A Sense Of Wonder

Lectio:

Scripture reading:  Luke 2:8-20

Meditatio:

“Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said, “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.” Luke 2:9

The world has been turned upside down by the corona virus but nothing will change until our stony hearts are changed into fleshy hearts. Our stony hearts can only be changed when our hedonistic minds are blown away by God. We need a sense of wonder to seek and to live a life of A.W.E – a life of:

Attention to the heart of Jesus by

Waiting on God in silence and

Examining our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Each of us will feel the touch of God in different ways  –  some of us through serving others, some through worship and devotional practices, some through a charismatic encounter with the Holy Spirit, some through great suffering, and some through deep silence. But what is most important is our witness of God’s power and presence in a world enveloped in darkness by sin and evil.

God guided the wise men from the East to the Christ Child by a shining star1 but chose the lowly shepherds to reveal the sights and sounds of heaven with the choirs of angels. This is more than a sentimental Christmas story. It is a story that reaffirmed my need for a shepherd’s heart of humility and reverence – to spend time waiting on the Lord and watching for God’s presence in the mundane activities of my life.

The shepherds were not distracted nor daunted by their spectacular experience of heaven but went to look for the child in the manger and to share with Mary what the angels had told them. And she must have been much edified as she kept these things in her heart and thought about them often.2 

The story of the shepherds is to bring us to Jesus who is our Shepherd of Love.3 We are like sheep who have gone astray.4 We need the grace of God to see that we are spiritually blind and have lost the way. We need wondering hearts to replace our wandering hearts. We need a mind blowing experience like the shepherds – seeing and hearing choirs of angels praising God, while they were watching their sheep – for the love of God to be born in our hearts.

In a world darkened by fear of the tiny Covid-19 virus, we desperately need to hear once again the good news of great joy that the angel gave to the shepherds when Christ was born – to see and ponder on the wonder of God’s love becoming incarnate in a baby lying in a manger.

The A.I.  of spiritual formation is the Attitude of humility and the Intention of desire.  We need humility and desire to embark on the journey, like the wise men from the east and the shepherds to the manger, to seek the Christ Child in our hearts.  This is a journey of the inner way – from experiencing life with our minds to being one with Christ in our hearts. Our brains need by changed by our hearts so that our brains can change our actions. This is the primary objective of the practice of silence – to bring our minds into our hearts.

“Heartfelt silence” has been described as one of the most powerful forms of worship that can leave a person awestruck with God’s glory.5 The practice of silence in the Christian tradition is not to empty our minds of our thoughts but to make room in our hearts for the mind of Christ. This is the best way to keep ourselves from becoming G.O.A.T.s  – trying to be the Greatest Of All Time.  Only then can we be S.H.E.E.P – Seeing Heaven Everyday in Every Person. We will live with a sense of wonder as the Lord our Shepherd provides, cares and leads us to find rest in God’s loving embrace. When we turn back to God and rest in Him, we will live joyful lives that are filled with awe as we declare:

“O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, 
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made; 
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, 
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, 
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, 
How great Thou art, How great Thou art!”

Oratio:

Lord, help me to look for the wonders of Your love in the small and simple events of my life.

Contemplatio:

How does the fear of the Lord prepare my heart for the big and spectacular wonder of God’s Power?

How am I looking for the small and simple wonders of God’s Presence in my daily life?

Song of Praise

How Great Thou Art

SDG

Notes:

  1. Matthew 2:1-11

2. Luke 2:19

3. Psalms 23:1

4.  Isaiah 53:6

  5. Larry  Randolph shared the view that every part of our being has a spiritual bandwidth. When our hearts are in tune with inner silence before the Creator, every aspect of our body quietly speaks. Our cells, minds, and hearts all talk – as they cry out to God without intelligible words.  (The Physics of Heaven, page 104)

The Miracle Of Love

Lectio:

Scripture reading: Luke 1:26-38

Meditatio

“She was startled by what the angel said and tried to figure out what this greeting meant. The angel told her, “Don’t be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:29-30 GW

With the appearance of the Omicron virus there seems to be no end to fear in the Covid-19 pandemic. We are in dire need for the vaccine of God’s agape love – it is only perfect love that cast out all fear. Omicron is but another messenger to open the eyes of the world to see how the sins of greed, lust, and pride have led to worship of the idols of money, sex, and power. When our hearts are hardened, we cannot listen to the sweet sound of God’s amazing grace. We cannot comprehend the fear of the Lord nor hear God’s whispers of love. It is only by the grace of God that we can move from a faith that is based on the wrath of God to a faith rooted in the love of God – to live in the light of God’s blessing and not under the shadow of the curse.1

Mary was startled and confused when the angel Gabriel greeted her and said, “You are favored by the Lord! The Lord is with you.”2 The virgin birth is a story to invoke in us a sense of awe and wonder of God’s mysterious ways and to invite us to seek the Kingdom of Heaven in the here and now. Where God reigns, there is healing as well as abundance, love and servant leadership rather than illness, poverty, lust and dictatorship.

The virgin birth is the miracle of love seen in the birth of the Christ child. Nothing is impossible for God who is the creator of the world3 and who knits us together in the womb.4 However, it was extremely difficult for Mary to find herself pregnant before she was married. Imagine the gossip and ridicule she had to face. And she could have been stoned to death for adultery. She needed to hear the angel Gabriel telling her not to be afraid.

The story of the virgin birth is to awaken us to the reality of angels, miracles and the spiritual dimension of life. It also draws our attention to the important truth that divine love is all about relationships – love is more than sexual love.  In our fallen world we have confused sex with love and  blind to the truth that sex is the gift of God. Sex without love is pure lust.  Sex with love is a foretaste of divine love. And love need not be expressed only through sex. Love is not a feeling but the commitment to care that can be shared without sex.  Joseph did not consummate his marital relationship with Mary until after the birth of Jesus.5 His love for Mary was seen in his commitment to partner her in the immaculate pregnancy by marrying and caring for her.

God’s ways are not our ways6  and the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom.7 The genealogy of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew 8  listed women who were widows and prostitutes and even an adulteress.  Tamar was a widow who seduced Judah, her father in law, by pretending to be a prostitute and gave birth to Perez and Zerah. Rahab was a Gentile prostitute who married Salmon and became the mother of Boaz. Ruth was a Gentile widow who married Boaz and gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David.  Bathsheba committed adultery with David and later gave birth to Solomon. These stories are illustrations of our human foibles and weaknesses. Through them we see the wisdom and grace of God which transforms perfectly imperfect sinners into imperfectly perfect saints.

 God’s wisdom is hidden in mystery but is revealed in the birth of Jesus through a virgin. Love came down at Christmas and this is the most important message of Christmas – the birth of a desire and intention to live in God’s loving embrace in a human being. Christmas is God’s invitation to embark on the journey of spiritual transformation. It is a journey that begins when we pay attention to our desire for God’s presence so that our desire will be the motivating force to maintain a rhythm of spiritual practices to keep our hearts and minds open to the Holy Spirit.9  And it begins, like the birth of Jesus, in our spiritual poverty – when we see how powerless we are over our sinful desires, ulterior motives and hidden agendas. It is only by the grace of God that we are reborn spiritually through the power of the Holy Spirit.10

Mary provides us with an example to follow when she responded to the angel Gabriel, “Let it be to me according to your word.”11We are enslaved by our fear of suffering and death and addicted to the pursuit of pleasure. We are set free only when we live beyond ourselves by taking attention off our selves – to die to self and to be reborn again as a child of God.

Epiphany is the revelation of the miracle of love in the birth of Christ, our Emmanuel, who shares our joys and our pains. It is a time to celebrate faith, hope, and love in the promises of God for He has given us  the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with agape love.12 It is a time to seek the habits of spiritual disciplines with the  intention to cultivate the mindset, “I am no longer my own but thine.” This is the covenant prayer instituted by John Wesley for the Methodist Watch Night service at the end of the year.13

Spiritual disciplines are to help us express our desire and longing for the love of God and to journey into the unknown to seek our Divine Lover. Our focus is not on how God is going to meet our needs but how we can glorify God in our joys as well as sorrows. The miracle of love is the depths of love and heights of joy that we can find in the moments of eternity as we pay attention to the deepest desire of our hearts and awaken our deepest longing to be God’s beloved:

“I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.”

Oratio:

Lord, may Your love be born in my heart. Purify the desires of my heart so that I will be intentional in my devotional practices to seek You.

Contemplatio:

  1. How badly do I want an intimate and close relationship with God more than a comfortable, problem-free life?
  2. Do I crave the praises of men more than a desire to glorify God?
  3. Have I felt the deepest longing of my heart to live my life as God wants me to live?
  4. Are my prayers centered on my wants and needs rather than on praise and thanksgiving?

Song of Praise:

I Am Thine O Lord.

SDG

Notes:

  1. Nouwen Meditation: Live Under the Blessing, January 6th, 2022
  2. Luke 1:28
  3. Genesis 1
  4. Psalms 139:15
  5. Matthew 1:25
  6. Isaiah 55:8
  7. 1 Corinthians 1:18-28
  8. Matthew 1:1-16
  9. An important insight gleaned from Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms.
  10. John 3:5-8
  11. Luke 1:38
  12. Romans 5:5
  13. John Wesley’s Covenant Prayer:

I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed by thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing.

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, Let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.

The Voice Of Silence

Lectio:

Scripture reading: Luke 1:5-25

Meditatio:

“But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. “ Luke 1:13, NLT

During Advent in 2019, I suddenly lost my voice when I had a severe attack of laryngitis. The ENT specialist found a small ulcer on my vocal cord and gave me strict orders not to talk at all for 2 weeks – she was God’s “commanding angel” pushing me into a journey of silence in the season of Advent. It marked the gestation of my book, Living In God’s Loving Embrace, which was published in 2020.1

 I was reminded of  Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, who was struck by the fear of the Lord when the angel Gabriel appeared to him while he was on duty serving God in the Temple. He was shaken and overwhelmed with fear but was reassured by the angel Gabriel: “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.“2 

Zechariah then asked for a sign and was told by the angel Gabriel that he would be silent and unable to speak until the child was born. The silencing of Zechariah was not a punishment but the sign that God is working in the womb of Elizabeth to form the voice in the wilderness through John the Baptist.3

On the eve of the new year 2022, it dawned on me that to be a voice in the wilderness like John the Baptist, I need to listen to the voice of silence through the discipline of centering prayer. Listening to the voice of silence is the simple practice of radical discipleship of learning to let go of our thoughts so that there will be room in our hearts for the mind of Christ. It is learning to be still in the presence of the Lord4 and to wait patiently for the Spirit to renew our minds and to change our hearts.5  

The discipline of silence is the preparation for life in God’s Kingdom of Heaven – to live in God’s loving embrace in our mundane lives.  Jesus came to set us free from the years of pain and troubles when we are living by the law and in fear of the wrath of God.6   Radical discipleship is following Christ through the practice of silence to  live a God centred faith. The cheap grace of a self centred Christian faith leads to radical disillusionment.  The discipline of silence is not a magical ritual to secure blessings but the expression of a heartfelt desire for a transforming relationship with the Risen Christ and a total dependence on the Holy Spirit in a life devoted to glorifying God.

The most important truth we need to cling to is: “The Lord is in His Holy Temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”7 We are to be still to know God. In the silence in the morning, we wait for the Holy Spirit to fill up the “love tank” of our hearts.9. In the evening we wait for Christ to wash our feet.10  The voice of silence is the gentle whisper of God’s love and the fruit of silence is faith, love and peace.11 The good news is that God loves us because He has created us to be His masterpieces.12 He is waiting patiently to give us His grace to transform our lives so that we can be channels of His love and grace.

Oratio:

Lord, I need to hear Your voice of silence in our noisy world.  Grant me patience and perseverance to wait in silence. May my practice of silence bear the fruit of love and deepen my roots of faith.

Contemplatio:

  1. What new thing is God showing me in the new year to help me listen to the voice of silence?
  2. How can I let go of my thoughts and let the mind of Christ into my heart?
  3. How have the silent moments in my daily life helped me to walk more closely with the Spirit?
  4. How have I heard God’s whispers of love in the voice of silence?

Song of Praise:

Be Still In The Presence Of The Lord

 SDG

Notes:

  1. A fuller account is found in my book, Living In God’s Loving Embrace.
  2. Luke 1:13
  3. Mark 1:4
  4. Psalms 37:7
  5. Romans 12:2
  6. Psalms 90 – Moses reminds us that God sees our secret sins and we live under the wrath of God – our best years are filled with pain and trouble. This is to draw us to the cross of Christ.
  7. Habbakuk 2:20
  8. Psalms 46:10
  9. Romans 5:5
  10. John 13:1-11
  11. From Mother Teresa’s Simple Path – the fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace.
  12. Ephesians 2:10, NLT

The Joyful Silence Of God’s Loving Embrace

“Be silent before the Lord, all humanity, for He is springing into action from His holy dwelling.” Zechariah 2:13

How can we be happy in a sad world of pain, suffering, disease, aging and death? Christmas is a time when we are awakened to the wonder of God’s transforming love. Christmas is the season of hope and joy – a time to receive God’s invitation to rest in His loving embrace like a newborn child.  The miracle of Christmas is that God’s love changes the way we think, feel and act when Christ is born in our hearts – when we are reborn again to live our lives as new creations in Christ.1 

At Christmas, we celebrate the glad tidings that God’s love is real for Jesus Christ is our Emmanuel – God with us – and has given us the Holy Spirit to be in us.2  Advent is a season of waiting and Christmas carols like, “Silent Night”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and “It came upon the midnight clear,” highlights the importance of silence and stillness to hear God’s whispers of love in our daily lives. 

The story of the birth of the Christ child is to open our hearts to  the  wondrous mystery of the love of God coming into the world in a little baby born in poverty. It is God’s dramatic demonstration of the truth that blessed are the poor for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The picture of a baby in the manger sleeping in heavenly peace invites us to experience the maternal love of God by resting in His loving embrace like a weaned child:

“Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty.

Neither do I concern myself with great matters,

Nor with things too profound for me.

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,

Like a weaned child with his mother;

Like a weaned child is my soul within me.”3 

The Holy Spirit is the manifestation of the maternal and unconditional love of God.  The Holy Spirit awakens us to the spiritual dimension of life, for the things that we can see will be gone when we die, it is only the things that we cannot see that are eternal.4 We need to shift our focus from our troubles to the promises of God. We need to see our blessings and tribulations through heaven’s eyes. Dr. Mary Neal shared the following precious insight from her near death experience:

“Where there is joy, there is God’s presence. The joy of heaven is God’s enduring gift to each of us, whatever our circumstances. Living a joy-filled life is the natural outcome of choosing to live in the truth of God’s promises and offers a taste of what our loving God has in mind for our future..…right now.”5

Silence through contemplative prayer is a way to experience the presence of God and to express our love to God. It is spending “quality time” with God. Quality time – the giving of one’s undivided attention – is a “love language” described by Gary Chapman to improve communication in marriages.6 Silence is God’s love language of quality time. Advent is a time to be silent before God and watch Him springing into action.7

Through silence, we journey from the circumference of our lives that is filled with conflicts and divisions into the centre of our being where God dwells as the Risen Christ. Like the shepherds we may initially be terrified when the light of God’s love reveals the evil that is lurking within our hearts. We cannot be led by the Spirit when we are filled with pride, greed, lust, fear and guilt. The good news is that the Holy Spirit set us free from our negative thoughts and feelings as we ponder on the wonder of the presence of God with humility, helplessness and honesty.  In silence we seek to be nothing and to do nothing so that God can do anything through us. 

As we spend quality time with God, we will hear God speaking to us with the love language of words of affirmation as we  meditate on His Word. Our hearts are touched by the love language of God revealed in the broken bread and poured out wine of Christ and the promises of God’s amazing grace. We experience the love language of gifts through the gifts of the Spirit. And as we exercise our spiritual gifts to serve others, they experience the love language of acts of service. Joy and peace will then reign on earth when the love languages of God shine forth in our world of darkness.

Our human nature drives us to seek and find happiness in doing what we want. We need the discipline of silence in contemplative prayer to invite the Holy Spirit to lead us from the “isolated consciousness” of individualism into a new collective consciousness of community. Through silence and a poverty of spirit, we enter the kingdom of heaven in the here and now and find the joy of God’s perfect will for our lives.

Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in our hearts. May our lives be transformed by the joyful silence of God’s embracing love this Christmas so that we can sing “Joy to the World,” as we share the wonders of God’s love with truth and grace in our hearts:

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,

Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace, 

And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.”8

SDG

References:

  1. Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 5:17
  2. John 14:17
  3. Psalms 131:1-2 NKJV
  4. 2 Corinthians 4:18, NLT
  5. Mary C. Neal, 7 Lessons From Heaven, (New York, Convergent Books, 2017) pg 324/361
  6. Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages
  7. Zechariah 2:13
  8. Joy To The World

A Certain Hope In An Uncertain World

Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 5:2 ESV

As we come to the end of 2021, we face an uncertain future, a future that appears more unknown and unpredictable than in previous years. This is the grim reality the present pandemic is forcing all of us to see.  The only certainty in the 3rd millennium, besides death and taxes, is that world is heading for destruction.  Scientists have warned that if we continue with the reckless consumption of the earth’s resources and ignore the signs of climate change and global warming, the world will come to an end from the folly of humankind.

The coronavirus is God’s megaphone to awaken humankind to the horror of a fallen and broken world and the hopelessness of living with what Pope Francis has described as an “isolated consciousness.” Such a consciousness sows division and is a major obstacle to the union of hearts and minds.1  When each of us live in the world of “I, me and mine” and see others as “them,” we are all prisoners of sin condemned to live with masks, social distancing and quarantine – not only physically but psychologically.  We need to be inoculated with God’s virus of love to live with the certain hope of eternal life – as the children of God, as the family of God, and as the Body of the Risen Christ. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven,” to teach us to live together in a community of love – with a “us, we, and our” mindset and to live with transparency, vulnerability and intimacy.

This is the hope, grounded in the love of God, that came down at Christmas more than 2000 years ago.  Advent is the celebration of the certain hope of God’s overflowing love that is revealed in the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We celebrate the birth of Christ at Christmas to declare the good news that Jesus came to lead us from death to life. Evil is the opposite of “live” and evil forces draws us from life to death. Jesus came to give us the Holy Spirit to lead us from death to life and to be partners in God’s new heaven and earth. We follow Christ in order to be the people of God and to be the temple of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit binds us together as a community of believers through the church. The church is not a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners. Pope Francis reminds us that Jesus did not found the Church as “a citadel of purity nor is it a constant parade of heroes and saints.”2 We need the fellowships of small groups to be the spiritual ICUs to nurse us back from spiritual death to eternal life.

The Covid pandemic marks the dawn of a new age. Pope Francis wisely observed that “in times of crisis and tribulation, we are shaken out of our sclerotic habits” as the love of God purify us and reminds us that we are a people of God.  We are invited to “abandon the self-defeating isolation of individualism” – to flow from our “little lagoons” of our limited physical life into the broad river of eternal life.3

The birth of the infant Jesus, helpless and dependent,  is the outward and visible sign of the inward and invisible grace of God to teach us that God’s grace is sufficient for His power is greatest in our weaknesses.4 It is by God’s grace that we can live with joyful hope in the face of our problems and trials:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”5

Faith is our response to the grace of God – by faith we see the reality of what we are to hope for and the evidence of things we cannot see.6 Our faith is rooted in the hope that love always trumps evil. This hope is the wondrous gift of God’s heaven given silently when we open our hearts to the Holy Spirit with meekness and faith:

“How silently, how silently, the wondrous Gift is giv’n;
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of His Heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”7

The practice of silence leads us to the mind of Christ8 and opens our eyes to the evil of an “isolated consciousness” that is within us. As the Holy Spirit fills our open hearts with the love of Christ, we can live by faith with the certain and overflowing hope of God’s amazing grace – our doubts are overcome by a love that is stronger than death, our sorrows by unspeakable joy and our fears by the peace that is beyond all human understanding. With Jesus in our hearts, we stand with hope as children of the promise to be a light in a world darkened by the pandemic:

“We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him our soul’s reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.”9

SDG

References

1.  Pope Francis, Let Us Dream, The Path To A Better Future, (London, Simon & Schuster) pg 69-74

2. Ibid, pg 70

3. Ibid, pg 99 – 102

4. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NLT

5. Romans 5:3-5, NLT

6. Hebrews 11:1, NLT

7. O Little Town Of Bethlehem

8.  1  Corinthians 2:16, NLT

 9. By Faith – Keith & Kristyn Getty

Life Before Death

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die.” John 6:47-50

Our hearts sank when the doctor called us to go down to the hospital as a loved one was critically ill. The doctor shared her concern that our family member had a high risk of having a cardiac arrest. By the grace of God, his condition stabilized later that night . The encounter with the power of darkness drew my attention to the victory over death that Christ has secured for us. 

Our small group had been reflecting on the Acts of the Apostles. We read the story of the young man, Eutychus, who was listening to the apostle Paul talking till past midnight. The room was lighted with many flickering lamps and Eutychus was sitting on the windowsill. He became drowsy and fell down three stories to his death. But Paul simply went down, took him in his arms and said, “Don’t worry, he’s alive.” Then they went back upstairs, shared in the Lord’s Supper and Paul continued preaching till dawn!It was an eye opener that the disciples were not distracted by the miracle of Paul raising Eutychus from the dead – they simply continued with the Lord’s Supper and the preaching of God’s Word. Miracles were their everyday experiences and their focus was not on the miracles but on the presence and love of God. 

The story of Eutychus is a graphic reminder of the weakness of our flesh – we may fall asleep during sermons and pastors need not be offended by those who do so! God knows that our spirits are willing but our flesh is weak.2 It was an encouragement to me as I fall asleep at times during my silent meditation. I can now take comfort by choosing to see such times as the times that Christ is picking me up and restoring my soul.

The practice of meditation is more than resting in God. There may be times when we are lead into the darkness of our souls and even the absence of God. This is to humble us as we face the reality that without Christ,  we are the living dead – living under the power of darkness. It is only with the spirit of humility that we can truly understand and be grateful for the good news of Advent – that God is waiting and seeking to deliver us from darkness so that we can live in the light.

 Advent is a time to share the good news of God’s amazing grace that through faith in Christ we are reborn again – not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.3 The only work God wants from us is to believe in Jesus Christ.4 Through faith in Jesus Christ, we have the keys to enter the Kingdom of heaven.  Jesus came to be the Light of the World5 to show us the way out of the dark world of suffering and to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Beatitudes are the keys to the kingdom of God.  We need to come to terms with our spiritual poverty for it is the poor in spirit who will mourn and seek the comfort of God.  When we do so, our humility fills us with meekness so that we can inherit the kingdom of God. Then we will hunger and thirst for righteousness.6  Before going to the cross, Jesus gave us the Lord’s Supper as God’s means of grace.  Jesus told the Jews that they need to eat His flesh and drink His blood to have eternal life:

“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever.”7

Like the deer longing for streams of water, we thirst for the living God.8 We hear Christ, the well of our salvation, calling us to quench our spiritual thirst:

“Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, “Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.”9

Journeying with a loved one in the intensive care unit provided me with a better understanding of the narrow way. The door to eternal life is narrow because it is an intimate and personal relationship between me and Christ. The narrow way is not about giving up our pleasures but surrendering our will that God’s will may be done in our lives. The way of the cross is a movement from death to life.

Without Christ we are spiritually dead and on the journey from life to death –  living the “dash” between our birth and death. Jesus Christ is God’s gift to lead us from spiritual death to live the eternal life before death. Advent is a time of waiting and preparing our hearts so that God’s Word can be made “flesh” in our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Waiting on God through meditation is to enter into the rest of God – to remember that there is nothing that we can do to earn God’s grace. It is the expression of our trust in God’s unconditional love that is revealed on the cross of Christ. Christian meditation is a journey into our hearts to see ourselves as God sees us and not who we pretend to be. We can take off our masks when we know that God loves us just as we are. As we do so, the Holy Spirit will lead us to become the person God wants us to be.

May this Advent prepare us for the journey to eternal life. As we face the storms of the Covid pandemic and other illnesses in our lives, let us learn to be still as we wait on God:

Find rest my soul
In Christ alone
Know His power
In quietness and trust

When the oceans rise and thunders roar
I will soar with you above the storm
Father, You are King over the flood
I will be still know You are God

SDG

References:

  1. Acts of Apostles 20:7-12 NLT
  2. Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38
  3. John 1:12-13
  4. John 6:29
  5. John 8:12
  6. Matthew 5:3-6
  7. John 6:55-58
  8. Psalm 42:1-2
  9. John 7:37-38

A Taste Of Heaven

“God has  rescued us from the power of darkness and has brought us into the kingdom of His Son, whom he loves. His Son paid the price to free us, which means our sins are forgiven.” Colossians 1:13

Omicron, the latest variant of the corona virus threatens to cast a dark shadow over the world in this season of Advent. We are living in a changing and turbulent time. Pope Francis saw this as a time of reckoning, when ways of thinking are shaken up and our priorities and lifestyles are challenged. The trials of life reveal what is truly in our hearts.1 

The season of Advent is a time to proclaim the good news that God has rescued us from the power of darkness to bring us into the kingdom of heaven.  Advent 2021 is a time to see the Covid 19 pandemic from another perspective.  The tiny virus opens our eyes to the harsh reality of the hellish conditions here on earth.  We are living in a dark world of sin, evil and death where so much suffering is caused by human lust, pride and greed. The world desperately needs to hear the good news that Jesus is the Light of the World. Jesus came to show us that heaven, not hell, is God’s perfect will for the world.

Heaven is not a pipe dream nor a figment of our imagination – it is the promise and perfect plan of our Heavenly Father. Jesus did not come to send anyone to hell.2 Jesus died and rose from the dead so that we can become God’s new creations3 who are living to glorify God and not ourselves. We are to be the living stones of God’s temple as well as His royal priesthood.4 We are to have a taste of heaven here on earth with a personal relationship with God as our Heavenly Father.

The greatest proof of God’s unconditional love is Christ Crucified.  Like the prodigal son, we need to take the first step of repentance – to turn from our foolish ways and to turn back to God.5  However, like the early disciples in Ephesus, we need to move from repentance to faith in the Risen Christ in order to receive the Holy Spirit.6 It is through faith in the Risen Christ that our hearts are filled with the love of God and the blessed assurance that we are God’s beloved.7

When our image of God is distorted we are unable to experience the forgiveness and unconditional love of God. When we see God as our Judge and not as our Heavenly Father,  we live our lives as slaves of Satan and not as the children of God –  fear, guilt, unbelief, and false beliefs  keep us from seeing the loving presence of God in the mundane activities of our daily lives. When we learn to be thankful for the small mercies of God each day, we will have a taste of heaven.

Advent is the season of expectant waiting and preparation to remind us to make room in our hearts for Christ. The discipline of silence and contemplative prayer provides us with a way to do so. According to Henri Nouwen, we celebrate Christ’s victory over the world, over death, and over the evil one, every time we spend silent time in our prayer room.8 As followers of Christ we are to stand on the victory of Christ over evil. We cannot have victory over evil when we are not standing firm in our identity as a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ.  It is only when Jesus is Lord in our lives to lead us into the rest of God9   that we can have a taste of the heavenly peace that comes from this victory.

Most important of all, in Christ, we can have a taste of heaven even when we walk in darkness for we have the bright light of God which shines on those who live in the land of death’s shadows.10 When we go through suffering, trials and persecution, we have the comfort of God through the Holy Spirit.11 Our bodies may be dying but our spirits are renewed every day as we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.12 Our problems become an opportunity for great joy for it is a time when our faith is being refined and perfected.13 In persecution and fiery trials, we are partners with Christ in his suffering and we will have the wonderful joy of seeing the glory of Christ when it is revealed to the world. 14

Advent is a time when the world is waiting in hope for the good news that Christ is the Light to lead us out of our dark times. May the fire of God’s love in our hearts shine forth as a beacon of light for those who are walking in darkness. Let us bring the good news, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come!” as we share our hope in Christ:

“There is a hope that burns within my heart
That gives me strength for every passing day
A glimpse of glory now revealed in meagre part
Yet drives all doubt away
I stand in Christ with sins forgiven
And Christ in me the hope of heaven
My highest calling and my deepest joy
To make His will my home.

There is a hope that lifts my weary head
A consolation strong against despair
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit
I find the Saviour there
Through present sufferings future’s fear
He whispers courage in my ear
For I am safe in everlasting arms
And they will lead me home.”

SDG

References:

  1. Pope Francis, Ler Us Dream, (London, Simon & Schuster, 2020) 1
  2. 2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:32, Ezekiel 33:11
  3. 2 Corinthians 5:17
  4. 1 Peter 2:4-5
  5.  Luke 15:17-21
  6. Acts of the Apostles, 19:1-7
  7.  Romans 5:1-5
  8. Nouwen Meditation: Reflect the Peace of Christ, November 23, 2021
  9.  Hebrews 4:1-2
  10.  Isaiah 9:2
  11. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7
  12.  2 Corinthians 4:16-18
  13.  James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7
  14. 1 Peter 4:12-17