Friday, July 3, 2015

Suffering in the Presence of God

When Jesus was approaching the country of the Gergesenes, He was met by two men who were demon possessed. We are told the demons were so fierce, these men actually lived among the tombs, and still they would torment others. But the time came for them to meet Jesus, and the demons were the ones tormented, not by violence, but by the very presence of God.  Sometimes, just being in God’s presence can be torment for those who reject His love.

But we don’t have to be possessed by demons to be tormented by God. Sometimes we are tormented by just the idea that God is near to us. As He approaches are stomachs might tighten up, our mouth might become dry, and we may break into a sweat at the very notion that the Creator of the Universe is calling our name. Or....then again, we may prefer that God depart far from us, so that we can continue in our sinful lives.

Some people just cannot tolerate being in God’s presence because they are reminded of their sin. The town people, after being reminded of their sin and losing their flock of swine, chased God away from their presence. They couldn’t tolerate seeing the consequences of their choices. But our life can be different. God gave the two men a new chance, free from the demons. He granted them a new beginning to life, and He can grant you a new beginning also.  What is your choice? Are you tormented by knowing God is close to you? Will you chase Him away, or will you thank Him for a new life? The choice is yours.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why Bother?

If you have been a reader of this blog for any length of time, you know that my goal is for us to LIVE the Orthodox Christian life rather than just use the label on hospital records. With last week’s SCOTUS decision to extend legal status of same-sex marriage, it occurred to me ask a simple question of my readers....
Why bother being Orthodox?
I mean, really, if the moral teachings of the Church are not considered formative for our life in Christ, then why bother calling ourselves Orthodox Christian? I’m not talking about rights here, but conscience. Why do you (if you do) insist on considering yourself Orthodox Christian if you casually refuse to accept her moral teachings? Granted, the Divine Liturgy is AMAZING, if it is well performed, but from most of the Churches I’ve witnessed over the years, it CAN’T be the awesome performances. I’ve found much better choirs in the Baptist and AME Churches. It can’t be the kneeling for an hour on Pentecost. There IS the food....the food is delicious, no matter what ethnic Church you enter, but you can always visit the local Church festival to take some home for later. So why bother?
If there is no commitment to following the Orthodox Way of Life, which is an admitted struggle against the passions...ALL THE PASSIONS... then why not just become a member of one of other 42,999 Christian denominations? 21st Christianity has become a “have it your way” religion, and many in the Orthodox Church have embraced this mentality under the guise of freedom. But freedom comes with consequences.
The truth of the matter is this; Orthodox Christianity is the Way of Life established by Christ and His Disciples IN ORDER to assist us in defeating the passions which separate us from God. As Saint Paul said,
For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7.15-25)
If we are not committed to defeating the passions, and therefore defeating sin, then why subject ourselves to all the rigor of the Orthodox Christian Way of Life? It becomes a meaningless exercise. If, on the other hand, we desire to grow ever closer to God, then we will embrace the moral teachings and way of life of the Church, as weapons of war.
Ultimately it boils down to the ever-present ego, a battle that humanity has been fighting since the first day in the Garden. We tend to want things OUR way, rather than God’s, and anything (including the Church) that stands in our way of self-indulgence, we will readily reject. Here is a reminder...
Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3.4-6)
Sounds like a good reason to bother....if you ask me.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Living Orthodoxy in a Sinful World

Many people have questions about our Orthodox Christian
Faith. Many simply do not remember what they learned in Sunday School. Many are
not comfortable asking their questions in public. But ALL of us can benefit
from the questions of others. This week’s question is inspired by Saint Paul’s
words, “It is good neither to eat meat nor drink wine nor do anything by which
your brother stumbles or is offended or is made weak. Do you have faith? Have
it to yourself before God.” (Romans 14.21-22) In the context of recent
contemporary issues facing the Church in America, what does Saint Paul mean
when he says these words, and how do we live Orthodoxy in a sinful world?