Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What Makes Me a Christian?

This Fall we are studying the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament to answer one simple question, “Why  did Jesus come?” You see in Genesis, the story of the beginning of life on Earth, we hear the original purpose of God’s creation, namely for us to live in communion with Him. In fact, a proper understanding of Genesis in this way encourages us to a closer relationship with a loving and merciful and loyal God, Who despite our many attempts to run away from Him, continues to reach out to His creation for the sole purpose of bringing us closer to Himself. A proper reading of Genesis reveals that God isn’t angry with His creation; He is patient always giving us another opportunity to repent and come closer to Him.

Whether it is the story of the Garden of Eden, the Flood, or the slavery in Egypt, God is always giving His people an opportunity to embrace Him and live in communion with Him. As we pray in the Divine Liturgy, he “did not cease doing everything” until He led us into Heaven. These stories in Genesis, especially the story of the Garden and the Flood, express God’s willingness to continually “start over again” with His creation never once allowing us, as humanity, to die. So when He took on flesh from the Virgin Mary and became Man for our salvation, we witness yet another opportunity for us “start over” and reestablish a relationship with Him.

Each time God allows us to “start over” He establishes a new covenant with us, first in the Garden, then with Noah, then with Abraham, and finally with the Holy Apostles and His Church. The presence of a new covenant does not mean that God goes breaks His previous covenant. God always keeps His promises. Instead He establishes a new promise (new to us at least) as He continues His original plan for us to live in communion with Him for all eternity.

Herein is the answer to our question, “What makes me a Christian?” God makes me a Christian. Being a Christian is not “of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1.13) You see, being a Christian isn’t something we declare, but something that God bestows upon us, once we have received Him (John 1.12) at our Baptism. When Jesus Christ took on flesh for our salvation, He was establishing a new covenant with humanity where He promised to conquer death once and for all. Just as in the Garden and in Noah’s Ark, the only “thing” we did as humans, the only role we played in the covenant, was to allow God to be God and our Father.

So being a Christian isn’t something we declare, it is something we are in our very essence when we allow God to rule as our Lord and King. In fact, at our Baptism we declare, “I believe in Him as King and as God.” It is only then that, having recited the Nicene Creed which outlines what we believe about God, that we are baptized into Christ. It is only then, having embraced Him as King that we are united to Him.

What makes me a Christian? BEING a Christian day and night; BEING dedicated to God as King and Lord; BEING united to God through Holy Baptism and Chrismation, and living as if it is true. Only one question remains….Are YOU a Christian? And if not, what options has God given you to “start over” and come closer to Him?

God’s new covenant is His Church. Just as Noah had to enter and live in the Ark in order to start over, we also must enter and live in the Church in order to start over. Why not take God up on His offer and start over by returning to Church (on time) and living the Orthodox Christian life with fervor?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Are Your Priorities?


In the Gospel of Luke 5.1-11, we hear of three professional fishermen who, when Jesus calls them, immediately turn and give every bit of their attention to following Him. They could accomplish this in part because they had established their priority to find and follow the Messiah. What are your priorities? You might just find that following your priorities works best when Jesus is your priority. And if He isn’t, maybe now is just the time to refocus your priorities upon finding and following Christ.


This week’s sermon will air each day this week at 12NOON on Transfiguration Radio or you may download it directly using the links below…


Saturday, September 22, 2012

How Do You Get to Heaven? REPENT! REPENT! REPENT!

The old joke goes, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? PRACTICE! PRACTICE! PRACTICE!” I heard this joke each Fall Semester during College. I was a music major in the University of Colorado College of Music, by far the best place to study music if you REALLY want to know, and every year during orientation, the Dean told this joke trying to inspire us to practice every day. He was attempting, through humor, to inspire us to set our priorities correctly as music majors hoping for a career in music. Of course I didn’t practice every day and well…I’m obviously NOT a professional musician. I wonder if that is a coincidence.

Over and over again we wonder why things in our life aren’t quite working out as we planned. And it isn’t because we’re not good at what we’re doing. I wasn’t a bad musician; I just wasn’t a very disciplined one because I didn’t enjoy practicing enough to be good enough for a career. I didn’t have my priorities straight…or did I? Over and over again Jesus asks what people want. “Do you want to be made well?” “What do you want me to do for you?” (Matthew 20.32) Jesus then gives clear and concise instructions on how to get there. “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew19.17) Over and over again we find ourselves walking away from God rather than toward Him.

Since I was 8 years old I knew I wanted to be a Priest. So during college, although I LOVED being a music major and although I LOVED playing my trombone and singing in the choir, deep down inside I knew I wasn’t going to be a professional musician. So long as music was enjoyable, I was all for practicing, but as soon as it became work or required effort, I looked the other direction. My priorities weren’t set for a music career.

So there were these fishermen. We know them as Peter, James and John. (see Luke 5.1-11) They had just finished a night of fishing and caught absolutely NOTHING. They were spending time cleaning and repairing their fishing nets when Jesus appeared to teach the crowds. Was it a coincidence that Peter’s boat was in just the right location for Jesus to teach? I doubt it. Jesus suddenly comes and commands them (He doesn’t ask) to push their boat out a bit into the water so He could teach. At just that moment they were forced to decide….between following Jesus or cleaning their fishing equipment.

You may be surprised to know they were WAITING for Jesus. You see these three men were disciples of Saint John the Baptist (see John 1.35-45) and had already set their priorities on finding the Messiah. So when Jesus, the Messiah, appeared next to their boat, they recognized Him. Since their priority was to find Him and follow Him, when He commanded them to put their nets aside for a moment and push the boat out so He could teach, they acted upon His command immediately. It wasn’t a difficult decision because they were just following their priorities.

You see, setting your priorities on finding and following Jesus doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work or that you shouldn’t provide for your children’s education. It DOES mean that when you are faced with choices, especially life choices, you should make your choices based upon your priorities. Of course you do already; it’s just that you may not recognize your priorities.

These three fishermen knew that following Jesus was, at that moment, more important than cleaning their nets. Once Jesus was finished teaching, He turned to them and said, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5.4) AH! Jesus knew, of course He did, that they were about to use their fishing gear again, so there would be time for cleaning AFTER the fishing was finished. Of course they were still confused. Peter said, “Master [notice Peter called Him Master because he recognized Him as his Master] we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” (Luke 5.5) The Gospel continues, “And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish.” (Luke 5.6)

Herein lies the “deep” they were asked to enter. Saint Ambrose asks us to consider the deep water as symbolic of the deep faith that is needed to seek and follow Christ. It requires deep faith to follow (or even set in the first place) your priorities on finding and following Jesus Christ. In a world filled with people with priorities other than finding and following Jesus Christ, it won’t be easy for anyone to remain dedicated to this priority.

That is where repentance comes in. Each believer in Jesus Christ and many others who for their own reasons do not believe in Him, have at one time had the priority of finding and following God. The reality is that many times, life takes a turn toward different priorities, and people eventually either abandon their original priorities and establish new ones, normally pointing away from God, or they temporarily forget what their true priority was in the first place. Either way, they find themselves in a place where life just doesn’t work like it should.

What do I mean by life not working as it should? Often times, wealthy people find loneliness rather than joy in oversized homes; many teachers find it unfulfilling to teach despite being knowledgeable teachers. I wasn’t fulfilled playing music in college so I rarely had the desire to further my talent, which was God-given at that! In my life, I couldn’t feel fulfillment until I repented (changed my priorities) and focused my life on what God wanted for me rather than what I thought I wanted for myself. There were still times that I practiced and there were many times that I succeeded in music, so I’m not saying that things will never work, just that they won’t work like they are meant to work until  the priorities are correct.

How do we know the difference? Well, for starters we have to be willing to look inward and ask, “What ARE my priorities?” “Do I even want to find and follow Jesus Christ, God?” If the answer is “yes” and I pray that it is (otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog, and you probably wouldn’t be reading it) then when choices are presented in your life, you’ll have to choose based upon your true priorities. Only YOU know your priorities. Only YOU can decide if you want to find and follow God. Then the choices will be easier, not always easy, to following the Commandments of God and live in Communion with Him.

If you look into your heart and realize that either your priorities weren’t finding and following Jesus Christ, or that you have temporarily forgotten your priorities, now is your chance to repent and refocus your priorities on finding and following Jesus Christ to heaven. It really is that concise. And if things in your life aren’t working as they should, or as you thought they should, maybe that’s God’s way of telling you that your priorities are in need of correcting. Maybe your current struggle in life is God’s way of speaking to your heart and reminding you that He is waiting for you to follow Him. Maybe He knows, like He did when He commanded Peter to push the boat out, that a great catch is coming your way. You just have to put down what you’re working on and pay attention to God for now. The rest will come later.

If on the other hand your priority is to make lots of money have lots of lovers, well I suppose you just read the wrong blog…but I might suggest there’s a better way. There’s always a better way than walking away from God.

May your search for priorities and your journey to fulfill them be blessed by God. If not…REPENT! REPENT! REPENT!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Things Just Work Better When Our Priorities Are Correct

As the Lord was beginning His ministry, He traveled throughout the region inviting certain people to be His Disciples. One day, as a small team of fishermen were cleaning up from a long night of work, Jesus comes upon them and challenges them to refocus their priorities. Although they were making much needed repairs on their fishing nets, Christ redirected their attention by climbing into their boat to teach a crowd that had gathered.


After He was finished teaching, He said to the fishermen, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” (Luke 5.4) But they were tired from a long night of fishing and catching NOTHING! Simon said, “Master, we have toiled all night long and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will down the net.” (Luke 5.5) The catch was so great they needed help from another boat to bring it to shore. It was only when they set their minds to listen to Christ that they were able to catch fish that day. It was only once they had their priorities correct, that everything worked out for a great catch.


The same thing is true for our lives. There are, were, and will be, many times in our lives when our way of doing things just doesn’t seem to work out. Just then we have to look to Christ and say, “Nevertheless, at Your word….” And then we must redirect our efforts based upon the Lord’s teaching and Commandments. Then and only then will everything turn out the way it is meant to be. Then and only then will we have our priorities correct. Then and only then will we be true Christians.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

You've Been Invited!

When Jesus Christ invites you to take up your Cross and follow Him, He invites you as a friend. You’ve been invited to join Christ on His walk toward the Cross and to join your life with His in Heaven. You’ve invited to come and know Him better so that when you offer your life to Him it isn’t a burden but an act of love. Many men and women over the centuries have joined Christ and become closer to Him through the Orthodox Church and her way of life. It is a way of life centered upon living in communion with God and joining Him that has been tried and test by the blood of martyrs. It is a way of life open to all believers in Jesus Christ and you’ve been invited!


This week’s sermon will air daily at 12NOON on Transfiguration Radio or you may download it directly…



Friday, September 14, 2012

A Sacrifice is Only a Burden When It’s Forced


When our Lord invites us to follow Him, it is with an open invitation, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8.34) With this invitation Jesus isn’t forcing us to follow Him to the Cross, but simply inviting us to be a part of His loving Kingdom. The choice to follow Him is ours to make, freely.


If we think of the gifts we have offered our family and friends, it is when we desire to give the gift that it feels the most rewarding. If we feel obligated and forced to present our gift, then it doesn’t come with love and we typically experience feelings of resentment.


I encourage you to consider the invitation by Christ to follow Him as an open invitation of love and mercy. God will never force us to love Him, but when we do love Him, our offering to His Church and our brothers and sisters on the Earth seems like a natural outpouring of our love and that is never a burden.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

There is Life in the Cross for Those Who Believe

One of the most famous verses of the Gospel says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have life everlasting.” (John 3.16) The real issue isn’t whether or not you believe but whether you believe enough to put your life in His hands. The time has come for you to put your belief in Jesus Christ into action.


This Week’s Sermon will air each day at 12NOON on Transfiguration Radio


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Belief requires more than just lip service…It requires ACTION!

Every year during football season television crews scans the crowd and almost every time you will see the most famous scripture passage in the New Testament, “John 3.16,” but have you ever wondered what John 3.16 meant?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3.16) But the Gospel continues, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3.17-18)

The question of the day is, “Are you saved, or are you condemned?” Most would answer, “YES, I am saved!” In fact each of us (or our Godparents on our behalf) did at some point say we believe. But as time passes our belief becomes our condemnation because we do not LIVE as if we believe.

The Gospel explains, “This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3.19) Evil is nothing fancy; it is nothing more than not doing the will of God. God is Good….not living as God desires is evil.

Spend a few moments and ask yourself, “Do I believe in God? Do I REALLY believe in Him as Lord and King? Do I allow His will to govern my life?” If the answer to these questions is anything other than YES, please consider scheduling a confession and rededicating your life to Jesus Christ. Belief requires more than just lip service…It requires ACTION!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How Will You Respond When God Requests to See the Fruit of Your Faith?

The Parable of the Vineyard Tenants

Each new year we are called to reflect upon the fruits our faith has produced in the past year. Have your fruits produced this year? How will you respond when God comes calling to harvest the fruit of your faith? You are both the vineyard and the tenant, and therefore so is the Church. Take a moment and reflect how you have nurtured God’s vineyard this past year and commit to doing more for His glory in the next year.


This week’s sermon will air DAILY AT NOON on Transfiguration Radio or you may download it directly using the links below…


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Happy New Church Year

Since today is the beginning of the New Church Year, please enjoy a past Orthodoxy 101 Class on the Church Calendar...