Thursday, September 1, 2005

Reflections on the Face of Christ

“And I will bring you into the wilderness of the peoples and there I will enter into judgement with you face to face.” Ezekiel 20:35
I usually hesitate to mention my more personal prayer times because, though they are very meaningful to me, I do not mean to imply that everyone should regard them with the same importance that I do. This is one of those reflections, however, that I have been told left a great impact on others. I share it only as a perspective that might help us view other people with greater love and sincere attention.
Several years ago, every time I began to pray, I would see the face of Jesus in front of me. His face would then change into the face of someone else – usually people I did not recognize. This happened repeatedly so that I began to seek the Lord for the meaning to this. A week later, again in prayer, the Lord placed it clearly on my heart to look up every scripture which mentioned being ‘face to face’ with God. I got out my concordance and, beginning in Genesis, read every scripture listed under that phrase. When I came to this scripture in Ezekiel, I immediately had a profound vision that has forever changed my interaction with other people.
I saw people reaching the end of their life, and when they died, they experienced a ‘flashback’ of every encounter they had with other people during their lifetime. This flashback included everyone, whether it was a close relative, an occasional friend, or a passerby they saw only once very briefly. Any person with whom they had come ‘face to face’ was now coming before them, one after the other, in succession. But with each person they encountered, I saw that Christ was using only the eyes of that other person to recall a remembrance. I would see Him looking, through their eyes, into the face of the one who had died and He would say something like: “I remember you, you were the one who helped me when I was having such a difficult time,” or “you were the one who brought me groceries when I was out of a job,” or “you were that one who helped me across the street… (or) …said that kind word to me.” He spoke from some recognition of good that could be recalled in the heart. But if the Lord could not find some recognition like this, something that reflected His own goodness, He would search and search for one. He sought through the mind and heart for anything that could recall a reflection of His love, because it was only His love and goodness that could live eternally. After searching the depths of the heart, if He could still find nothing of good, He would slowly shake His head and say, “I never knew you.”
“Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?” Matt. 25:37-39
I don’t really know if our judgement upon leaving this world happens in this way. I don’t know if this is the way that “everyone of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Rom. 14:12) I do think, though, that we tend to assume our ‘judgement’ will include our personal excuses and reasoning. Perhaps God will only recognize each of us in eternity by the way we have recognized and responded to Him in the people He has created. It is something to think about.
“And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” Matt. 25:40.
May we abide by the words of Christ: “that you love one another as I have loved you.” Jn 15:12

Monday, August 1, 2005

Reflections on Discernment

August Newsletter – 2005
“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes
all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

I often hear from people who are trying to discern something. It might be a decision to be made,
the way to view a certain circumstance, or how to follow God’s will. When those situations arise, I have found a few things to be helpful in our process of discernment.

Prayer, of course, is first because it is God we need to seek above all for wisdom and guidance. God knows what we need before we ask, and all our ways are before Him. (Matt. 6:8, Ps. 119:168) So, we seek His perfect guidance, but especially, we remember to seek and desire God first. The best and most profitable thing we can start with is simply to love and seek being closer to God. This puts everything in the right perspective and gives us the proper detachment we need to begin discernment. Our mind and heart are in a correct attitude for receiving God’s pure and eternal knowledge. One way we honor Him first is by giving to God the ‘first fruits’ of our day, the first fruits of our attention, and our time. In all matters, our attention and devotion to God should come before other interests or needs. When we do that, we are naturally ‘in prayer,’ and sincere prayer naturally prepares us for receiving God’s direction.

Practicing faith is another necessary step. By this I mean that we continually believe in God and trust Him. Practicing implies that we are working at it. Sometimes we need to make an effort to have faith because it is not a natural part of our response. We need to remind ourselves that “the Lord is faithful in all His words and gracious in all His deeds.” (Ps 145:13) Or, as David sang to his soul, we “bless the Lord….and forget not all His benefits.” (Ps. 103:2) Actively using our faith is important because it is the avenue God works through in our life. Once, when I felt God asking me to do something that required a great amount of faith, I prayed, “Lord, you can do all things, but do you know how hard it is for us to just step out in faith and believe that something is going to work?” When I prayed this, I ‘heard’ in my mind a clear ‘Yes!’ in answer to my question. And in that ‘yes’ was also this explanation: whatever level of difficulty we have in trusting God, becomes the same difficulty God deals with in helping us. He works through our faith in Him. We can think a certain problem is not difficult for God because of His sovereignty, but we forget that He does not force His will on us, that He freely gives us choice and faith, and He still works through our cooperation with His grace. Our ability to discern is always benefited by actively using our faith to turn to God and trust in Him.

A third, and sometimes more difficult, step is patience. We do not see all that is taking place while we pray for discernment. The patience we need to exercise brings our faith to a deeper level where God’s grace can work in a deeper way. We have to wait. We have to let go. We have to trust. There is time to consider and avoid the traps of doubting, complaining, and becoming anxious. God is able to move more effectively without our self-focused obstacles. We gain much from the need to be patient. A deeper work is occurring in our souls - our sanctification, which is the will of God. (1 Thess. 4:3)

A fourth step is mentioned in the scripture from Philippians - thanksgiving. We give thanks because this gives honor and glory to God at the same time it shows our faith and reinforces it. Thanksgiving expresses love to our Creator. And in all of this – prayer with God first, faith that is active, patient waiting, and thanksgiving – the outcome is the peace of God which keeps us centered in Christ Jesus. It is in that peace that we are in the best place for discerning.
Blessings, Cricket Aull