Genesis 39: 11-12 says:

“One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.”

The last part of this verse significantly corresponds with the Mark 14:51.

Let’s start with the obvious, being naked in public would be embarrassing, humiliating, and mortifying. There are very few circumstances in which people would CHOOSE to leave behind all of their clothing, barring the use of alcohol or other substances. And yet as unusual as such a situation may be, we are presented here with two.

Joseph the righteous, as he is often called, was so devoted to serving God that he allowed himself to be shamed in order to flee temptation and sin.

1 Corinthians 6:18: “FLEE from sexual immorality.”

2 Timothy 2:22: “So FLEE youthful passions and pursue righteousness.”

Joseph is an example of someone who took Saint Paul’s advice literally. Not only did he run away from sin, but he ran away from it naked. He bore the shame (not to mention time in prison) because, in comparison to honouring God, it was no big deal.

Joseph lived like Jesus. Christ himself was not only crucified in nakedness (Mt. 27:35), but He also bore the entire weight of the sins of humankind to give us a life of liberty. He willingly accepted to be put to shame on a physical, emotional, social, and spiritual level for the glory of God His Father and His love for mankind.

But the mysterious young man who fled Gethsemane ran away from God, not towards Him. He did not accept the shame that often comes with being a disciple of Christ. He chose the world. He did not mind humiliation, if it saved his life in that moment. We know, however, that whoever desires to save his life will lose it and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Mt. 16:25).

He was so eager to get away from Jesus, and being associated with Him, that he ran away naked. He was not rooted and grounded in the love of God like Joseph or Jesus. Instead, he was filled with fear.

We also often let fear get the best of us and abandon God. We run towards anything that will immediately relieve us of stress or anxiety. We create a false sense of security for ourselves believing that our lives are in our own control. We are likewise ashamed to standby Christ. We are ashamed to proclaim Him to the world like the Samaritan woman or the blind man, to worship Him as passionately and wholeheartedly as the woman who wept at His feet, to lean on His breast like Saint John the beloved, and to flee temptation like Joseph.

How do you think our Lord felt seeing that everyone would forsake Him, naked if they had to, because they feared a life by His side? And how does He feel when we act the same way now? Matthew 10:33 gives us a pretty good indication:

“But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in Heaven.”

We live for more than this temporal world. We must come to the realization that there are only two paths in which to run and make a choice.

Run towards towards God, towards eternity.

Quote of the day: Fiery Spirit

“I have received this great fiery Spirit: receive him now yourselves. If you wish to receive him that he may dwell in you, first offer hard labours of the flesh and humility of the heart. Raise your thoughts up to heaven night and day. Ask in uprightness of heart for this fiery Spirit and he will be given you….Persist in prayer diligently, with all your heart, and he will be given you, for this Spirit dwells in upright hearts. He will reveal to you higher mysteries and other things which I cannot express in ink and paper…Celestial joy will then be your portion day and night.

-St. Antony the Great

Born of the Spirit

From http://orthodoxyisorthodoxy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/concerning-despondency.html:

It is a mistake to believe, as some people do, that “birth in spirit” can happen at once, as with St. Paul on the way to Damascus. St. Paul was not spiritually born on the way to Damascus (he had been a righteous and zealously believing Jew before then) — but it was as though a bandage fell off his eyes, and the whole power of his faith was turned to serving Him Whom he had persecuted ‘in God’s name.’ No doubt St. Paul had been inwardly prepared for that which happened on the way to Damascus by the whole of his preceding life; and to the end of his days he disciplined himself, saying, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection” (1Cor. 9,27) and, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended : but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3,13-14). “Let us therefore,” he adds, “as many as be perfect, be thus minded.”

This is an indication of the way toward ‘birth from above’ which St. Paul himself thought he had not yet attained. It is an example to all Christians. That is why men ‘born in Christ’ differ from others, not by apparent, but by the true humility. They do not regard themselves as having ‘attained’ anything; they see their deficiency in everything; they do not notice other people’s failings, but on the contrary, are always struck by their good qualities.

Unfortunately, many people who sincerely seek the Lord are deluded by the thought that they have been ‘born of the Spirit.’ A man may experience spiritual joy, feel the warmth of prayer, find his Lord and Saviour and decide in his mind that this is ‘second birth.’ And indeed not infrequently he changes his conduct: gives up telling deliberate lies, drinking and smoking, begins to say his prayers, to read the Gospel daily — and in all sincerity numbers himself among the ‘saved’ and ‘the risen in Christ.’ In doing so he imperceptibly grows placid and satisfied with himself and his conduct, and then begins to look around and see who is ‘saved’ and who is ‘not saved.’ He goes to hear only such preachers who confirm his belief and, by specially selected texts from the Gospel, he is lulled to sleep in his spiritual complacency, thus barring the way to poverty in spirit, i.e. to true regeneration in Christ. The result is the type of the ‘proud evangelical saint.’ This is New Testament Pharisaism: “I am not like other men…” (in the parable of the publican and the Pharisee).

This false “birth” which deludes a good many of the ‘righteous’ opens the broad way to spiritual self-satisfaction and prevents a true ‘birth in Christ,’ i.e. the acceptance of the narrow and thorny way of spiritual poverty. But that was the way trodden by all the righteous, beginning with the Apostles, and they bequeathed it to us, their brethren. The nearer a man is to a mountain, the bigger it seems to him and the smaller he himself becomes in his own eyes. The nearer to the Lord, the smaller and more sinful he feels, and sincerely says, “I believe, Lord, and I acknowledge that Thou art of a truth the Christ, the Son of the living God, Which came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief….” If one has that feeling, it is difficult to grow proud and regard oneself as ‘saved’ and another man as ‘not saved.’

+ Archbishop John Shahovskoy

Power of God

No long article today. I came across a quote in my morning readings that I thought I would share.

Because human reason is so weak, there are some who – judging divine power by the limits of our own – insist that what is beyond our capacity is impossible even for God.

-St. Gregory of Nyssa

We often limit the power and work of God to what we are able to imagine or comprehend, though He clearly warns us :

“My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways…for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Meditate on both the quote and verse. Try to discover areas in your life where you limit God’s ability, power, and influence.

Have a lovely day and God be with you all!

Quote of the day!

“Prayer has to do with the entire man. Prayer takes in man in his whole being, mind, soul and body. It takes the whole man to pray, and prayer affects the entire man in it’s gracious results. As the whole nature of man enters into prayer, so also all that belongs to man is the beneficiary of prayer. All of man receives benefits in prayer. The whole man must be given to God in praying. The largest results in praying come to him who gives himself, all of himself, all that belongs to himself, to God. This is the secret of full consecration, and this is a condition of successful praying, and the sort of praying which brings the largest fruits.”

E.M. Bounds

A brief meditation on prayer and silence:

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One of the biggest mysteries of the Christian life is hearing God’s voice and knowing His will. When I want to know what someone thinks about something, I ask them and generally get a response. Many people pray and ask God for His will, opinions, and directions for their lives but hear nothing.

In my own experience, it is due to my one-sided and limited understanding of prayer. Many of us have a narrow view of prayer that consists only of talking to God. Yes it is true that prayer is communication with God. But communication does not only involve talking, it also involves listening! How difficult it is to truly listen to God and hear Him in such a chaotic world.

“I think the devil has made it his business to monopolize on three elements: noise, hurry, crowds. If he can keep us hearing radios, gossip, conversation, or even sermons, he is happy. But he will to allow quietness. For he believes Isaiah where we do not. Satan is quite aware of the power of silence. The voice of God, though persistent, is soft.” Jim Elliot in Shadow of the Almighty 

In 1 Kings 19:11-13, the prophet Elijah climbs is told to climb a mountain and stand in the presence of God because the Lord would pass by him. “Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?'”

We cannot hear God’s voice if we are always talking, always busy, always surrounded by noise and people. I am definitely not advocating we all move to caves or into the desert. I am advocating a daily time of silence whereby we can practice listening to God’s voice.

There are different methods of practicing silence, ironically, here are two:

1) Start with a quick prayer and ask God to bring you into His presence. You can look at a picture of Jesus, if this will help your concentration. Silence your thoughts and concentrate on being in His presence. Note: you will get distracted!! That’s absolutely okay just refocus as soon as you realize your mind wandered.

2) Popular in Eastern Christianity is the use of the Jesus Prayer. The Jesus Prayer is the following: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. Close your eyes and repeat this prayer out loud. You can get a prayer rope to help you count. Try to start with ten-fifteen minutes a day (that should be about 100 times – it seems like a lot but its not!!). This is an extremely powerful and old prayer. For more information on it, check out: The Power of the Name.

Another tip is to stand or kneel, sometimes if we are relaxing comfortably it is hard to make ourselves feel the presence of our Almighty Creator. It is also a sign of respect.

Of course God made every person unique and I am positive there are different methods of practicing silence and prayer, which I do not know about. No matter how you do it, I still encourage you to try to be silent for at least ten minutes a day. Do not give up easily, it may take weeks or months to feel the impact.

Praying is no longer merely to ask for things and can indeed exist without the employment of words at all. It is not so much momentary activity as a continuous state. To pray is to stand before God, to enter into an immediate and personal relationship with him; it is to know at every level of our being, from the instinctive to the intellectual, from the sub-to the supra-conscious, that we are in God and he is in us.” The Power of His Name 

True inner prayer is to stop talking and to listen to the wordless voice of God within our heart; it is to cease doing things on our own, and to enter into the action of God. The Power of His Name

This is a huge subject and I just wanted to give you a small taste of the possibility of hearing God’s voice in your life. If you are struggling with this area or discerning His will, I encourage you to try this practice of silence.

Here are some good resources:

1) The power of the name by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware

2) The Jesus Prayer by Lev Gillet

3) Exploring Silence by Wendy Robinson

4) The Way of the Pilgrim

5) The Way of the Ascetics by Tito Colliander

…and I’m sure if you google “church fathers on silence” many other resources will come up!

I hope this encourages you and motivates you to try a form of worship you may not have before! We are all in this together and I pray that we can all be firmly rooted and grounded in the faith. God bless each and every one of you with His amazing and loving presence.

Quote of the day!

“As your life is in His hands so are the days of your life. Remember you are immortal until your work* is done.”

Jim Elliot in Shadow of the Almighty by Elizabeth Elliot

*Your work is to accomplish His purpose for your life, whatever that may be.