How to experience God’s Presence everyday

Presence Theme Logo 2 First of all, let us acknowledge that God is omnipresent. If at any moment in time we feel like we are alone, it is not because God is not there: we simply aren’t experiencing God’s presence. Psalm 139:7-8 states: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there”.

God’s presence can be found. “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him, if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Dt. 29:4). The same promise can be found in Jer.29:13-14: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you”.

These verses promise God’s presence in times of trouble. Indeed, most people experience God’s presence more powerfully when in the midst of trouble, sorrow, loss or devastation.

The second point to note is that God is actively seeking to connect with us. Rev. 3:20 says; “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him (or her) and he (or she) with me”. There is a reciprocal approach: God is available if and whenever sought, to experience His presence we will need to actively seek Him.

 

 

Advertisements

Practice experiencing wholeness

838284_praises_5Any human being’s greatest desire is to be loved. Love is the one emotion that supersedes all emotions. It is the emotion every child is born with. An infant can recognize and respond to love. What human beings learn in life is how to express love; to give, receive or withhold it – and even fail to recognize being loved.

Christians believe that God is the full embodiment of love. Thus, to experience love is to experience God’s presence. Actually, all spiritual expressions articulate the same thing, and that is, to be whole is having the assurance of being embraced by unconditional love.

In other words, being in the presence of God, is the equivalent of being whole. Think of Psalm 91, for example. This is what it says: “O you who dwell in the shelter of the Most High and abide in the protection of Shaddai. I say of the Lord, my refuge and stronghold, my God in whom I trust; that He will save you from the fowler’s trap, and the destructive plague”. (verses 1-3).

There is a sense or a feeling and the assurance of being completely embraced, covered and protected. Even when there are snares and troubles all around, the presence of God is reassuring and comforting. One feels safe and secure. “You need not fear the terror by night, or the arrow that flies by day, the plague that stalks in the darkness, or the scourge that ravages at noon” (verse 5).

Where love abounds, there is no fear. In the presence of God, there is no fear. This is wholeness.

Think of a time in your life when you felt completely loved; a time you simply did not have fear of anything; a time you felt completely secure in spite of surroundings to the contrary. Such moments are times when we experience God’s presence the most.

Can we re-live those moments? Yes, we can. Actually, we can make it a daily experience, or experiencing God’s presence everyday. Let us see, HOW, next.

God dwells among mortals

Jesus HealingGrowing up, and indeed for many years in adulthood, I learned that God is far removed from humans, that their spheres cannot mingle. God is sovereign, indeed, but reigns from heaven which is in  space, somewhere far from earth. I learned too, that only in the after-life can the mortal live with God – when they attain eternal life.

In Revelation 21:3-4, we read the following: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more…”

Actually this is the understanding I have now of God; a God who dwells among the living. Christian theology sees Jesus as Immanuel, or “God with us”. But what does it mean, God dwelling among us?

We can understand this God, from Jesus Christ himself who lived among us. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, raised the dead, comforted the sorrowful. He did all these for love, because God is Love. This Jesus we imitate, taught his followers to love one another.

Human love is deficient. We love and have compassion for those of our family, or those like us, our friends and the like. Often, human love is a reciprocal response. In other words, we often espouse ulterior motivations.

God’s love, on the other hand, is all-encompassing and all-embracing. It has no boundaries. The First Lesson for the Fifth Sunday of Easter (Acts 11:1-18) shows the “apostles and the Judean believers” challenging Peter: “Why did you go to gentiles and eat with them?” It is “we” versus “they”. But the story in the text is about God’s inclusiveness. God accepts and loves “them” as much as He accepts and loves “us”..

Thus, in the Gospel Reading (John 13:31-35), Jesus gives his followers a new commandment: “Love one another” in the example he has demonstrated. The new commandment asks us to embrace everyone rather than only those closest to us. Embrace those we would label: “them”, those who are different from us, those who are not “one of us”.

When that happens, then we comfort one another in times of sorrow. We care for the weak among us and the needy. We mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice. We don’t see strangers as “them”; they are just “some of us”.

That is how God dwells among us.

Only Light can drive out darkness

Lingzi Lumartin-richard-3130416-krystle-campbell-508p_380;380;7;70;0In his Letter to Lord Byron, III,  the poet and critic, W.H. Auden (1907-1973) wrote:

By wire and wireless, in a score of bad translations,

They give their simple message to the world of man(kind):

Man(kind) can have Unity if Man(kind) will give up Freedom.

The State is real, the Individual is wicked;

Violence shall synchronize your movements like a tune,

And Terror like a frost shall halt the flood of thinking…”

How right he was! The terrorist – the person who commits an act of terror – is trying to send a message. Whatever message that may be, terror becomes the vehicle or channel of delivery.

But why terror? Well, terror is “intense, overpowering fear (or) the ability to instill such fear”, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. So, fear, maximum fear, is the object of terrorism.

Fear is a form of slavery or enslavement. It does enslave the mind too, or render it incapable of  action. As Edmund Burke (1729-1797) put it, “No passion so effectively robs the mind of all its power of acting and reasoning as fear”. Bear in mind that those who seek to rob others of freedom by terror are not free themselves. They are governed and driven by fear; and that is why their actions are so irrational, as both Edmund Burke and W. H. Auden observed.

Victims of terror need to avoid two things: One, succumbing to fear. Doing so will not only continue the cycle but also give victory to the terrorists. Marathons and sporting events in general are demonstrations of freedom. It is not simply the freedom to congregate or engage in social activities, but also the freedom to be in the open, enjoy and feel being part of nature.

The second thing to avoid is thinking or feeling that we, as a society, are necessarily the object of hatred. True, there may be some jealousies or even political misgivings but we must not see them as indicative of the rest of the world against “us” – whoever the “us” may happen to be during any terrorist act.

Think of the women in Afghanistan holding placards in solidarity with the people of Boston, for example, and in Pakistan. There are millions of people around the world who are grieving with the families of Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell, Lingzi Lu and all those who were injured in the carnage.

As the Governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick, said during the inter-faith service, and quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr; darkness cannot drive away darkness. Only Light can. This is a momentary time of darkness. Light comes from love, compassion, caring and healing. Light comes from solidarity with those who are mourning and lifting one another up to keep going.

Ultimately, as Henri Nouwen wrote, we need to “deeply trust that we are precious in God’s eyes”. Then we will be “able to recognize the preciousness of others and their unique places in God’s heart” Fear robs one of the assurance of worthiness, as it also robs one of freedom. That is the goal of those who instill fear and we need to defeat it with sounding assertion of our preciousness.

Transformation: From “I will not believe” to “My Lord and my God”

cropped-Excitement-for-a-new-pope.jpgOne of my more memorable Sunday School stories is that of Thomas (also called Didymus in Greek, or  Twin) and dubbed “Doubting Thomas”. We learned this story, not to emulate, but rather to not be a  doubting Thomas.

But then, we have churches named St. Thomas, which means he must not have been a bad influence.

Looking at the story in John 20:24-28 we see Jesus appearing to his disciples after the resurrection. It is quite an amazing experience for the disciples. Unfortunately, Thomas is not there, he misses the experience. So, when he shows up, the ten disciples share with him the amazing story. “Jesus appeared to us”, they tell him, unable to contain their excitement.

In today’s parlance, Thomas must have remarked: “You’ve got to be kidding me! Right?”

“It’s true!” they responded. “He really appeared to us!”

“I won’t believe it”, Thomas would have said. “Not until I see those wounds and actually feel them with my own hands”.

Indeed, at his own timing, Jesus obliges Thomas when he appears again. Thomas gets the chance to feel Jesus wounds, and he is transformed from saying, “I don’t believe”, into declaring, “My Lord and my God!”

So, what transforming experience have you seen in your life? May be, like Thomas, you have tested, touched, felt, or even tasted and have seen transformation. Or may be, like the ten disciples, you had an “aha” moment. Whatever it was, it is to be shared with others so that they too can be transformed. And that is how the world is transformed.

One of the most inspiring moments at City Gospel Mission is the graduation from the Exodus Program. Most men enter the program with doubts or even clue-less. It is a wife, a mother, a relative or a friend who nudges and urges them. But they get the chance to test, touch, feel and see. Then they are transformed, and urged in turn to go out and share their story and let the ripple effect of transformation continue.