Sunday, October 31, 2010

Say NO! to Evil and YES! to God

Today with luncheons, speeches, parades, and programs throughout the world we honor the bravery of Greek heroes that stood up against invaders to their homeland. OXI Day, for Greeks and non-Greeks alike, is a day that represents a people’s dedication to freedom and liberty; a concept given by God Himself. Today honors the dedication of a nation that not only stood up to invaders, but a nation that proceeded to defend their freedom and the freedom of others. Their willingness to ACTION was honored throughout the entire world as an icon of bravery. Their “no” was not passive; they followed it with their YES to freedom and proceeded to defend their homeland.

Today we are called to the same level of courage to protect our homeland…..our soul. Every day we are confronted with invaders that tempt us to abandon our faith in God in exchange for increased wealth and decreased morality. We must stand firm to protect the homeland of our souls from these evil invaders who whisper lies into our ears. They bombard us not with dynamite but with spiritual temptation meant to confuse us into believing that God’s ways of life are not worth living. They tempt us with our own pride and ego to convince us that we know better than God. We must defend ourselves!

The devil and his demons are attacking us every day tempting us to ignore the commandments of God: to love our neighbors, serve others, and worship Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The invaders suggest that it is better to fend for ourselves, despise others especially if they are more successful than we are, and to enjoy a day of luxury, rest and relaxation rather than attending Sunday Divine Liturgy or the other services of the Church.

The time has come for us to defend our souls and say OXI (NO) to the devil and YES to God.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Let Your Light Shine!

I came across this inspiring thought in a great book. I thought I should share it.....

“So God can use any kind of personality, any kind of person; He only made one of you, and He has a plan for what you will be. The one light of Christ is like a flame shining out through millions of lanterns. But each lantern is made of different colored glass. You are the only person God made who is exactly like you; and if you fail to be filled with the light of Christ, you will eternally deprive the kingdom of God of one particular shade of radiance.” Frederica Mathewes-Green in “The Jesus Prayer, The Ancient Prayer that Tunes the Heart to God”

As I thought about this again I was reminded of the University of Colorado (where I received my BA) official seal which bears the motto, “Let your light shine” honoring the call of Christians to shine as the light of Christ. As stated in the University’s history, “ In 1893, University President James Baker stated, "The new University seal bears the Greek Motto chosen from the volume of Christian Teachings to mean `Let your Light Shine'." This is a clear indication of the open acknowledgement of Christianity in our nation’s history even within state governed and funded institutions. So what happened??????

In a nut-shell I suppose we, as fallen human beings claiming our God-given freedom, have chosen to dim the light of Christ in our lives. Using Frederica Mathewes-Green’s image, we have changed our glass from the color the God chose for us to our own design altering how the light of Christ is experienced in our lives. There can really be no explanation as to the change in our willingness to acknowledge our Christianity in the public square. This has been accomplished, at the pleasing of the devil, by our slowly relinquishing our light.

Our Lord said, “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (Mathew 5.14-15) I fear we have indeed placed our light, if it still shines at all in our life, under a bushel for the sake of not offended others. In turn we have offended God. Let YOUR light shine!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Are Demons Real? YES!

In the healing of the demon possessed man from Gadarene (Luke 8.26-39) we hear a vivid depiction of the cruelty that demons can place upon the soul and body of one they possess. For some people in 2010 this story sounds so fantastic as if it were some science-fiction movie produced by Hollywood. The image of so many demons living inside a human being and tormenting him to the point of living naked among graves brings to mind the visions of many horror movies so popular during the month of October. It all seems a bit too unbelievable…..or does it?

In the Gospel lesson the city folk were so afraid of the destruction done by the demons on their herd of pigs, they chose to chase Jesus Christ out of their town rather than acknowledge His authority as God. They didn’t even recognize the healing and blessings upon the man who they knew lived among the graves. How could this be? They must have thought that if such forces of demons were truly possible and Jesus Christ was God and had the power to either allow or not allow the demons to ruin the city income (the herd of pigs) maybe they were being punished by God. If on the other hand the demons weren’t real, any number of reasons could have led the pigs to rush off a cliff. Without God in the formula, the people were not being punished. Instead the pigs’ death was an unfortunate coincidence.

Many contemporary scholars believe the idea of demon possession in Holy Scripture to be speaking of mental illness and not some evil force. I believe the same logic applies as with the city folk from Gadarene. If there are no demons, then people don’t have to fear them. Unfortunately if they are real and people don’t acknowledge them, greater harm can come because we refuse to protect ourselves from the danger. While it is true that we understand more about mental illness today than 2000 years ago, if we take the consider all demons just a case of mental illness we will not take the proper precautions against them in our lives.

Friday, October 15, 2010

He Who Has Ears to Hear, Let Him Hear

In the Gospel of Luke we hear the parable of the Sower. (Luke 8.4-15) In this parable the Lord gives us a glimpse into His plan to reach out and save the world. As part of His explanation, He describes four categories of people:
  • Those who hear the Word of God but the devil takes it away so they cannot respond
  • Those who hear the Word of God but the Word does not take root in their lives
  • Those who hear the Word of God but the cares and temptations of life distract them
  • Those who hear the Word of God and receive it as richness and bear much spiritual fruit

Which are you? This may seem like strange question because we each like to believe we are the rich fertile soil when in fact we may be like the stone path that does not allow God’s Word and Gospel to take root in our lives. The reason this is important is that God, the sower of seeds, broadcasts His Gospel to the entire world, no matter who is hearing it, but only those who have properly prepared their hearts will allow the Word to take root and bear fruit for the glory of God.


Jesus Christ also says, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” If we are willing to hear the message of this Gospel, then we will look at our lives honestly and decide not only which type of “soil” we are but how we can become rich fertile soil. Like any earth that is left untilled, a hard surface develops where seeds cannot penetrate. Only after difficult labor can a farmer break-down the hard soil to eventually sow seeds. Without that hard work, the soil remains unusable.


If we find ourselves hardened to the Word of God we are not usable for God’s harvest. We must work our hearts like a farmer works his field to soften it to receive God’s Word. Lucky for us, we don’t have to take shovels and plows to our hearts. We only must pray, fast and do works of charity and, like the hard soil, our hearts will soften and become rich fertile soil that will bear much fruit. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.


Friday, October 8, 2010

God Doesn’t Wait for Us to Ask, He Just Loves Us

In the Gospel we hear Christ bring back to life the dead son of a widow. “Behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow.” (Luke 7.12) The grief of this woman must have been overwhelming because it seems that she didn’t even notice Christ was nearby even though He was being followed by a huge crowd. Her grief, like that of any mother who has lost a child, consumed her. I imagine if she had known Christ was nearby she would have begged Him to help. But He didn’t wait for her to ask: “When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her.” (Luke 7.13)

God doesn’t wait for us to ask before He shows us how much He loves us. “When we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5.8) Just as He knew the mother’s grief, He knows our hearts and knows better than we do what we need. There may be days when we think our struggle can’t get any worse or that we can’t seem to find the strength to even ask God for help let alone feel like we deserve His help.

It is just then that God acts in our lives and blesses us. It is just then that God shows us His power to solve any problem, even death. When we see these blessings, it’s our job to respond, “God has visited His people” (Luke 7.16) and give God the credit He deserves. It’s that simple…

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

“For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6.45)

Tuesday of the Third Week of Luke,

Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you. And He spoke a parable to them: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye. For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6.36-45)

Our Lord begins today’s Gospel lesson with a warning not to judge others and end with a statement that our mouth speaks our heart. How convicting! As Americans we spend the better part of everyday judging other’s motives while never questioning their actions. I often find it odd that people, knowing full well that NOBODY knows their situation but themselves (and God), insist on questioning the motives of others; all the while ignoring and even condoning immoral behavior with the pretext of “judge not lest thou be judged!”

But there is a better angle…

This reading follows the Golden Rule in Luke’s Gospel, so taken in that context we see the real intent of our Lord: “Since you want others to give you the benefit of the doubt, you should give others the benefit of the doubt. If you don’t want to be condemned by others, then you should not condemn them etc. for with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” Our Lord never suggests that we should look the other way and condone sinful behavior. Saint Paul says, “Those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. For in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself.” (Romans 1.32-2.1)

Our reading ends today with a bold condemnation of our actions. Our mouth truly speaks our heart. If our heart is full of love our mouth expresses it. If our heart is full of judgment our mouth expresses that too. Before we rush to judge other’s motives we should remember that our motives are known to God and to us but nobody else. Our mouth is what betrays what we feel in our heart.

If you want your heart filled with love, speak love.