So he said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”
– 1 Kings 19:10

Walking this road, living this life, I am meant to be set apart from others in this world. I am not meant to be like everybody else. And sometimes this path will be filled with loneliness. Even Elijah – Elijah! – felt lonely. The man who raised a young man from the dead, the man who brought fire down from heaven, felt lonely, and scared. It’s clearly not unusual, clearly not something I alone struggle with. Being in a land where it seems that “I alone am left”, I find myself feeling lonely. I feel like no one is here to support me or protect me or at least be here for me. But what I sometimes fail to realize is that God is aware. And He is near.

And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
– v. 9

God was there. God knew that Elijah was going into the cave and was about to let the self-pity settle in, and instead of leaving Elijah to mope God’s word came to him, offered an ear to listen, offered comfort where he could find none.

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice [a delicate whispering voice].
– vv. 11-12

And so God took Elijah out of his cave of self-pity and woke the man up. Nothing wakes a person up quite like tearing winds, earthquakes, and fires. But then after all of that, He came quietly, delicately, speaking to Elijah.

Is this not so typical? How many times has God done this in my life? He takes me out of my slump, wakes me up, and just when I think I may fling myself from the proverbial mountain because of the quakes and fires, He speaks ever so delicately to my heart. I never noticed this translation before: “a delicate whispering voice”, but it makes perfect sense when you think of who God is and how He works.

I am about to give you a little insight to my past here in hopes that it will help make this message more tangible.

When I was in high school, I had a very teenage heartbreak. There were winds blowing and quakes shaking inside of me. I will never forget how hard I took it. I will never forget how I could not make myself stop crying even though I had been sobbing nonstop for hours, curled up on my bedroom floor. And then God asked me, “What are you doing here, Marina?” And I begged, I pleaded for Him to make it stop, to hold me and making the crying stop because I was just so tired. Then instantly, the winds quieted, the quaking stopped, the fire extinguished, and my crying finally ceased. He held me, and I could actually feel it. He spoke delicately to my heart and quieted the storm in my soul.
This is a night that I will never forget, even when I am 75 and the Alzheimer’s has kicked in.

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More recently than that, God set me back up on that mountain. There was fighting, crying, hurting, all winds, quakes, and fires. I was experiencing weeks of unbearable tempests. And again, God spoke to me, this time through Abouna Bishoy, saying, “What are you doing here, Marina?” Things became clear. The storm quieted. And a delicate whisper eased my heart for the first time in a month.

God will not leave us to wallow in self-pity. He will not leave us to die of loneliness in a cave somewhere, but instead He will wake us up. He will shake us. Then He will delicately whisper words of comfort to us.

Sometimes we need to be woken up by blasting winds in order to be ready to hear the still small delicate whisper.

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Stronger Than A Thousand Mighty Men

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
– 1 Corinthians 1:18

This verse is kind of easy to gloss over. When I read through 1 Corinthians at one point or another I had underlined it, but that’s it. I feel like a lot of the time we read verses such as this one and think, That’s a nice sentiment, having the power of God, and then we move on to the next one.

We need to stop. We need to meditate in what “the power of God” really means. The power of God is not something neat or kind of cool. It is awesome, in the true, original meaning of the word: The power of God is so great that it fills people with awe and wonder. It moves mountains – literally! It heals the sick, lifts up the dead, disperses demons, even forgives sins. And that’s only to name a few!

Even before Christ walked this earth and showed us some of what He is made of, it was evident how incredible God’s power is:
The three saintly youth (Daniel 3:19-30)- God’s power kept the flames of the furnace from harming Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they praised God.
Daniel (Daniel 6:10-23)- God’s power kept the lions from devouring him.
Or how about Elijah! He caused a drought (1 Kings 17:1-7). He raised a young man from the dead (1 Kings 17:17-24). He brought fire down from heaven (1 Kings 18:20-40)!

And there are countless more wonders that have been done through the power of God!

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Just listen to what King David had to say about merely the voice of God:

The voice of the LORD is powerful;
The voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars,
Yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes them also skip like a calf,
Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the LORD divided the flames of fire.
The voice of the LORD shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth,
And strips the forests bare;
And in His temple everyone says, “Glory!”
– Psalm 29:4-9

The power of God is not just some nice, abstract idea. It is alive as He is alive. And if I am live through His resurrection, then the power of God is alive in me. If I truly have faith, even of a mustard seed (do you know how tiny those things are?!), then I could literally move mountains from one part of the earth to another; look at St. Simon the Tanner! He was just an average Joe like you and me, except for one thing: he had real faith. And with that faith he moved a mountain!

Or even more recently than that, people like Abouna Makary Younan, who casts out demons daily!

The power of God is real, and it is very present. And it does not just belong in the times of the apostles or early Church martyrs.

Which brings me to the next part, the “how” part. How do I attain the power of God within me? How do I find the faith I need? How can I be like Daniel, like Elijah, like the apostles?

Two words: the cross. 

There is no way around it. There is no way above it or below it. You know how in “Finding Nemo” Marlin and Dory don’t want to go through the deep, dark abyss so they swim above it instead? That isn’t an option here. The only way to have the power of God in me is through the cross. 

The entire premise of this verse centers around “the message of the cross”. The cross is what gives us this power. The only way to attain the power of God is to live the resurrected life. And to live the resurrected life, I must first die the death of the cross.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
– Romans 6:8-9

Take a look at the players mentioned above:
The three saintly youth still had to go into the fire.
Daniel still had to enter the den of lions.
Elijah was terrified for his life, was living alone in a cave, and thought he was the only follower of God left on the earth.

Each and every one of the key players in the Bible or Synaxarium carried a cross in one form or another. Every one of them offered his or her life as a sacrifice for the Lord.

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.
– Romans 12:1

It is only through putting to death the old man in me, the flesh, the earthly nature, that I will be able to live a true and resurrected life. And only then will I be able to live with the power of God in me.

Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
– John 12:24

Imagine the wonders God could do through us, the grain, the fruit, if we would just die to ourselves and live for Him instead.

Heart On Fire

Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10:2)

This is such a powerful verse.

How often do I pray for more laborers? I complain about how there aren’t enough people to help me or support me as I try to serve. But how often do I pray that God send me help?
And I pray for people to believe, to know the love and grace of God, but again, how often do I actually pray for laborers to bring others to Christ?

There is such power in this idea, in my opinion. I mean, what if we all prayed for laborers? What if we all united in purpose?

Can you imagine how full the world would be of hearts on fire for God?

heartonfire

Can you imagine how vast and how great God’s Kingdom would be if we united in purpose and prayer?

“Son of God”: I Finally Watched It

My meditations on the “Son of God” movie

Watching Christ’s compassion towards the adulterous woman as she was about to be stoned really got to me. I am that woman. I am a sinful adulteress, straying from the One who vows to love me. I continuously leave my First Love to run after other things.
But Christ loves me anyway. Christ fights for me anyway. Christ died for me anyway. He lifts me up, kisses my head, and says, “come and sin no more,” as He did her.
Who else but Him would care for me like that? What other god would love me enough to give up His own life just so that I would have life?

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Or how about when Christ enters the temple?
And He said to those who sold doves, “Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!” Then His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for Your house has eaten Me up.” -John 2:16-17
Where is my zeal? Does my zeal for The Lord and His house eat me up? Does it consume me? Because if not, I’m living life wrong. The only true way to live is to live totally and utterly consumed by the Lord’s fire.
Christ was not concerned with what those in the temple thought of Him. He was only concerned with pleasing the Father.
What about me? Do I have so much zeal that all I can do is live my life trying to please The Lord?
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There is a very short scene before Judas wanders off to betray Christ, where you see Jesus playing with John the Beloved. He has John’s head scarf in His hand and is playing around with it in John’s face.
To me, this showed the personal relationship between these two. God has a very unique relationship with each one of us, enough to be playful and teasing, so long as we let Him.
He is a very personal God. He wants each of us to live closely with Him, so that we may spend eternity joking around with Him.
After all, we must be friends with God on earth so that we may be friends with God in heaven.
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I am Peter. I try to love Christ. I try to believe. I try to be faithful. I tell Him, “I will not fall away, I will lay down my life for You,” and yet I fall, and I betray, and I deny.
I am constantly putting my foot in my mouth, saying the wrong things, trying to do things my way. I am as much of a screwup as Peter seemed to be.
Yet Christ chose him to be the rock upon which to build the Church. And Christ told him to tend His flock. And he was the one to bring three thousand to Christ after one word.
Peter is a reminder that, though I fall, I can get back up. I can be redeemed. There is hope for me yet.
_______________________________
As I watch Him die on the cross, I look around me on the plane, and I wonder how many of these people know what Christ gave up for them? How many know that they have been offered life? How many are living in the hope of the Resurrection?
It hurts my heart to think of all those who are lost, all those who know not what they have been given.

Lord Jesus, reveal Yourself. Let these people know You, believe in You, have hope in You. Amen.