Friday, September 19, 2014

What Sunday Worship is REALLY all About

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6.1-4)

The majesty which Isaiah witnessed when he saw God being worshipped in Heaven was also expressed in the Temple which God commanded Moses to construct for His People to worship Him on Earth. For a better description of how Moses was commanded to construct the Temple, read Exodus chapters 25-28 all of which express the majesty of God.

This SAME majesty is expressed in Orthodox Christian worship. Golden candlesticks, incense, Altars, Thrones, Vestments, precious metals and stone are all integrated into Orthodox Christian worship for a reason – to prepare us for being in Heaven.

Many Protestant Churches today express quite a different atmosphere to their worship. Rather than the majesty of heaven, many Church services Sunday mornings “feel” more like a night club. Rather than bowing and reverencing the Altar of God, many Church services Sunday mornings lift up the human passions rather than the mantle of God. In fact many Christians validate this by using the expression “It felt awesome today in Church!” or “I get so lifted up when I go to Church!”

On the contrary Saint Paul and Saint John the Theologian had quite the different reaction to seeing God being worshipped in heaven, much the same as Moses and Isaiah.

And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. (Revelation 1.17)

And I know such a man -- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows --how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. (2 Corinthians 12.3-4)

The Orthodox Church has a centuries-long witness in the lives of countless holy men and women who have had visions of God, ALL OF WHOM express similar stories as we find the Holy Scriptures. So, if we are preparing as Christians to worship God in Heaven for all eternity, why would we not express that same majesty in our Earthly worship? Of course as Orthodox Christians, we do, are at least we should.

The trend in mega-Churches toward the night club atmosphere is obviously attractive to many in today’ entertainment culture, but does it REALLY prepare believers for what is coming for all eternity? If God taught that the way to salvation was in taking up our cross and denying ourselves, it would seem that Sunday worship would focus, not on what makes us FEEL good, but the awesome majesty of being in God’s presence. Would a believer, if they were in the presence of God, REALLY worry more about feeling good than bowing in reverence at the Altar of God?

When you come to Church on Sunday, please consider the REAL reason you are worshipping God. If you are focused more on how you “feel” rather than being in His Presence and glory, you may not be preparing yourself and your family for what is coming in Heaven. Don’t you want to be prepared?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Not Every Struggle Should be Embraced

When Jesus Christ said, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, pick up his cross, and follow Me,” (Mark 8.34) He was comparing our Cross to our Christian struggle. But does God expect us to welcome every struggle? We all struggle, but not everyone embraces their struggles nor should they. What types of struggles are we expected to embrace if we are to follow Christ?

When we find ourselves in a struggle that is beyond our control such as poor health or natural disaster, we would do well to remind ourselves, that this sort of struggle is the result of our fallen world, and is not necessarily punishment for poor behavior or a test from God. Sometimes things just happen. These struggles should be embraced as any other part of daily life and they strengthen us for tomorrow.

When we find ourselves in a struggle that is the result of our Faith in Jesus Christ, either in the form of temptation or persecution, we would do well to remind ourselves that the world will forever fight against us to keep us from calling upon the Lord. We will never avoid temptation or persecution so long as we are following Jesus Christ. These struggles should be embraced as building spiritual muscles to fight against the devil and our passions.

And then there are the struggles that we bring on ourselves. We procrastinate. We eat poorly. We sleep when we should be working. We work when we should be praying. We make all sorts of decisions EVERY day that bring us struggle. HOWEVER these struggles should be avoided because they are the result of our poor decisions. This type of struggle is NOT your cross, but your consequence.

And THESE struggles can only be avoided when we embrace the Cross and those struggles that strengthen our faith SO THAT we can fight against temptation. Avoid the poor behavior and the struggle fades away.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

There is Power in the Cross of Christ

Ever since finding the Precious and Life-Giving Cross of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ in 327 C.E. the Christian world has lifted it high for all to venerate as a sign of victory and power. The Power of the Cross defeated death two thousand years ago, and the Power of the Cross is sufficient for you to defeat your temptations and struggles. All you need is to accept the Power of the Cross into your life, and live a new life in Christ.