Friday, September 30, 2011

Nobody Wants Fool’s Gold

We have all had moments when we are utterly shocked at the words that come out of a person’s mouth, especially when the words are negative. “Can you believe she only worked one hour for the Festival? Doesn’t she know that isn’t enough?” This might sound familiar anywhere in America during Greek Festival season, but have you ever heard, “Isn’t it great? Even though she has so many things to do, she still found time to come help us for an hour!”

What’s the difference? In both cases she worked for an hour to help with the Greek Festival but in the first example, someone was complaining about how little she worked, obviously suggesting she could have and should worked more. But we don’t always know someone’s situation. We don’t always know what struggles they have in their life. And we NEVER know the whole story. If we think about it for a moment we will understand that just as nobody knows our exact situation we can’t possibly know somebody else’s situation. So why do we insist on speaking poorly about others?

Jesus said, “Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” (Luke 6.31) The Golden Rule has passed down from generation to generation and still we need a reminder. If we don’t want people judging our actions because they don’t know the whole story, why do we still do the same to them? It seems that we spend more time reversing the Golden Rule to mean, “Since they did it to me, I’m going to do it to them!” This sounds more like the fool’s gold and we all know just how worthless that is.

This week take a moment and think twice before you react to someone or say something about someone. Remind yourself you don’t know the whole story and maybe your fool’s gold will turn into pure gold for the glory of God.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Will You Help the Lord This Week?

In the Gospel of Luke we hear the calling of the first disciples of Christ while they were “off duty” from their day of fishing. Jesus “saw two boats standing by the lake, but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets.” (Luke 5.2) Their day was finished and I’m sure the fishermen were looking forward to a few moments of rest after a long day at work, but the Lord had other plans. “Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.” (Luke 5.2-3)

Simon was faced with a common struggle we all face today; whether or not to give our time to the work of God and His Church or rest a bit. The need for rest is the single most common reason people miss Church on Sunday morning. I can’t imagine anyone would have given it a second thought if Simon had said, “Excuse me please, but I just returned from a long time of fishing and we have to fix our nets and get some rest before we go out again. Can you use someone else’s boat?”

In the context of hearing the Gospel this excuse sounds ridiculous but we use it every time we don’t come to Church or refuse to assist the Lord in getting His message to the world. If Simon had said “no,” then the multitudes would not have heard the Gospel from Christ. And if we say “no,” many more will go without hearing the Good News that Jesus Christ has to offer the world.

When Simon allowed God to use him and his boat for the Gospel, many wonderful things took place. “They caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking.” (Luke 5.6) When we allow Jesus Christ and His Church to use our talents and our gifts for His purpose of reaching out to the thousands needing the sort of hope that only God provides, great things will happen also in our lives.

How will YOU help the Lord get His message out this week?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Christianity is for Radicals

Most people don’t associate being a Christian with being a radical especially in the “Bible Belt” South, but radical living is exactly what Jesus expects from His followers. “What will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8.37) That sounds pretty radical to me!

Many of us have grown up believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and we even believe in the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – but we never sit down to really think what it means to believe in Jesus Christ. We hear the words, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3.16) We believe, so we are saved, right? Maybe…

Jesus also said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father.” (Matthew 7.21) We also know that demons believe in Jesus, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (Mark 5.7) So maybe just believing in Jesus isn’t enough….unless we think demons are being blessed by God.

The Gospel of Christ is radical because it requires a radical response. “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8.34-35) We only have to think of all the things and causes we have worked so hard to accomplish during our life and we will see what is important to us.

We work for what we want, that’s for sure. So if we want to live with God, THAT is what we will have to start working for and be willing to lose a bit of the things we have accumulated during our life. What would we give in exchange for OUR soul? Our satellite TV? Our 72” plasma flat screen TV? Let’s be honest, our soul is worth exactly what we are willing to give for it…that sounds pretty radical doesn’t it?

Friday, September 9, 2011

When It Matters Most

When tragedy occurs in our life that causes us to reflect upon what really matters, our hearts turn toward God. When we are faced with the reality that life is fragile and hangs in the balance, our hearts turn toward God. When a loved one or friend dies suddenly and without warning, our hearts turn toward God. When it matters most, deep down inside our hearts know to turn to God.

Such were the events of September 11, 2001. Suddenly and without warning our lives as Americans were changed forever. Families throughout our nation were filled with panic as they struggled to locate family members in New York City, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC. As the hours drew on our eyes became sore from the tears shed and hours of watching TV news waiting for updates or news of other horrific events. And on the evening of September 11, 2001 and for days and weeks following, our hearts turned toward God….and our churches were filled with people searching for an answer to questions we didn’t really know we were asking.

Many of us either know of someone who was killed or even knew personally an innocent life that was taken during the attacks on our Country. Our lives will never be the same but deep down inside we know we must turn our hearts toward God. As the weeks turned into months following the terrorist attacks, we struggled to return our lives to normal and put these events behind us. But in doing so we forgot the one thing that mattered most, we forgot to KEEP our hearts turned toward God.

Now our Country struggles again, this time with a failing economy and likely depression. Our nation’s morals are being challenged with issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion with unwavering efforts by the devil to trick us into accepting these behaviors as natural contrary to God’s teaching. My brothers and sisters…..the time has come for us to turn our hearts toward God and this time let’s keep them there.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The American Dream is a Spiritual Nightmare!

“All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” 1 Corinthians 10.23

We live in a society that is built upon the same freedom of action as expressed by these words of the Apostle Paul to the Church in Corinth 2000 years ago. Ancient Corinth was a city, not unlike most American cities today, with a great deal of wealth, education, and multiculturalism, but it also was a city where competing philosophies of life were common. There was no, and there remains no, inherent sin in being wealthy or appreciating education and culture, but also just like most American cities, the competing philosophies of life in ancient Corinth challenged the very foundation of Christian living by suggesting worldly logic was superior to divine Christian logic. This is the essence of Saint Paul’s letters to the Church in Corinth.

Just as our ancestors in ancient Corinth were faced with the choice of worldly logic vs. divine Christian logic, we are faced daily with decisions that challenge the very fabric of our Christian walk. 21st Century American Christianity has embraced a secular understanding of life rather than a holistic Christian manner of living which prevailed in the ancient Church. Is there any question that the world’s logic is challenging our Christian worldview? Abortion and sexual morality are but two highly visible and spiritually challenging topics our society faces today. There are others, such as the Big Bang Theory and the Evolution of Species, that are taught in classrooms throughout America that not only conflict with our divine understanding given to us by God, but go so far as to ridicule the Church for rejecting their theories.

I believe the worst lie the world has convinced the Church to believe is that all things spiritual should be reserved for Sunday and further that we should refrain, as much as is in our power, to limit the remainder of our time during the week to activities and topics that will better prepare our children to be successful in the American workplace and to pursue without reservation the so-called American dream.

I ask you, if the American workplace and the society in general are boldly challenging the way of life commanded and expected of us by God, can we as parents continue to sit idly by and watch our children being brainwashed with morals that are in direct conflict with what Jesus Christ and His Church teach? We must take back the reigns of our children’s upbringing and instill, sometimes retraining them, to live by the principals that, as Saint Paul said, will edify and lead them to an authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.

That process begins daily in our home as our children learn to set priorities in their life. I urge you therefore to consider making the Church – the Greek Orthodox way of life – a stronger priority in your family. Take a moment and reflect upon the words above by Saint Paul and ask yourselves, “Can we do more as a family to be closer to Jesus Christ and His Church?” Then take a look at the Church calendar, which is available online, and take advantage of the various ministries and teaching opportunities for your children and yourselves.

A few suggestions that will help…

X  Attending Divine Liturgy EVERY Sunday – and ON TIME (10:00am)

X  Be prepared to receive Holy Communion EVERY SUNDAY

X  Fast as a family every Wednesday and Friday throughout the year – at least from meat

X  Read daily from the Bible – even 5 minutes a day makes a difference

X  Establish a prayer corner with icons and a vigil light in a central area of your home – and use it

X  Say your prayers daily when you wake up and before you go to sleep –teach your children to do the same.

X  Pray before and after each meal – even in a public restaurant we can do our cross and thank God

X  Pick one extra activity each week and attend a church service or bible study to help you grow in faith

X  Participate fully in the Sacramental life – including regular Confession and blessings

X  Tithe – offer the Church 10% or your income as thanks to God for your blessings

Monday, September 5, 2011

Good Thing Job Wasn’t an 21st Century Evangelical Christian

The other day I was listening to a Christian radio broadcast of Dr Charles Stanley as he was talking about tithing. I listened attentively since I also preach the biblical and traditional truth of the tithe to God in thanks for the many blessing He has given us. I was disappointed however in the premise that if someone tithes he will be overly blessed financially by God. As if God is some sort of ATM machine. I’ve heard this before though since the “Gospel of Prosperity” has gained such prominence in the American Evangelical Christian scene. The premise is simple: we tithe and God makes us rich. In Dr. Stanley’s recent broadcast, , this point is made quite clearly.

Unfortunately this message, though very popular in America, misses the mark when it comes to what God has always promised.  The Lord guarantees our basic sustenance, since we are of much more value than the sparrows of the air, but wealth? With statements like “Deny yourself and take up your cross,” we are hard pressed to see such a guarantee for prosperity in the Gospel. In fact the message is just the opposite. We get rid of wealth to show our loyalty to God and our willingness to trust wholly in Him. Just tell someone who struggles financially even though they tithe that God is making them wealthy…..Do you think Job thought God was pouring down wealth over his head? It’s a good thing Job wasn’t an Evangelical Christian…he may never have endured the temptation by the devil.

Follow Christ and be willing to be poor for theirs is the kingdom of God. "I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven." (Luke 19.23)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Do YOU Want Eternal Life?

When Jesus was asked, “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” He responded by saying, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19.16-17) After listing all the commandments the rich man chose to push the issue further by saying, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” (Matthew 19.20) Ultimately, after Jesus said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor; and you will treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me,” the rich man departed from his chat with Jesus because he could not part with all his wealth. Have you ever wondered why the rich man left instead of following Jesus?

The Gospel makes it a point say, “He went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19.22) The rich man was unable to give away his wealth because, like so many wealthy today, he worked hard for what he had. The money wasn’t given to him; he had to work for it and it wasn’t fair that he should give it to some poor person who was too lazy to get out of bed and work hard. And who was Jesus anyway to expect him to live without the comforts of life? It was HIS money after all…..

I hear this same argument every time I mention Christian stewardship. The hard truth is that most of us live lives that revolve around making money to maintain a lifestyle that is, if we really acknowledged it, more than we would ever need. In fact we put much more effort into our American lifestyle than into preparing our souls to spend eternity with Jesus our Lord.

The real question is…..would WE walk away or follow Jesus? Think about it…