“YOU NEED NOT CRY VERY LOUD; HE IS NEARER TO US THAN WE THINK”

Nicholas Herman was born into a peasant’s family in France circa 1612. He went through the Thirty-Years War (1618 – 1648) that took about eight million lives, and spent the rest of his life (he died in 1691) in a Carmelite monastery as a lay brother, where he was known under his religious name Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection. His “official” position at the monastery was rather lowly – a cook and a sandal maker.

As his contemporaries say, Brother Lawrence “forgot himself and was willing to lose himself for God.” He found his spiritual fulfillment in the solitude of a hermit’s life. Being actually illiterate, he, nevertheless, powerfully influenced the minds and spirits of those with whom he talked – by passing godly wisdom on to them. After his death, the Abbe Joseph de Beaufort collected Brother Lawrence’s views in a book “The Practice of the Presence of God” – a thin volume containing 16 letters, Spiritual Maxims, four Conversations and a brief description of Brother Lawrence’s life. Until nowadays, the book is popular both among Catholics and Protestants.

Here are a few quotes from the book which I find specially uplifting:

“Many things are possible for the person who has hope. Even more is possible for the person who has faith. And still more is possible for the person who knows how to love. But everything is possible for the person who practices all three virtues.”

“A little lifting of the heart suffices; a little remembrance of God, one act of inward worship are prayers which, however short, are nevertheless acceptable to God.”

“There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God.”

“You need not cry very loud; he is nearer to us than we think.”

“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees.”

“We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed.”

“I drove away from my mind everything capable of spoiling the sense of the presence of God…. I just make it my business to persevere in His holy presence… My soul has had an habitual, silent, secret conversation with God.”

 

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SERVING WHOLE-HEARTEDLY

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31, NIV)

Having no other relatives, my wife’s aunt Maria, moved to our apartment when she was well beyond eighty and was too weak to attend to herself. We were happy to have her with us. She was a very kind and unassuming person, and even in her position, she was trying to be “helpful.” We were reassuring her that she needn’t do anything about the house: we had all the necessary home appliances, the fridge was stocked with semi-finished food, and we could clean the rooms or cook dinner in no time. However, every morning, Aunt Maria would take a broom and sweep every corner of the apartment, and then cook a meal for all of us – after her own recipe – which was, of course, far tastier than anything made from pre-cooked products bought in the neighboring supermarket. After doing what she supposed was her duty, Aunt Maria sat in down in her room, covered her head with a white kerchief and read the Bible.

It’s many years already since Aunt Maria passed away. Every time when I remember her, I think that whatever she was engaged in, she considered it to be a part of her obedience to God. Very often we may hear people complaining that their daily work is too routine and monotonous, and that it prevents them from doing something more important and interesting. They forget that, in most cases, our ordinary and unchanging activity is exactly what God has tasked us with, and when rightly performed, it promotes our sanctification, bringing us closer to God.

Our Lord, thank you for sending people who set an example reminding us of your precepts.

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WHERE IS GOD?

”And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5 ,  NIV)

In many cities of Great Britain there are Speaker’s Corners – open-air places for public debates and discussions where a person can mount a temporary podium (called a “soap-box”) and express their political, philosophic or any other views. One of the most noted of such places is the north-east corner of Hyde Park in London.

My Christian friend told me a story about an atheist who was airing his views to a crowd that gathered at the Speaker’s Corner: “There is no God. It’s only human fancy. People build gods after their own intellectual and moral patterns. If mathematical triangles were to create their own god, they would create the god in the form of a triangle. Who among you can say that he or she is God’s friend? Who can prove that God exists? Where is God?”

“I CAN PROVE!” A young man elbowed his way through the crowd to the soap-box. “It’s God who has placed me among these people at this moment. It is God who made me come up here to this platform. It’s God who tells me that what the man has just been saying is untruth. I AM God’s friend, and I CAN say where God is. HE IS HERE, IN MY HEART. God is here right now. HE LIVES. HE LIVES IN ME. My heart is God’s abode, and no unbeliever can remove my Lord from His dwelling place. I hear God’s voice who says to me, ‘Do not let any blatant atheist put such lies over on this crowd.”

It was truly a dramatic scene. In one moment the leadership had passed from the unbeliever to the boy of faith. The atheist was unable to recapture the crowd.

The young man was right. We can see God’s presence in many things: in what happened to us many years ago, or even yesterday. We can see God in what He has created, we can hear Him when we read His Word or pronounce His name. God comes to us in the person and character of Jesus. But the first place where we find Him is our hearts – His home and His sanctuary.

My Lord, help me keep my heart, your dwelling place, clean and orderly – worthy of Your name.

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THE PHOTONS I NEED

“The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?” (Psalm 27:1, NIV)

Before human flights into space in the 1960s, scientists doubted whether plants could grow in weightlessness. All kinds of experiments indicated that growth occurs in the direction opposite to the center of gravity. It was as if a plant “struggled away” from the burden of gravitation and went upwards. However, biotechnological tests conducted later in space laboratories proved that, in zero gravity, plants start growing towards lights set up in the cabin. Plants can develop without gravitation but they cannot survive for some longer time without the sun. The sun provides energy to the plants in the form of photons. So if you want to grow a plant in space, you’ll have to find a source of photons for it. A torch, a light bulb or any other artificial light also emits energy in the form of photons.
As a teenager, I read many of the “northern” stories by Jack London, as well as his book “Martin Eden.” The poem “If –” by Rudyard Kipling was also one of my favorites. Now, being more advanced in age (and, probably, in wisdom 🙂 ), I have come to realize that it’s not so much “struggles of life, “going upstream,” “overcoming hardships,” etc. that forms a human being. It’s the Light of God’s Word, without which I am not able to grow, and even to survive for some longer time.

Our Lord, the light of Your love has restored us to life. I pray that You free us from the desires that belong to darkness and help us grow towards You.

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GO!

Healing the paralytic at Capernaum (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26), Jesus first forgave his sins. There is a close connection between our sins and our sicknesses, and forgiveness of sins is basic to our healing. The right of Jesus to forgive sins was opposed by the teachers of law, and they considered Jesus’ words blasphemy viewing them as a slanderous affront to God. By healing the paralytic, Jesus showed that he had not blasphemed God. He could indeed forgive sins.

A thing to be noticed in this episode is also the role of the paralytic. He had to “get up, take his mat and GO” – which he did. The centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant also received Jesus’ command: “GO! Let it be done just as you believed it would” (Matthew 8:13). A man with a shriveled hand was told to stretch his hand. “So he stretched it and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other.” (Matthew 12:13).

Just think of it that many things in our lives are just miracles – even though they may be not so striking and more slowly performed than those mentioned in the Bible. How important is, then, our cooperation with Jesus, who did the most difficult part of our restoration – forgiving us. Let’s not forget our role: getting up, stretching our previously shriveled hand …and GO… and FOLLOW… HE HAS SENT US ON THE WAY.

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DO NOT HINDER THEM…

Feb 11 pictureOn November 2017, Molly Russel, a British teenager, committed suicide after continuously visiting self-harm pages on Instagram. When I heard the news, I went to see the pages Molly might have read. “You are depressed… I am depressed too… There’s a lot of us… Come inside this virtual club…” Now, Molly’s father is desperately trying to have Apple decrypt his daughter’s account to see what exactly she had read before died. Apple say they cannot do anything.

About 200 children in the UK take their own lives each year. According to a council survey, one in four secondary school girls in Somerset had tried self-harming to ease stress. Hospital admissions for self-harming among 10 to 24-year-olds had gone up by 71% between 2011 and 2018.

Taking one’s own life that is given by God is a sin – a crime against God. Modern society prides itself on being secular and politically correct. From time to time, I read in the British media that religious education in schools is “outdated”. Allegedly, significant shifts have occurred in the UK since the Education Act 1944 and education must “reflect modern Britain.” However, by removing God from life and, in particular, from school life, the society renders the teens’ hearts void and becomes complicit in crimes of and against such children as Molly and a lot of others.

My impression is that Satan has launched major warfare against Childhood. The authorities urge the nursery schools staff to avoid the words “boys and girls” while addressing the children, and not use the titles Mr or Mrs with names of animals while reading all sorts of fairy tales to them. The explanation is: we are promoting gender-equality. The dignity God designed for human beings is re-defined by the secular world, in fact, by the forces of Evil. Or take abortion. It’s nothing but murdering children at birth. However, as it is sarcastically remarked, in America you can go to jail if you spank a child but not if you murder the child in the womb.

I open the Book of Luke, Chapter 18, verses 15-17 “… Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”

“DO NOT HINDER THEM… “ I pray, Lord, that whoever has ears, may hear this command.

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AN APPROPRIATE DWELLING FOR HIM

The former Soviet Union had its own bible that was widely popularized. It had the title “The Bible for Believers and Unbelievers” and contained 66 chapters – each chapter being a critique (or, rather a total denial) of the corresponding canonized books in the Bible.  The atheistic “bible” was used to teach Atheism as a required course at all universities. The word “scientific” was added to the name of the course to give it greater importance. Ridiculously, the Soviet people were supposed to denounce the biblical tenets without reading the true Bible. It was the same approach as denouncing dissident writers’ “harmful” literary works without reading the works proper, or criticizing the life in the West without going abroad. With that philosophy, the Soviet Union, alongside with the “Soviet people as a new historical community” (the term was officially used) had existed for less than seven decades before it collapsed.

In the final chapters of the Book of Exodus, the Lord gives instructions to the people if Israel concerning building the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant. The minutest details are enumerated: about the altar, the courtyard, the oil for the lampstand, the priestly garments, the ephod, etc. Moses and the Jewish people understood the importance of those regulations: they were preparing a proper dwelling for God who would be living among them. As a result, the Jewish nation has been successfully existing for more than three millennia after Moses was given the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.

With Jesus, God’s Kingdom is given to the Gentiles. Will they prepare an appropriate home for the Lord in their hearts? The answers “yes” or “no” to this question will entail the existence or annihilation of humankind on this planet – considering the present-day degradation of morality, mutual hatred, pervading falsehood, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction…

“God is a God of unconditional immeasurable love – so unconditional and immeasurable that He releases His wrath and exercises justice only when man refuses to repent and accept His offer of forgiveness and pardon. Imagine what horrendous retribution unrepentant sinners face. Imagine what they would face if God was not a God of love, compassion, and patience! These are the words of Bob Tolliver, my Christian friend and teacher, whose posted picture I’m also using for my today’s message.

 

 

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