A Divine Visitation

Image

“When he arrived at the treasury with his bodyguard, the Lord of Spirits and all authority was already present. He caused such a great manifestation that all who dared to accompany him were panic-stricken at God’s power…For a certain horse appeared to them, having a fearful rider. It was arrayed with a very beautiful pack saddle, and it rushed furiously at Heliodorus and struck at him with its front hooves. He who sat thereon was seen wearing a full armour of gold. Two other young men also appeared to him, remarkable in bodily strength, very beautiful in grandeur, and illustrious in dress…so they came to know, and it was clearly proven to be the power of Almighty God...the people blessed the Lord, who acted marvellously for His own place. The temple, which a little while earlier had been full of fear and trouble, was now filled with joy and gladness, because the Almighty Lord had appeared.” 2 Maccabees 3:22-31

The Lord acted marvellously for His own place.

Throughout the Old Testament we witness God’s amazing protection of His people, His temple, and His chosen city – Jerusalem. Today, we are extraordinarily blessed to live in a time when we can worship in Spirit and truth, without being restricted to a specific location, for the Spirit of God dwells inside of each of us (John 4:24, 1 Cor. 6:19). Now we are His temple.

“Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Cor. 3:16)

If God acted so marvellously for a temple of stone, how much more wonderfully will He act on behalf of His human dwelling places – His creation made in His own image? We often lack faith and trust in our Father’s love, mercy, compassion, and goodness towards us. We struggle with disbelief that the Lord of Spirits and all authority could ever truly be on our side, come to our aid.

“For He does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.” (Lamentations 33:3)

Like the Jews in this period of the Maccabees, who could not imagine that God would help them after everything they had been through and all of their sins against Him, we are also “full of fear and trouble” when we surrender to unbelief. This is where prayer comes in. Prayer is the means to access such a divine visitation because it unifies us with God who is inside of us.

“Prayer unites the soul with its creator and reconciles the two.” Saint John of Damascus

Through prayer we come before the powerful and Fearful Rider and plead our case; the defender of our bodies, minds, hearts, and souls rushes to comfort us. Through prayer the Almighty Lord’s presence is strengthened within us and our fear and trouble is turned into joy and gladness just like in 2 Maccabees 3:22-31.

For wherever the Divine Visitation (our Lord Jesus Christ) appears, there is liberty (2 Cor. 3:17). We are free from the bonds of fear, the chains of anxiety, and the blindfold of doubt when we unite with Jesus and experience His glory in prayer. Knowing thus that the Lord will never cease to act marvellously for His place, and being confident of His place in us, “let us come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Advertisements

QOD: Divine Love

“Bridal love between two people has its place, but it should not be confused with divine love. The bridal state, fatherhood, and other such gifts which we know upon earth, are but dim likenesses and shadows of the true and real and eternal, which is above. Because there is such a thing as fatherhood in heaven, we can know something of it here on earth. All fatherhood upon earth derives its name and character from Him, the real Father. In the heavenly places there are throne and principalities (Col. 1:16), and therefore upon earth, fleeting and transient, are the shadows and likenesses of these heavenly realities. And because there is a Bridegroom in heaven – that is what Jesus called Himself (Matt. 9:15, 25:1) – and a Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and a Bride (Rev 19:7), therefore upon the earth there is such a thing as a bridal state. It is but a shadow of the reality. It is a part of this present world which is passing away; for in heaven one will neither marry nor be given in marriage. Love to Jesus therefore can never be put on the same level with what we may know about human love.”

Mother Basilea Schlink in Those Who Love Him

All things to all men

Image

The Fountain of the Father’s Goodness at Kanaan, Germany (kanaan.org)

This week I’ve had the amazing opportunity to spend some time in paradise on earth – otherwise known as Kanaan, the land of promise. I’m not speaking of Israel, I’m talking about Kanaan in Germany – the headquarters of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary. Kanaan is a Christian interdenominational place of worship with a garden that is designed after biblical places in Israel: Mount Tabor, the Sea of Galilee, Bethlehem, the Jordan River, Jacob’s well, and the garden of Jesus’ suffering.

Whenever I feel burdened by the world, or I need to hear God’s voice more clearly, I find some way to retreat to a natural setting. I had no idea what I was getting myself into in traveling to Kanaan in Germany; in fact, this is my first time in Germany altogether! But I cannot tell you that any experience has been so necessary or so worth it. The joy of the sisters is infectious. The peace is palpable. The love of God is everywhere. It’s only day two of four and already my soul is feeling refreshed, restored, and fulfilled.

The most beautiful part of this experience has been to completely surrender myself to quiet time with Jesus – to let Him comfort and embrace me, reassure and love me. A lot has been revealed to me on how I relate to God, some of which I will share with you here.

At Kanaan there is a big fountain with seven taps around the bottom basin. Each tap is connected to a name for God that is written on the rim: Comfort, Love, Mercy, Goodness, Patience, Grace, and Faithfulness. It is called the Fountain of the Father’s Goodness and people are encouraged to drink from whatever tap they are in need of. I drank abundantly from each of them.

This fountain has become my favourite place to sit at Kanaan – you might think it would be in the Garden of Jesus’ suffering by the cross or the resurrection, but there is a reason why this fountain is so special to me. The Father’s Goodness is the key to our faith. If I doubt the Father’s love or goodness towards me, I will not be able to have the fullness of communion with Him. I will not trust Him. I will not surrender myself to His will. I will not accept my suffering or my cross. Why would I suffer for someone whose intentions are unclear at best, malicious at worst? Many times when we have been forsaken by loved ones, we project our rejection and hurt towards God. We lose the ability, or do not develop it – if such a trauma occurred when we were children, to accept and believe in the Father’s goodness and good intentions for our lives.

Faith, in essence, is being rooted and grounded in this belief of the Father’s love and goodness. David says, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; You will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever” (Psalm 138:7-8). David’s confidence comes from his full assurance that God is working all things together in his life for good (Romans 8:28). It comes from a real intimacy with God, knowing Him in all of His different forms.

I will admit that this is an area in which I have particular difficulty – I would not claim faith as one of my gifts. To sit in front of this continuously bubbling fountain, visualizing God’s everlasting love and goodness towards me, was an incredible experience to say the least. To drink from it? Even better.

As I sat before the fountain for hours, it occurred to me that I’ve often held a very restricted and limited view of God. Only this year, as I have begun to know Him more intimately and personally, has it also expanded. You see, I have always known God as ‘God’ – however confusing that may sound. Now, I know Him as Jesus my Lord. I have known Jesus best as my Saviour, but now I am beginning to meet with Him as my Father. In the past couple of years, I have known Jesus as a Friend, but now I am coming to see Him as my Lover. I have tasted plenty of His mercy and patience, but now I also feel His comfort. I witness His faithfulness each day He does not give up on me. It is as though the sun is beginning to peak through dark clouds to light and warm up my whole heart – this is how I can best describe what it is to come to believe in the Father’s everlasting goodness.

He is all things to all men. Each of us, like puzzles, may be missing different pieces – some more than others – but God is one size fits all. Whatever it is that you need, it is contained in His love and goodness. Believing and abiding in His love are the only ways to contentment. The founder of Kanaan, Mother Basilea Schlink, wrote in Those Who Love Him: “Jesus’ love stands alone. No other can love as He loves. In no human love will you find the intense glow and power that you find in Jesus’ love. In no human love will you discover the depth and tenderness of our Lord Jesus. The most tender love of a bridegroom, the deepest love of a mother, is but a pale shadow of His love, for indeed such love finds its source in His love. No father, no mother, no bridegroom is so inventive and alert in love, bestowing blessing and good upon the beloved, as is Jesus.”

That is His desire – to bestow blessing and good upon us, His beloved. What is our desire? What is your desire? I pray for our only wish and longing to be to dwell continously in His infinite love. May comfort, mercy, goodness, patience, grace, faithfulness, and love be poured into your heart daily by the Holy Spirit and renewed each morning. May you come to know God in each of His forms of goodness personally in your life. May He be your all in all.

QOD: Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

“‘All things here on this earth’, said Fr. Thaddeus, ‘all that is good and also all that is not, everything comes from our thoughts. Our thoughts determine our whole life. If our thoughts are destructive, we will have no peace. If they are quiet, meek and simple, our life will be the same, and we will have peace within us. It will radiate from us and influence all beings around us – rational beings, animals, and even plants. Such is our thought apparatus, which emits thoughts with which we influence all other beings. And everyone expects peace, consolation, love, and respect from us.'”

Elder Thaddeus in Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives

Philippians 4:7

Image

“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

A generation that seeks Your face

Image

“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.

Let the Spirit lead

A short meditation from Acts of the Apostles 1:1-8

(4) On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. 5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

(6) Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Jesus told His disciples to wait in their current situation, which was one of complete fear and terror, until they received the promise of the Father – the Holy Spirit. Many times we rush ahead of our Lord. We want to make decisions about friends, relationships, careers, etc. without His guidance. The world demands that we make decisions. How can we just wait idly for some sort of sign!? Or perhaps, we pray about something for a while but we still aren’t sure which path to take.

“Do not leave Jerusalem.” “Wait for the promise of the Father.” Do not move. Wait wait wait wait WAIT!!! Jesus tells us to wait and He tells us, specifically, to wait for enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. In verse 6, the disciples ask Jesus if He will rebuild the Kingdom of Israel. They ask this having seen His death, His resurrection, and spending forty days listening to Him talk about the Kingdom of God itself. How!? Because without the Holy Spirit, we are ignorant of the things of God.

John 16:13 “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

It is the Spirit that guides us to the Truth. It is by the Spirit that we are united to God. It is by the Spirit that we are given intimate knowledge of God. Without being led by the Spirit, we are like the disciples – we may have good intentions – but we will be ignorant and foolish.

We need to stop leading ourselves and wait for the Spirit to lead us. This is the promise of our Father – a Spirit of Truth. In the meantime, let us focus on becoming attune to His voice, fearing Him, trusting in Him, and building intimacy with Him.

Let the Spirit lead.

Becoming ‘Israel’

Image

Jacob is probably the most interesting Bible character and the hardest to figure out. He is also, arguably, the most relatable of heroes in Scripture. You can find his story in Genesis from 25:26 to 49:33.

Father Tadros Malaty says, [paraphrased] “Jacob felt he was a pilgrim all the days of his life; especially since his life was continually in troubles. In his adolescence, though his mother loved and favoured him, he suffered much from the fierce nature of his brother Esau. [After stealing his birthright and blessing] Jacob was forced to flee to a foreign land, where he vigorously served his uncle: ‘in the day the draught consumed him, the frost by night; and the sleep departed from his eyes’ (Genesis 31:40). [Yet again, he played the role of a deceiver when it came to his uncle’s livestock] but his uncle was also dishonest and changed his wages ten times. When he fled from the face of his uncle, he was devastated by fear from his brother Esau – who wanted to kill him for stealing his birthright and blessing. In Shechem, his sons Simeon and Levi caused him much trouble by murdering the village of a man who had raped his daughter Dinah. In Ephrath, his beloved wife Rachel died in childbirth and then his father Isaac died. After that, his firstborn son Reuban laid with his father’s concubine, something very painful for Jacob. In addition to the episode of Joseph, believing that his favourite son had been murdered,  that rocked his whole being.”

It seems a miserable life, doesn’t it? If God told you to pick a bible character’s life to live, you probably wouldn’t choose Jacob. Yet, side by side with this morbid tale of Jacob’s struggle is another important story.

Before his birth, God told Rebekah that two nations were in her womb and that the older (Esau) would serve the younger (Jacob) (Gen. 25:23). After Jacob runs away from Esau, he has a dream of a ladder going up to heaven with angels of God ascending and descending on it. Further, he sees the Lord who blesses him and his descendants and promises to be with him, watch over him, and bring him back to the promised land (Gen. 28:12-15). This marks the beginning of Jacob’s personal relationship with God. When he learns of Laban’s anger towards him, because of Jacob’s  wealth and deceit, God tells him to return to the promised land of his fathers (Gen. 31). He listens to the Lord, though he is terrified to encounter his brother Esau. In Genesis 31, the angels of God meet Jacob at his camp as he prepares to meet Esau. In Jabbok, he wrestles with God. He earns the title ‘Israel’ because “he wrestled with God and man and overcame.” Later God tells Jacob to return to bethel, where he encountered God as he was fleeing Esau, and again the Lord calls him ‘Israel’ and blesses his descendants.

Side by side with Jacob’s seemingly continuous struggle was a growing dependence on and experience with God. Becoming ‘Israel’ means struggling continuously and putting your whole heart and whole trust in God’s hands. It means persevering through difficulties and learning that God must be the priority of our lives, if we are to have any lasting joy and peace.

In Genesis, Jacob’s name continues to switch from Jacob to Israel and back again. Why? Because life will always be full of struggle. Sometimes we will prevail and seek God first, like Israel. Other times, we fail to rely on Him and turn to the world or deceitful ways – like Jacob.

Persistence and perseverance are the key to our faith. Perfection is not. Jacob was a deceiver, a manipulator, and a thief. At the same time, Jacob was the first biblical character to see a vision of heaven. This teaches us that it is not from our works that we are granted salvation. In His compassion, God bestows free gifts of grace and mercy on us like he did Jacob. So put aside your self-doubt and guilty conscience. There are no room for these things when our eyes are on God.

There is abundant life for us when we live in Jesus Christ. There is peace and joy that does not depend on our circumstances. Eternity begins now. Heaven is on earth because we can be united with God here and now.

We cannot predict where God will take us or what our impact will be, but we can always persevere and serve Him wholeheartedly like Israel learned to.