Philippians 4:7

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“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

I have read this verse many times. I have studied and analyzed the idea of a peace that ‘transcends all understanding’ frequently. But today, April 30, is surely the first day that I have experienced it.

As I wrestled with a difficult and disappointing experience this morning, it came to me to repeat the Lord’s name – Jesus Christ – over and over again until I could make myself fall asleep. It began as a sort of senseless repetition, but it quickly became a desperate call to my saviour for His presence, proximity, and comfort. I kept thinking why am I saying this? Why don’t I do something else? Why don’t I just read a book, go for a walk, call a friend? What is the big deal anyways? I wondered how long I would need to call on Jesus before I would feel anything. I wondered IF I would feel anything at all. But as I didn’t have any other immediate means to console myself at the time, I continued. Jesus Christ. My Lord Jesus Christ. My saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus. Jesus my heart. Jesus my beloved. Jesus King. I love you Jesus. Thank you Jesus.

And then it happened. I literally felt every painful and negative emotion, the longing and the aching, leave my heart. I’m not sure if it is possible to adequately describe this experience to you. It was possibly one of the greatest moments in my relationship with Him and it must be felt by each of you. I cannot explain this process by which all that was internal just evaporated. Truly, He guards our hearts and minds and He is near to the broken hearted.

Next time you face any sort of painful experience, find a quiet place and call on Him until He responds with His peace. Now I am convinced of His dwelling place in my heart.

Thank you God for the Grace of Peace. Thank you Lord that you are faithful to us, especially when the world is not. Christ you are the king and keeper of our hearts. Let your reign be forever. Amen.

God be with you all today and everyday.

Quote of the day: Divinity and Humanity Collide

“When you read or hear the Gospel, you find some things in our Lord Jesus Christ subjected to injuries, and some things lit up by miracles. In the same Person now the humanity appears, now the divinity shines out. Don’t think any of these things are a delusion, as if Christ were either man or God alone, but believe both faithfully, and worship both very humbly.

Attribute it to the man that he was born of a woman; attribute it to God that his mother’s virginity was not harmed, either by conception or by bearing.

Recognize the form of a slave wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, but acknowledge that it was the Lord’s form that was announced by angles.

Understand it of his humanity that he did not avoid the wedding feast; confess it divine that he turned water into wine.

Let your own feelings explain to you why he shed tears over a dead friend; realize his divine power when that same friend, after mouldering in the grave four days, is brought to life and raised just by the command of his voice.

For the old original wounds in human nature could not be healed, except by the Word of God taking flesh to himself from the Virgin’s womb, by which the flesh and the Word existed together in one and the same person.”

Saint Gregory the Great

QOD: “The Unspeakable Sweetness of the Contemplation of God”

“Now, we can never thank Him enough for the fact that we exist, that we love, that we see heaven and earth, that we have mind and reason to search for him who made all these things. But nevertheless, no hearts and no tongues can say that they are enough to thank Him for this: that He has not left us completely, loaded down as we are with sins, loath to contemplate His light, and blinded by the love of darkness (that is, the love of sin). Instead, He sent His own Word – His only Son – so that, by His birth and suffering for us in the flesh that He put on, we might know how much God valued us; and so that, by that unique sacrifice, we might be purified from all our sins; and so that, when His Spirit had scattered love into our hearts, we might overcome every difficulty and come into eternal rest, and the unspeakable sweetness of the contemplation of God.”

Saint Augustine, City of God

Season of Spring

 

Field_of_sunflowers

“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” Galatians 6:7

Spring has finally arrived – warmer weather, longer walks, brighter days, and blooming flowers. It’s a great time to witness God’s creativity. Yesterday, I read two parables on sowing and harvesting in Matthew 13 and it got me thinking a lot about the spiritual meaning of this season. You may be familiar with the parable of the sower, but just in case:

“Jesus told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.  Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” Matthew 13:3-9

Jesus goes on to explain that the seed sown along the path represents anyone who hears the Word of God and does not understand it, so the devil comes and takes it out of their heart. The seed that falls on the rocky ground refers to someone who hears the Word gladly but because it isn’t rooted in faith, it cannot withstand doubt, trouble, or persecution. The seed that falls into the thorns is someone who hears the Word but it’s choked by the worries and cares of the world. Lastly, the seed which falls on good soil represents the one who hears the Word and understands it so that it bears fruit in their life.

I’ve read this parable multiple times but it only hit me yesterday that my life is made up of many different kinds of soil. I may be good soil when it comes to honouring my parents and thorny ground when I’m asked to forgive others. I have good intentions but the insecurities of this world prevent me from letting go completely. I could be rocky ground in terms of my trust towards God, I receive His words of love graciously but my faith is not strong enough to fight doubt. I imagine this is the case for most of us, there are areas we need to continue to till until they are transformed into the kind of soil that will produce a harvest.

Further, we are God’s partners in sowing and we often deceive ourselves into thinking that we have planted the right kind of seed.  The parable of the weeds made me think about this. “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.” Matthew 13:24-25

What had really been sown only became clear when it was time for harvest. Every one of our actions, thoughts, words, relationships is a chance to sow fruit (which is life-giving sustenance) or allow the enemy to plant weeds (which usually rapidly destroys all other plants). In Galatians, Saint Paul says that a man will reap what he sows. I heard a story today told by Billy Graham. He saw a man crying and when people asked why he was weeping, someone responded that he was reaping. God is not mocked, says Saint Paul, a man will reap what he sows.

The good news is that we are given a choice even in times of regret over past mistakes. “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Cor. 7:10 Where does my sorrow over the weeds or poor kinds of soil in my life lead me? Make sure that sorrow always leads to repentance and renewing of the mind and strength through God’s mercy, love, and power. He gives me the ability to transform even the negative things I may be reaping into opportunities for growth. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

It’s the beginning of spring and as we watch the trees blossom let us carefully assess the state of our spiritual journey and make a plan that will enable us to reach the kind of fruitful harvest we are hoping for.

A generation that seeks Your face

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“But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘give us a king to judge us.’ So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt, even to this day – with which they have forsaken Me and served other Gods – so they are doing to you also.’” Samuel 8:6-8

This is nothing but a heart breaking passage. To hear God, the Lord almighty of heaven and earth, tell His servant Samuel that the Israelites’ betrayal had been a normal trend since He delivered them out of Egypt is depressing. Not just since He delivered them out of Egypt, but since that very same day of exodus – the Israelites continuously betrayed God.

“Then they said to Moses, ‘because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you Egypt, saying, let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.’” Exodus 14:11-12

The very same day. “Give us a king to judge us.” “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians.”

How insensitive is mankind towards its creator!? How is it that we continuously choose to worship every other thing over Him? Physical idols. Lovers. Money. Children. Nature. ‘The Universe.’ Karma. We will literally worship anything other than the Creator of it all.

And we have such great excuses too. We say we don’t believe in God because it doesn’t make sense to us or because it can’t be proven, yet we believe in ‘the Universe’ as an actor or in karma – neither of which can be proven. We pretend we don’t worship idols, and we scoff at those who do, but we sell our souls to our work and live chained to our office for money.

Can we just admit it? We don’t like being told what to do. We feel like we shouldn’t have to be told what to do in the first place. What’s so wrong with us anyways? ‘The Universe’ doesn’t command us to love our enemies or live in abstinence and karma is always on our side because we are perfect…right?

You and I both know that isn’t true. You know better than anyone else you are not perfect. You know better than anyone else the horrible thoughts that come to your mind – sometimes you are even shocked by them. Idols and false gods will not free you from the prison of your own making – self-doubt, insecurity, abuse, addiction, anger.

There is only one God who can give you REAL FREEDOM. And no I don’t mean running through fields, eating whatever you want, and diving off cliffs freedom because I’ve done those things and guess what? They are meaningless. Nor do I mean freedom to vote, to speak your mind, to own property – however great these freedoms may be.

I’m talking about the freedom and power to love your enemies, forgive those who hurt you, and live a righteous life – not for the sake of others, but because it is healing for you! I mean freedom and power to feel loved in the midst of your worst behaviour and at your lowest point. Healing freedom. Liberating freedom. Freedom from the guilt that comes attached to the lists of rules on how to be a good person in the eyes of someone else. Salvation that is undeserved. A free gift of Grace. Grace so amazing when it’s power dawns on you, you can’t even sleep at night out of love and gratitude.

There is one way to this kind of freedom – the real kind. It is unity with God through Jesus Christ.

It is high time that we stop trying to fill His role with useless things. Every time I see a poster talking about happiness – happiness is a cup of coffee, happiness is true love, happiness is dancing in the rain, happiness is found in the little moments – I feel really really really sad. I feel really sad that we would choose to eat a cupcake or drink a cup of coffee instead of living in the CONTINUOUS joy that comes from being in the presence of our Lord.

We are the Israelites, telling Samuel to give us a king to rule over us instead of the One who cares about every single one of our needs. The One who knows what we need, before we need it.

That is enough. We have spent enough of our lives living in our own pleasures. It is high time that we seek the Lord.

Please do not put anything else before Him. Please let us become a generation that seeks His face.

Quote of the day!

“But when the evangelist says, ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1:14), and the Apostle says, ‘in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself’ (2 Cor. 5:19), we see that the only-begotten of the Most High Father united himself with human humility in such a way that, when he took the substance of our flesh and soul, he remained the very same Son of God by exalting our properties, not his own. It was the weakness, not the power, that had to be reinforced, so that when the creature was united with the Creator, there would be nothing missing of the divine to the flesh he assumed, nor of the human to the One who assumed it.”

St. Gregory the Great

“And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

Sitting outside by the gate

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In a previous article, I discussed the bravery of Peter and John in continuing to pray in the temple alongside the very people who crucified Jesus (Acts 3). I related this to many of our own struggles within a church community. This morning, however, I read the same chapter from a very different angle.

“And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms from those who entered the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked for alms. And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, ‘look at us. So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, ‘silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them – walking, leaping, and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God. Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him” (Acts 3:2-10).

Last time, I talked about what it’s like to be unhappy within the walls of a community. Today, I want to reflect on being alone at the gate of one. This lame man was disabled from birth and Mosaic law forbade anyone with a disability or deformity from entering into the temple, into the presence of God. This means that this man had never seen the inside of the temple in his entire life. He had not personally made a sacrifice to God. Further, it was a common mentality at the time to believe that anyone with an illness was suffering a punishment from God for his/her sins. He was isolated and ostracized.

If we recall John 9:1-2, ” as he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’

Jesus gave the disciples a new mindset. Exactly what our Lord did for the blind man, Peter and John do for this lame one. But first, they “fix” their eyes on him and talk to him. I want you to picture just how powerful of a moment this is. Imagine if you were homeless and everyone walked past you as if you were invisible. One day, these two men notice you and make a point to talk to you. They ask you to make direct eye contact with them. They make you feel human. They make you feel like you have a life that’s worthy of sharing with others. This is Jesus working clearly in His disciples.

Peter and John heal the lame man and it is written that “he entered the temple with them.” He who was on the outside, had never seen the temple and was thought to be condemned, now entered the Holy place. He entered into the presence of God and he didn’t enter it alone, but with two new companions.

Isn’t this how we should be? Shouldn’t we notice every single person on the inside or the outside of our own small community? Shouldn’t we make every human being feel alive and worthwhile? If Jesus lives inside of us, we also have the power of bringing people into the presence of God. We may not bring people into a physical place of worship, but we can bring people into the presence of God through our behaviour, our words, our love.

At the end of this story, “all the people saw him.” Some of us are only able to see the people we like, the people inside of our comfort zones. Others, who have experienced the true healing and forgiving love of Christ our saviour, see everyone no matter their state.

I want to end on the first thing I noticed today when I read this passage. The lame man was “laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful.” God declares every part of His creation beautiful and so must we.

“If you cannot find Christ in the beggar at the church door you will not find him in the chalice” – St. John Chrysostom

Quote of the day: Faith, Hope, Charity

“That the whole substance of religion is faith, hope, and charity, by the practice of which we become united to the will of God; that all besides is indifferent, and to become united to the will of God; that all besides is indifferent, and to be used as a means that we may arrive at our end, and be swallowed up therein, by faith and charity.

That all things are possible to him who believes; that they are less difficult to him who hopes; that they are more easy to him who loves and still more easy to him who perseveres in the practice of these virtues.”

 

-The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence