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7 minutes | 4 months ago
Surrendering to Christ
Welcome back. This week we’re going to be talking about surrender to Christ. The idea for this podcast comes from the book, Becoming a Healing Presence by Dr Albert Rossi. (Amazon Link) And chapter 6 is on Surrender. Specifically, surrender as it relates to becoming a healing presence to others, but I want to touch on surrendering to Christ with our whole lives and by doing this, we will become a healing presence to others. Surrendering to Christ. One of the most profound verses on surrender comes from St John the Baptist, “he must increase and I must decrease.” John 3:30 We live in a world of increase. Everything we watch and listen to is telling us we need to obtain more. Even many of our Christian leaders are telling us that we can get more stuff if we just trust God. A pastor bought his wife a Lamborghini and gave it to her on stage to show how God will bless us if we are faithful. And St John the Baptist said, “He must increase and I must decrease.” We talk about surrender as Christians today in a way that belittles the early church, or the power of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.We talk like surrendering is something THEY did back then. We’re too sophisticated, or too intelligent. We can manage on our own. And in most things we can manage on our own. I can tie my shoes without Christ. I can drive my car without Christ. But should we? 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 says , 'Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” ' Surrender is what we are all called to do on a regular basis. It isn’t something you do at an alter once then get up and walk away saying I gave my life to Christ 30 years ago. Surrender is something we do on a daily, hourly, minute by minute basis. Because of my volunteer work, I talk to alcoholics and addicts on a regular basis. If you want to talk about us as Christians not being able to surrender, ask an addict how much of their life is surrendered to drugs. Ask an alcoholic how much time he or she spends thinking about alcohol. Addicts and alcoholics are completely surrendered to their drug of choice. We as Christians have the same choice. We can surrender to Christ and let him rule our life or we can continue to give in every day to the world. God Will Let Us Go Because of free will, God will let us go on our own. God wants all of us, See Matthew 22:36ff, but he will let us go to the bitter end if we wish. God will not make us surrender to him, that has to be a choice. Dr. Rossi shares this from St Theophan the Recluse, Seek God: such is the unalterable rule for all spiritual advancement. Nothing comes without effort. The help of God is always ready and always near, but it is only given to those who seek and work, and only to those seekers who, after putting all their own powers to the test, then cry out with all their heart: Lord, help us. So long as you hold on to even a little hope of achieving something by your own powers, the Lord does not interfere. It is as though He says: ‘You hope to succeed by yourself -very well, go on trying! But, however long you try you will achieve nothing.’ May the Lord give you a contrite spirit, a humble and a contrite heart.” Let’s go back to my friends in the half-way house. Their victory over their addictions came after they surrendered to God. They had surrendered to their addictions for so long that they had lost all hope, but a spiritual awakening through surrender to God is how they are overcoming their addictions. But when they decide to take their will back, the urges return. Dying to Self I saved a quote from Pinterest that says, Surrender is the intersection between acceptance and change. Surrender is us dying to ourselves, to our ego, and letting God change us into the men and women he has called us to be. Matthew 16:24-26 says, Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?” Dr Rossi gives two examples from the fathers St Irenaeus and St Gregory the Theologian. St Irenaeus said, We relax in God’s hands. And, St Gregory said, It is necessary to be at ease to know God. We have to start by not starting, not trying to force ourselves to surrender, by just surrendering. And, while many theologians hate the phrase let go and let God, we really have to just let go, and let him catch us. We have to start by Asking, Seeking, and Knocking. If this is truly what we want with our lives, all we have to do is start asking in prayer to be willing to surrender to Christ. For him to give us the willingness to surrender. This is not an overnight process because we haven’t gotten to where we are overnight. Our willingness at first is to just start. Our surrender comes by showing up and asking every day, or as often as we can and not giving up when we don’t see immediate results. I hope you found this encouraging and useful. If you did, please subscribe or like the podcast on whatever platform you listen. Each like and subscription move the podcast up in stream and will help get more listeners. As always, Thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you in a couple of weeks. Support Us on Patreon
14 minutes | 4 months ago
Five God Centered Goals For The New Year or Any Other Time
I know I said I wouldn’t do another podcast before 2021, but I got back from vacation and decided to do an end of the year episode about goal setting because there are thousands of year-end episodes about goal setting in the new year. So what’s one more? Well, I want this one to be different. I’m not against goal setting. I have goals. I have goals for myself; I have goals for my family, and I have goals for my writing and this podcast. We can’t see the future, and God doesn’t reveal everything to us all at once. So these types of goals will change as we grow closer to Christ. What I want to do today is encourage us to take a step back and instead of just setting goals we want to accomplish for ourselves; we set goals that bring us closer to Christ. In fact…these aren’t just goals, they can become our way of life. 1. Spend a little more time with Christ I say spend a little more time with Christ because for me, spending time with Christ seems to take a back burner when I get busy, or just find something else to do. Our growth isn’t automatic! If we genuinely want to be mature Christians, we have to spend time with Christ. So one of the things I have recently adopted is the attitude that I can do anything for two minutes. And what I’ve found is that if I do something for two minutes, I will continue longer, but you don’t have to. Another way to spend more time with Christ is to set an alarm for a couple of times a day to remind you to just say a quick prayer like, “Thy Will be done” or a simple “thank you” just to keep Christ centered in your mind. What I don’t want to encourage you to do is start an extravagant prayer rule that will take an hour or so to complete. If you want to start spending time alone with God, start small so that you will have more success and not burn yourself out trying to keep it up every day. Two minute is easy and you can do it even if you get up late. Look at it this way. If your goal is two minutes and you spend 30 minutes, you will feel great and want to continue, but if your goal is an hour and you only spend 2 minutes, then you feel like you failed and will possibly give up. One of the most beautiful lines of scripture is Psalm 42:1 ‘As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. ‘ That’s how I want my life to be, and I hope you do as well, but unless we’re called by God to do long sessions of prayer starting small will give us the momentum to grow. 2. Go to Church Regularly When we miss church, the body of Christ isn’t complete. I mentioned this in the 3rd part of the Didache series. The virus has shown people that they don’t really need to go to church. They can stream it in their living room or just skip it all together. Many times people make the mistake of thinking that we go to church to receive a blessing. That we go to church to be filled. And while those things are accomplished when we go to church, they are not the reason we go to church. We go to church to Worship God because we love him for what he has done for us. We go to church to share in the life of Christ with other believers. For the listeners who are Orthodox Christians you don’t actually go to a church service you go to Liturgy which actually translates to “The Work of The People.” Making it all the more accurate to say that we need to be there so the body of Christ is complete. Father Thomas Hopko said You go to church to work. You don’t go to church to be entertained. It’s not food for thought. It’s not rest and relaxation. It’s not a trip into some escaping world of childhood, where it’s all pretty and nice; it’s hard work: to come to church, to stand there, to pay attention, to listen, to bring it in. We can also consider going to church regularly as completing the number one goal of spending a little more time with Christ. So this Goal can be a two for one, if your keeping score. 3. Understand What You Believe This stems from a recent conversation with a young lady who approached a friend and me at Panera. We were talking about a book he found of Orthodox Churches in Ukraine. The young lady felt it necessary to inform us that the Orthodox Church was a formation of man and we should consider finding a true church to worship at. She also threw several protestant churches in town under the bus, then handed us a tract she thought we should read, and walked off. She wasn’t interested in listening, just repeating what she had been trained to do. If my friend and I didn’t understand what we believe, it could sway us into doubting our church. If we weren’t secure in our salvation, her tract could have made us doubt where we stood with God. I used to be like the young lady. I thought anyone who didn’t believe like I do is at best doing Christianity wrong and at worst going to hell. Which all goes back to binary thinking or, an-us against them attitude. When we know what we believe and why we believe it and we are secure in that, we can accept that other people don’t believe what we do. We don’t have to defend our God to anyone. We can present the gospel to people who are not Christian, and if they are not open, it’s okay. And we can accept that other Christians do it differently, and that’s okay too. God is in charge, not me. One way to understand what you believe is to write it down. Putting pen or pencil to paper is a great way to get your creative juices flowing and to see in your own words what you are thinking and feeling about your belief system. And, if you don’t know exactly what you believe, find someone who shares your beliefs and listen to them or read their works and distill your beliefs from theirs. 4. Trust God With Everything This one may be the hardest of all the goals, because it was the hardest one to write. We say that we trust God, but do we trust him with everything? 2020 has been a hard year for a lot of people. Trusting God has been an imperative for many people to get by. Paychecks have been lost and homes have been forfeited, but through it all God is still sovereign whether we like to believe it or not. Long-term thinking requires us to trust God when right now looks really bad. I have tried and still try to get my way in most situations. I don’t just say Thy will be done and let the chips fall how they will. I force my will into each and every situation because I obviously know best and I don’t really want to bother God with this, anyway. He’s really busy. Maybe you do the same thing? Instead of praying and looking for God’s will, we just move forward blindly, not caring for God’s opinion on the subject. Proverbs 3:5-6 says: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. We filed bankruptcy in 2010 and lost our house and one car. We lost that stuff not because God did something to us, but because of a cascade of bad choices we made for three years before that. But God was there, he picked us up, and we learned from our mistakes. He provided during that time. It wasn’t ideal, but it was what we needed, not wanted. If we’re going to trust God with everything, we have to be completely honest with him. Our feelings and emotions drive us in a lot of ways. God knows everything about us, and he still loves us. When we are angry or tired or lost for words, we can turn to him and let it all out. We can trust him with our emotions because he gave them to us and he loves us more than we’ll ever know. 5. Take Someone With You Discipleship and doing life together is a passion of mine. If there is one aspect of our Christian life, I would like to help more people see; it is that we aren’t supposed to do this alone. When we work with other people, we grow more than when we do it alone. I did a three-part podcast on being a disciple and discipling others. What it boils down to is this, taking others along with us first, keeps us accountable to someone. Whether we are discipling, being discipled, or just meeting with another Christian, we are accountable to them to do what we say. The second thing taking others along with us does is it gives us a person to encourage us when life isn’t going like we planned. My life gets out of whack and I need people who can see past my false self and help me correct my view. Like I said earlier, be completely honest with God, get someone in your life you can be completely honest with. I’ve seen a lot of Christians who were “Fine” all the time and their world was falling apart. The bible tells us to confess our sins to each other. That’s not a suggestion. We need people in our life who know us and who we can trust. I was told very early on my road to ministry that I couldn’t be vulnerable with other people because they would use it against me. Today, I’m okay with that. My life is an open book and if someone shares something I told them in confidence, it just proves I’m human and a sinner. People are people, so we have to adjust accordingly. The golden rule applies in our interactions with others. If we want to have people in our life, we have to be the kind of person people want to be around. Act toward others the way you would like others to act toward you. I have a list of six things on the front screen of my phone I want in my life. The first thing on the list is to speak ill of no one. I know that if I talk bad about someone; it hurts me more than them. It also hurts my interaction with the person I am saying it too. They will wonder if I am complaining about them to other people, so I’m doubly sinning when I do it. Love God, love yourself, love others. I hope these five suggestions help as we get ready to start a new year. Find what works for you and do it, but do something to stretch your spiritual growth in 2021. Remember, trust God, Love others and don’t be too hard on yourself. Support Us On Patreon
10 minutes | 5 months ago
The Didache Part 3
Welcome Back today we’re going to focus on the last 6 chapters of the Didache. These last few chapters focus on Teachers, Prophets, and Apostles. While some people argue that because the author uses the term apostle, that means it was written early enough for the Twelve apostles to still be traveling sharing the gospel. I don’t necessarily agree with that thought. There were 70 Apostles in the bible see Luke 10. The church also recognizes others through history as Apostles to certain groups Like St Columba Apostle to the Scots and Sts Cyril and Methodius apostles to the Slavs. What I think the author is teaching is to test those who call themselves apostles by giving these guidelines. Heresies Were Prevalent Through History The first thing the author says in this section is that if someone comes and teaches you everything layed out in this teaching, then let them stay with you. If they try to teach something else don’t listen to them. Heresies were already creeping into the church as the bible was being written in the first century. We see Paul and John both tackling heresies in their writings. So it’s not going to change by the time the Didache was written. Or even today. Heresies are still prevalent in the church today. We have to be aware of what scripture says, and what the church has taught through the centuries, so we are not led away from Christ’s teachings. Remember, every heresy starts with a grain of truth. For instance, there is a group who calls themselves Trinitarian Christians who baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and The Holy Spirit. But they don’t believe the Holy Spirit is anything more than a messenger for God. Not an active person of the Trinity. That is a very subtle heresy most people will never see. It’s a subtle misstep most people won’t notice. Unlike more prevalent heresies, like not believing Jesus is God or that We can become equal to God that most people can spot a mile away. Heresies are also why the church gave us the Nicene Creed 200 years after they wrote the Didache. It is a short, memorable statement that lays out most of the teachings of the church. Having teachers who teach us the truth is a blessing. According to the author, we should lift these people up in prayer and give them honor. True Apostles And Prophets Now, if an apostle or prophet comes, we receive them like we would the Lord. They can only stay one day and we can only give them enough bread to make it to the next stop. This seemed extreme to me, but as I looked at the reasoning, it really isn’t. This teaching goes back to the teaching in Luke 10 when the Lord sent out the 70 Apostles. He told them to only take their clothes and a walking stick. They were to travel from town to town sharing the Gospel They were to rely on God to provide for their needs. So the author of the Didache followed that teaching when he was giving guidance on what to look for in an Apostle or a prophet. The author tells us how to judge a prophet. They won’t call for the Eucharist while speaking in the Spirit and then receive it. They won’t ask for money while in the spirit. A prophet will act like the Lord, so that is how to tell them from false prophets. We should support any prophet who decides to live among us because they are our high priests. This goes back to Paul’s teaching to Timothy ‘Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves to be paid.” 1 Timothy 5:17-19 Support Your Pastors and Priests I’ve been told many times that pastors and priests should work outside the church and not make money from the church. I get it; I talk about working at the church as not having a real job. But the teaching is very clear from the bible and documents like the Didache from the early church that pastors, priests, prophets, deacons, and bishops should all earn a wage as long as they are teaching the truth and being an example of Christ. We should come together on the Lord’s day, confess our sins and break bread together. Before the coronavirus, but especially now as we’re coming out of the virus’ grip, or so it seems, more and more people were choosing to stay home instead of attending church. The virus has shown people that they can stay home. Some have said the exodus from church after the virus will increase. As an Orthodox Christian we go to church for several reasons, but the most important is to worship God and to join with other Christians in communion with God through the Eucharist. When we don’t attend, the church teaches that the body of Christ isn’t complete. So when we don’t go to church, we are missed more than we think we are. The End Times Finally, the community should appoint deacons and bishops from among them, and like the prophets and teachers they should be shown honor. This goes back to Paul’s teaching to Titus and Timothy. Bishops should be blameless and exemplary citizens both in the church and in the community. Which oddly enough is exactly what we all should aspire to so we can be ambassadors for Christ. Which brings us to the final point. The author tells us to guard our lives. To come together often and strengthen each other because if we don’t we may be turned by the enemy and become enemies of the church and in the last days those who are in the church that are turned away by Satan will increase and persecution will be great. “The Lord will come and all the saints along with him.” Finally, the world will see the Lord descending on clouds from Heaven. That’s it. The Lord will return and we will be called home or not, depending on the path we’ve chosen. Either the path to life or the path to death. The author is very clear that it’s a decision we have to make ourselves, and he lays out the path to life very clearly. All we have to do is choose. The Future of the Podcast I could have gone line by line of the Didache and given a biblical reference to each sentence. This is a biblically based text through and through, and I think that is why so many people are finding it and reading it for the first time. I love the Didache and I hope this has given you a little insight into it. I also hope to introduce the apostolic Fathers next year, but that remains to be seen. I want to thank everyone who has downloaded the podcast over the last six months. And while it was a fast start, it’s been a slow process for the last 3 months. This is the 13th episode and the total number of downloads has topped 300, which is way more than I imagined getting in the first year. My immediate plan is to record the Didache and release it on YouTube and possibly as an audiobook on Audible and Apple audio books. This is the last episode for the year But I plan on having a new episode the first week of 2021, God Willing.
9 minutes | 5 months ago
The Didache Part 2
Welcome Back! We’re continuing our overview look at the Didache. Last week we talked about the first 6 Chapters of the Didache which are an early church catechism. This week we are going to look at the second part, which is directions on how to do church stuff like fasting, prayer and the Eucharist. Next week well get into the later chapters that deal with itinerant prophets and pastors. This makes up chapters 7 – 16. While this may sound like a lot, the Didache is only 20 pages total, but each thought is laid out in the translation as a chapter which isn’t found in the original text but makes it easier to find subjects or heading like the translations of the bible. Again, I’m not going to go line by line, but there is a lot of good stuff in here. I just want to hit some highlights of each section and try to relay how we can use the Didache today. Let’s Get To It! Chapter 7 is on Baptism After the person had been taught everything in the first six chapters, they are ready to be baptized. That is another point we fall short on today. We either rush people to get baptized out of fear of eternal damnation, or teach them the history of our church and basic beliefs. The teaching in the Didache was a requirement. The early church wanted to make sure people understood what they expected of them before they were baptized. I don’t even qualify to be baptized by their standards. They weren’t interested in numbers. They were interested in the truth of the gospel and making sure the community would last. If Jimmy got baptized, he stood a good chance of being killed, or at least ostracized by his family and friends. I also love this section on baptism because it starts out with a strict, ”Baptize in cold running water,” then goes to you can use lukewarm water and if you don’t have running water pour it over their head. Finally, just use what you have because how you baptize isn’t as important as why. Make sure they know the gospel and then baptize them. Chapter 8 fasting and prayer While fasting is prescribed still by the Orthodox and Catholic churches, most protestant churches don’t have set guidelines for fasting and some church bodies reject it completely. The writer of the Didache presumes people in the church fasted and gives the guideline of fasting on Wednesday and Friday instead of Tuesday and Thursday like the Pharisees. The author gives no other restrictions and I assume this is because anyone who read the document would know how to fast because they did it regularly. What he does do is give some direction on praying. He says we should pray the Lord’s prayer three times each day. This could be the first establishment of what the church calls today, praying the daily cycle, or the hours, or the watches. All of which are a set time throughout the day. Some churches have set prayers for the daily cycle, and the Lord’s Prayer is included in these set prayers. Chapters 9 and 10 The Eucharist The Eucharist is only for those baptized into the church. Orthodox and Catholic churches still follow this practice and maybe some protestants, but today just about anyone can show up to most protestant churches and receive communion. As a former protestant we did this, I think for two reasons. First, communion is not looked at as the Real Body and Blood of Christ. It is a symbol of what Christ did for us, and it is done in remembrance of his death on the cross. This remembrance view opens up to the second reason, which is inclusion. Today most people in America believe they are Christians and when they go to church, they take communion if it is offered. We didn’t want to turn people away because there may be an opportunity for evangelism if they weren’t actually members of the church. Again, these are my two thoughts on this. There may be many others so leave me a note in the comments or go to the Spiritual Teamwork website and leave them there. Orthodox and Catholic churches practice closed communion for two general and opposite reasons from protestants. They believe that the Eucharist is the Real Body and Blood of Christ, and for that reason only those Baptised into the Body of Christ are allowed to partake. Which is what the author of the Didache is saying? Second, following Paul’s teaching in 1st Corinthians 11:27-30. ‘Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink without discerning the body, eat and drink judgment against themselves. For this reason many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. ‘ The first time I visited an Orthodox church, a guy told me how silly he thought closed communion was. Well, it’s not from the Orthodox point of view. According to Paul’s teaching, if you are not right with Christ and take the Eucharist, it can kill you. This is the Body and Blood of Christ and is due our utmost honor and respect. This goes back to the time the Didache was written. The Christian community didn’t want people coming and going. They wanted you to be sold out because this could literally cost you your life. They taught converts how to live a Christian life before they let them get baptized and they didn’t want just anyone taking the Eucharist. This was a secret society in every sense of the word because they Loved Christ so much they didn’t want anyone defaming His name. That’s all for this week. We’ll pick up next time and talk about this community of believers and how to determine who is a real prophet or apostle and who is not. Thanks for listening, See you next week. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 https://my.bible.com/bible/2016/1CO.11.27-30
10 minutes | 6 months ago
The Didache Part 1
Welcome Back! It’s been a couple of weeks, but I wanted to do this podcast when the rewrite of the Didache in Modern English hits Amazon, which it has. So, if you don’t know what the Didache is or you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a little recap. So what is the Didache? The Didache is an early church document, also referred to as The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. It is thought to have been written in the early to mid-second century. However, with the title The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, some feel it may be an even earlier work and some church fathers thought it should be included in the biblical canon, so it held a lot of weight in the early church. I was surprised when our men’s lunch group read it last summer that most copies are just reprints of 19th century books and not modern texts. I want to make sure everyone understands, I’m not translating from the original Greek, I have three public domain copies from the 19th century I am using to come up with a modern take on the document. It was mentioned by several early church fathers in their writings, but no copy of it had been found until a Greek Bishop named Philotheos Bryennios found it in a stack of other 11th century copies of early church documents in a monastery in Constantinople (Yes that’s still what the Orthodox Church calls Istanbul) in 1883. The finding of the Didache is the completion of a circle for some scholars. It’s not on a level with the Dead Sea Scrolls, or the Gnostic Gospels found in Egypt, but it’s a document that scholars knew was out there, but no one had found a copy. The funny thing is that two teams of scholars passed this copy over a few years before Bishop Bryennios found and published it. Why Does it matter to us today? The Didache is important to us because it gives us a glimpse into the early church. One of the biggest takeaways I have from the Didache is that it was written to a group of people who were living a life separate from the world. It wasn’t written to a country or a state or a city. It was written to a group of people who were separated from the world. The Roman world was a harsh and unforgiving place for Christians, and the Didache was written to teach them how to live lives separate from that world. Today we live for the world and go to church. These people lived in the church and participated in the world, but knew the world was not for them. They didn’t try to change the world; they let Christ change them. This is a lesson I think the church of today could learn from. Here is a short overview of the first five chapters, which are an early catechism of the church There Are Two Ways! The First Part of the Didache starts with the teaching of the two ways, one of life and the other of death. And there is a great difference in the two. “This is the way of life: First Love the Lord your God who made you, second Love your neighbor as yourself, third do nothing to anyone else that you wouldn’t like to happen to you. To keep these teachings, bless people who talk bad about you, pray for your enemies, and fast for people who persecute you. What credit is it to you if you only love people who love you? Sinners can do that.” This first part is very familiar to most people who have been in church for any length of time. The Great commandment and the Golden Rule. It’s not twelve ways to be a better Christian or 45 days to a more Godly life. It’s love God, Love your neighbor, and pray for your enemies. Isn’t it amazing that 20 centuries later this is still the hardest teaching we as Christians have? We can’t figure these three things out and our best writers and scholars think we are going to spend 30 days doing something or 10 lessons to get something and we can’t Love God and everyone else. But that’s the way it is with the Didache. Do the things that draw you toward God and don’t do the things that draw you away. Jesus says, if your hand causes you to sin, then cut it off. Jesus knew it isn’t our hands or our eyes or our cars that cause us to sin, but it’s our nature. The Didache draws this out and gives a groundwork we can build a life on today. It’s not about changing the world, it’s about letting Christ change us. Admonitions against sin Chapter two is a list of “Thou Shalt Not’s,” which I changed to don’t do this or stay away from this. The main principles in this section that stick out to me is the prohibition on abortion. We may think abortion is a modern thing, but it was apparently rampant in Roman and Greek society. It goes farther by saying to not kill a child that has been born. Today we wouldn’t think of doing this, but when society declines this becomes a reality. Again, the Didache Doesn’t say to go and make other people not have abortions. It says, “You the Christian don’t have an abortion.” Along with the admonitions in these chapters, the author tells us to become meek and patient and kind. I think these are things we can work towards because all we have to do is look around and witness the grandiose and boastfulness in our world today. Chapter four starts by telling us we should honor anyone who speaks the name of Christ. We should seek out people like this every day. Today we may not be able to connect with Christians every day because of our busy lives, but we have podcasts and mp3s we can have with us at all times so we can learn and be encouraged. It also talks about living in community and sharing all things. We need to be ready to support a brother or sister in need because if we share in the salvation through Christ, we should share our earthly things as well. One, not funny, but strange sounding thing to me was that if you take money or goods and don’t really need them, you will be arrested and have to pay back every cent. This prohibition fell out of favor and can’t be reimplemented today because if you have been in church ministry for any length of time, people will take stuff from the church whether they need it or not. Just an observation. The Way Of Death Finally, for this section chapter five gives us the way of death, and it’s mostly just doing the things we are told to abstain from in chapter one through three. The best part of this section is “You know you are on the path of death when you are Destroying the image of God, not helping the needy, abusing the distressed, and advocating for the rich.” That’s our society today. But we as Christians are supposed to be separate from that and live lives that don’t look exactly like everyone else around us. I also know I’m the chief among sinners. I Wish I could live a life truly for Christ and separate from this world, but it is really hard. All I can say is “Lord have mercy” and thank him for loving me and keep trying to live that life. That’s it for this week. Next week we’ll get into the functional part of the Didache and talk about baptism, the Eucharist, and church and community functions. My goal is to edit books and documents from the first 300 years of the Church, and if you’re interested, you can help in a couple of ways, you can buy the books when they come out on Amazon. The Didache In Modern English Or, you can support this effort by becoming a patron on Patreon for a few dollars a month. Either way, I will be very appreciative, and if you do both, I will be super appreciative. I want to be very clear that you do not have to contribute anything to keep listening to these podcasts or reading the blog. I am glad you are here and I appreciate every download, every listen, every like and every share I get. Thanks for listening and I’ll see you next week.
10 minutes | 7 months ago
St Moses The Black and My Faith Journey
Welcome back! This episode is a little different because I am sharing a little of my faith journey and tie it in with the story of St Moses the Black, whose name I took when I was Chrismated into the Orthodox church. I first shared this at St John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church in Jacksonville, Florida. I have changed it up a bit because there are things I wanted to share that I wasn’t able to the first time. So here’s some background… When individuals convert to orthodoxy they take on the name of a saint. This is usually someone they admire or with my children they just take the name of the Saint I gave them when they were born. When our family converted to Orthodoxy, I chose St Moses the Black because he was someone who I could identify with, but he was also someone I could look to in my walk of faith. Lifestyle of a Saint St Moses started out his life as a slave but was banished by his master because he, according to some accounts, murdered a man. Whether or not he did St Moses was an all around bad guy so his master didn’t want him around. Soon after being banished, he became the leader of his own band of marauders. What else could he do? St Moses lived a life of excess whether eating, drinking or stealing. It is said that no man could stand up to him because of his strength. Once he was interrupted as he was trying to steal from a farm so he waited until night, swam the river to kill the farmer who had hid from him again so he stole two of his sheep and swam back across the river to kill and roast them for dinner. The church I grew up in only baptized people when they accepted Christ into their lives, and this is known as Believers Baptism. They baptized me at 13 years old. I don’t remember what was said or what prompted me to go forward. I knew at that age I was filled with a blackness that needed to be cleansed. That’s where my connection to Abba Moses starts. Because when Abba Moses was ordained to the priesthood, someone commented that “now Abba Moses has become as white as snow.” And Abba Moses retorted, “all but in his heart.” I understood at 13 years old exactly how he felt. Even as a child I knew God couldn’t forgive me because of the blackness in my heart. All I remember hearing when I went to church was that God was angry with me for my sin. That I could do no right. I don’t even know that was what was said, I just know that is what I heard. Jesus was an insurance card to keep me out of hell, not someone I could have a relationship with or someone I could live like. I was a Christian in name only and believe it or not I was arrested within a year for breaking and entering. Church wasn’t where I could fit in, but the guys I was arrested with they knew me. We were close. Except for when they would steal my stuff, but that’s the price you pay to have friends. I left the church at age 16 because those same friends didn’t go to church, so why would I. I walked out of church one Sunday and my best friend asked me why I went there because I cursed and smoked and did drugs, and he was right. Church was for people who were good, not people like me. Church was guilt driven and shame based, and I didn’t want to feel guilty or ashamed. My friends didn’t judge me, they encouraged me. I stayed away from church for the next 10 years. I became an agnostic, which means I assumed there could be a God, I just didn’t want him in my life. But, in my heart, I knew I needed God, but I wasn’t willing to accept him. One story says that St Moses would talk to the God he didn’t know and ask him to show himself to him. God has a funny way of getting through to people. After 10 years I had a conversion experience ironically enough, my conversion came at a local county fair. I had a booth selling air purifiers, and across from my booth was a baptist minister selling burial plots now if you don’t think that irony. The Saturday night before the fair closed he asked me if he could buy me a coke and a corn dog, being a hungry young man I accepted and he set me down and presented the gospel to me. He said one thing I will never forget, Steve, you’re a good guy, but you need Christ in your life. He told me all I needed to do was to pray and ask Christ to come into my life. So I prayed in my car on my way back to Jacksonville. The release of the shame and guilt I had built up overwhelmed me. I had to pull the truck over because I was crying so hard. That was my spiritual awakening. I knew I had finally been forgiven. He had a funny way of getting through to Abba Moses. When Abba Moses was hiding from the authorities after stealing the sheep, he hid among some monks. He was so overwhelmed by the love and dedication he saw in the monks he wanted to be admitted. But the monks didn’t want him because they feared him. So he sat outside the gate begging them and crying for a long time. Once admitted he threw himself into the monastic life growing faster than his brother monks. But he still had a hard time adjusting to the Christian life. Just like St Moses, I threw myself into reading and studying and prayer. My wife and I were baptized within a few months of joining the church, and we both began to grow. We started helping with the youth group and helping lead small groups. In 2000, I started a monthly men’s group. I went to college In 2001 I finished my degree in Religion in 2007 and began a Christian coaching business. I became the pastor of a in 2009 that was me trying to play God and came on staff at a local church as an associate/grounds keeper in 2011. Orthodoxy One of the histories of Abba Moses’ life it says that “he was zealous for the faith.” I was zealous for the faith I just didn’t know where to focus it. Then the lead pastor of the church left abruptly in 2013, and we knew it was time to go. I talked with people from different churches and even the home church movement who believe that the church should only take place in people’s houses because that is where the church started. But we knew we couldn’t decide from just talking to people and reading books, we had to make the jump, so in the spring of 2014 I resigned. Our plan at the time was to spend 6 months finding the right church for our family. Well, we made it to three. The third church we visited was St John, the Divine Greek Orthodox Church and we’ve never left. Just like St Moses knew he was home when he saw how devoted the monks were, we knew we were home when we saw the Love and respect for Christ and His church that Orthodoxy had with just one visit. We started attending on Wednesday night where Father was showing the series Discovering Orthodoxy and I would fall asleep at night watching that series on YouTube. I read several books about orthodoxy; I searched online, I just couldn’t learn enough, and then I realized that no matter how long I’m in Orthodoxy, there is always deeper ground to cover and just like that I realized that a good and loving God used all of that to get me here. It took me coming to St John the Divine and Orthodoxy to develop a genuine relationship with God. Through a spiritual father, a prayer life with a loving and forgiving God, and understanding that I don’t have to be perfect. My favorite story A brother committed a fault and they invited Abba Moses to a meeting to discuss an appropriate penance, Abba Moses refused to attend. When he was again called to the meeting, he took a leaking basket filled with sand. When he arrived at the meeting place, the others asked why he was carrying the basket. He replied, “My sins run out behind me and I do not see them, but today I am coming to judge the errors of another?” On hearing this, the assembled brothers forgave the erring monk. If you are struggling with your faith or feel like you can’t be forgiven for something in your past, I can relate to your story as well. There is a loving God who forgives you even when you can’t forgive yourself. You can look to St Moses or Read the story of St Mary of Egypt as an example that we can all be forgiven no matter what the sin is. We also have to forgive ourselves because shame has no place in Christ Jesus. We have to shut the door to the past to move on to the future. That’s it for this week. Next week I’m going to share on the Didache, which is an early Christian writing that almost made it into the bible. I also want to thank some supporters for their encouragement; Anna, Travis, Ed, Paul, and Niko Bob. I keep this podcast up because of the kind words and friendship of these people. I am deeply grateful for their support. See you next week.
12 minutes | 8 months ago
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
Welcome back, this week we’re going to look at one of the misunderstood miracles that Jesus performed and how the early church fathers saw this miracle, and what we can learn from it. I originally talked about the miracle of the fig tree in April of 2019 at St John the Divine Greek Orthodox Church in Jacksonville FL but I’ve had time to rethink it and expand on it a little. I also want to say that most of my study on these verses come from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. (Affiliate Link) If you love the early church Fathers this is a great commentary to have. The Parable of the Fig Tree 18 On his way back to the city early next morning, Jesus was hungry. 19 He saw a fig tree by the side of the road and went to it, but found nothing on it except leaves. So he said to the tree, “You will never again bear fruit!” At once the fig tree dried up. 20 The disciples saw this and were astounded. “How did the fig tree dry up so quickly?” they asked. St Augustine said, Isn’t there something absurd about Jesus literally cursing a tree for not bearing fruit out of season? Everything in Scripture is to be understood either in its literal sense, in its figurative sense, or in some combination of these. St John Chrysostom said, When such things are done, whether to places, plants or animals, we do better not to be overly curious about the divine will. Do not inquire too far into whether it was just that the fig tree withered, or you will lose perspective. This sort of question is trifling. So what Augustine says is this has to be understood in a way that makes sense and Chrysostom is saying the tree isn’t the point. Today the Kids would call the fig tree a MacGuffin. A MacGuffin is a device or object that serves to trigger the plot, in this case, a discussion about faith and the word MacGuffin was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock. It’s a great word that you can impress your friends with the next time you go to the movies. Don’t get caught up in what he does to the tree, get caught up in what Jesus says next. 21 Jesus answered, “I assure you that if you believe and do not doubt, you will be able to do what I have done to this fig tree. And not only this, but you will even be able to say to this hill, ‘Get up and throw yourself in the sea,’ and it will. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Jesus uses the fig tree to get the conversation started. The disciples ask how this is possible. And Jesus looks at them and tells them about faith. This isn’t the first time Jesus has said this to the disciples. He told them earlier and we can read it in Matthew 17:20 that is they have the faith the size of a mustard seed they can toss the hill into the ocean. (Chrysostom) He repeated this Lesson to enable them to cleave to prayer and faith. For you shall not only do this, but you shall also remove mountains; and many more things you shall do, being confident in faith and prayer. Jesus repeated this lesson because he wanted them and us to get it. He wanted them and wants us to understand that our faith is the key to everything, and through faith we produce fruit. Our Greatest Example Mary gives us our greatest example. One ordinary girl’s yes changed the course of human history. We don’t sing “Greater in honor than the cherubim and beyond compare and more glorious than the seraphim.” because she exhibited a little faith. As Fr. Stavros Akrotirianiakis says, in his book, The Road Back to Christ, “Her “YES” was a yes to the greatest task ever given a human being—the responsibility of bearing God’s own Son.” The excuse I always give is that I’m not Mary or Paul or one of the Heroes we have throughout Church history. But they were all just ordinary people. Father Stavros says again, In order for God’s miracles to take place, they have involved ordinary people demonstrating extraordinary faith The Flip Side to Faith But, there is a flip side to faith. One early church writer said, Just as it would have been better had there never been a tree at all than for there to have been a tree which produced no fruit, so also would it have been better had there never been a man of God than for there to have been a man of God who did not live in accordance with God. The flip side is us not living for God but for ourselves or the world. In John he says I am the vine, you are the branches, if you will remain in me you will produce fruit. That is what we call theosis in the orthodox church, The more we remain in Christ, the more like Christ we become. So How Do We Develop Faith and Abstain from the Bad? Participation in the sacraments of the church. Receiving the Eucharist isn’t the only regular sacrament. Confession should be done on a regular basis. Naming our sins takes power from them. The church fathers knew what they were doing, and we need to use the things given to us to help in our walk. Prayer. prayer for me was almost as hard as going to confession. When I came to Orthodoxy, I didn’t really have a prayer life because I thought that if I got to close to God something bad would happen. Over the last few years, I have started to find comfort in prayer through guidance from my priest during confession and other spiritual men in my life. Spiritual Reading. The Bible mainly but other spiritual books as well. At the first of the year, I went back to a practice a pastor had me do several years ago. Reading a chapter of Proverbs every day for a month. There are 31 proverbs so they line up great so by the end of the year I will have read proverbs 12 times, and hopefully, it will have to sink in. Take the fasting seriously. We fast for a time so that we may understand what it is like to feast. I can’t explain fasting here in-depth, what we need to remember is that it’s not about us. it’s about preparing us to be present so we can celebrate what Christ did in the lives of others, and what He is doing in our lives. Memorization. Starting with the bible, as we begin to memorize scripture it becomes part of us. It becomes readily available when the Holy Spirit needs to teach us. After the bible, I suggest memorizing short prayers that are meaningful to you or maybe parts of songs you can use as prayers. I have songs from my Childhood in the methodist church that still comes up when I hear certain things even in the background. Finally, memorize meaningful lines from books or other teachings. I like the Desert Fathers because they always have something meaningful to me but you can also use modern authors. Pick out one or two of these to start on or talk to your spiritual father or mother in your life and ask them what you should do. Remember, Like rain on the hard earth, it may take a little time to sink in, but every little thing we do makes a difference. What Does The Fruit Look Like? You’re going to hear me say this a lot but, One of My favorite parables is the parable of the sower. As the seed of the gospel is sown, it lands on different types of soil. On hard soil, it doesn’t take off and in shallow soil, it takes off but dies quickly, and when it falls in weeds it grows up but gets choked out. But, when the seed hits good soil and takes root it produces fruit. Some 100 fold some 60 and some 30. Not all of the plants produce the same amount of fruit, but they all do something. What this parable teaches us is that the spirit works differently in all of us so we shouldn’t judge ourselves based on what we see in other people’s lives. God uses all of us differently but He does use all of us if we let Him. Galatians 5:22-26 But the Spirit produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, and self-control. There is no law against such things as these. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have put to death their human nature with all its passions and desires. The Spirit has given us life; he must also control our lives. We must not be proud or irritate one another or be jealous of one another. How are you doing? (Incomplete work on Matthew) Faith then causes one to abstain from evil and to do good works. The more you abstain from evil and follow the good, the stronger you will make your faith. The less you abstain from evil, however, and the more you neglect good works, the weaker your faith will become. If you want a checklist of what a life filled with faith in Christ looks like, Galatians 5:22 is your list. I can’t answer for you, and only you and God know. And maybe your pastor or a close friend. We all have a choice, and I hope we can all choose to remain in Christ. I heard it said that when you have enough faith that you can move a mountain, don’t be surprised if God tells you to bring a shovel. Because the work is where the lesson is.
15 minutes | 9 months ago
Being a Disciple Part 3 – Discipling Others
Welcome back! This week we’re going to talk about letting God use us to make disciples. This episode was actually going to be a stand-alone episode on discipling others, but I realized that part of being a disciple, which is what the last two episodes were about, is letting God use us to make disciples. Jesus says that part of our being disciples is to make more disciples. This is called the Great Commission; it is found in Matthew chapter 28 verses 18-20 and is usually paired with the great commandment we talked about in the episodes on the Law of Love. ‘And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.’ One of the biggest misconceptions of this verse is that only people who are missionaries can do this. You Don’t Have To Be A Missionary When Christ says, “Go to all nations” he doesn’t mean the only way to make disciples is to go to other lands. 99.99% of all Christians in the early church, and since then I assume, never went anywhere but their hometown and the church multiplied. Yes, some people will go and start churches in other lands, but most will be witnesses in their own city, town, or even on their own block. If we all went somewhere else, no one would be here. So please don’t think you have to be a missionary to make disciples. Sometimes it’s easier to go and make disciples than it is to be a disciple. What we teach most of the time is our personal opinion or the tenants of our theology. While neither one of these is bad, neither of them has the power to change like a relationship with Christ does. Whether we go abroad or stay at home, when we begin to make disciples, we shouldn’t rely on our own knowledge and abilities. As with all parts of our lives, we rely on the guidance and leadership of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that when we go out to make disciples he is with us always and forever. If we try to do it in our own power, we end up like the Pharisees and make children of hell (Matthew 23:15) because we are teaching them to follow us or a certain dogma and not Christ. Disciples Want To Make Disciples I talked about this in the last two episodes so I’ll just touch on it again. If we are not being disciples, we can’t expect Christ to use us in making more disciples. We can’t give away something we don’t have. Start with the basics, read the bible, and pray every day. We have to start where we are. Don’t start with 2 hours of bible reading and prayer because that will last about two days. Start where you are and grow from there. You may want to start learning about other spiritual disciplines. There are several great books you can find on spiritual disciplines. My three favorites are The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney. The best, in my opinion, is Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. (Affiliate Links) When God is working in our lives through the Holy Spirit we will have a desire to walk the road of spiritual formation with other people. I used to get frustrated at pastors who would expect everyone to be out saving the lost. They would say that you “MUST witness for Christ” or you “SHOULD share the gospel with everyone you meet.” It doesn’t work that way. We can’t give away something we don’t have I heard a pastor tell a story about leaving a church service and going out to witness to a person on December 31st because he had set a goal to witness to 301 people that year. He had only witnessed to 300 people and he had to reach his goal so he could be an example to his church. We don’t have to force the process. As we begin to grow in God, people will see the change in us. They will be attracted to Christ in us through the Holy Spirit. We won’t have to force anything. Of course, we won’t see it in ourselves, but it will be there. Being a Disciple Isn’t For Everyone Not everyone you start working with will remain a disciple and that’s okay. Neither Jesus nor Paul nor any other disciple who set out to make disciples made 100 percent of the population into disciples. In the parable of the sower found in Matthew 13, Luke 8, and Mark 4, Jesus explains that when people hear the word of God they react in one of four ways. First, the seed falls on hard soil. These people may not understand it and the devil takes it away from them. Next, the seed falls on rocky soil. These people understand it and accept it, but fall away because they have no good ground to grow in. Third, the seed falls on soil I like to think is around the edge of the field. The seed falls into good soil but the weeds grow up and choke it out. These people hear the word and receive it and they grow, but they get caught up in the cares of the world and stop growing. Finally, the seed of the Gospel hits the good soil in the field. These people are the ones who hear the gospel and receive it. They are planted in good ground, the weeds don’t grow up around them, and they produce fruit. I love the parable of the sower because it perfectly explains that not everyone will become a disciple of Christ. Right before he gives the great commission, it says that some of his disciples doubted. When we are disciples we want to make disciples. We want to share life with other people who want the same things we do. A lot of the time, those disciples are people in our lives that we just haven’t seen yet. Let Yourself Be Discipled Most of us have never been discipled. Learning to share our faith, and help another person grow isn’t a life that comes naturally. We need someone in our life who can guide us and show us how to speak the truth in love to another individual. Pray for God to put someone in your life who can show you what discipleship looks like. If you don’t have anyone in your circle, start with your priest or pastor. Ask around your church but don’t rush the process. This is not a deal-breaker. Being a disciple is our first priority. Chances are that there is someone in your congregation who is either doing discipleship or wanting to get started with discipleship that you don’t know about. It never hurts to ask. God has someone for each of us and the answer may not be obvious at first. We are looking to build a relationship and relationships built through God are the ones that are going to last. You can always ask a friend who has the same need and start there. If neither of you has ever been discipled the good news is that there are books you can use to get started. A quick search of discipleship books on Amazon will give several options. Where Does Discipleship Happen? Small groups or home groups are not the type of discipleship that I am referring to. When I talk about small group discipleship, I mean groups of no more than four people. Small groups or home groups are not where this type of discipleship happens… in my opinion. A lengthy sermon is not where discipleship happens…In my opinion. This podcast, no matter how good it is, is not where discipleship happens…In my opinion. Discipleship happens when two or three people who are committed to growing spiritually gather together and practice the spiritual disciplines of the church. They are committed to and accountable to each other and to God who is the source of our growth. The book that got me started on my journey of discipling others was Gregg Ogden’s book Transforming Discipleship. (Affiliate Link) Transforming Discipleship changed the way I thought about discipleship at every level. Before I read it, the only ways I knew to do discipleship were sermons from the pulpit or small group settings which we kept to around 10 people. The excitement I got with the triad approach was unbelievable. I still get excited about that style of discipleship and that was eleven years ago. A triad is just like it sounds, three people. You may have four people, but to me three is the perfect number, just my opinion. While one may be the leader at first, the idea is to get the others to assume leadership roles and all grow together. While you do theoretically have a more mature Christian starting the group, that person may only have been a Christian for a couple of years. The “Leader” does not lord it over the others, it is a mutually growing process that is reproducible. Where Do We Start? This all starts with us and another person or two. Like I said earlier, people will see it in you and you will see the desire to grow in others. I want to suggest the two books I mentioned before. First is Celebration Of Discipline (Affiliate Link) by Richard Foster. Celebration really challenges us to be the deep people of God we can be and offers examples of how we do that. Finding what spiritual disciplines work for us as individuals is key to discipleship and spiritual growth. If you have never done anything like discipleship, Gregg Ogden’s book Transforming Discipleship (Affiliate Link) helped me tremendously when I was getting started. As a whole, the church hasn’t done discipleship in so long that we have forgotten what it is. Sitting down with a couple of other Christians who are trying to be disciples shouldn’t instill fear in us. Like everything in life, this is a learning process. As we work together we all become better disciples and we learn more about our faith. As we learn more about our faith, we learn about ourselves and that we need to rely on God to work through us and we grow even more in Christ. Think about it over the long term. If you and two friends start this year and each pledge to disciple two friends the next year, in five years that’s 243 people discipled. That’s amazing. Think about how fast the early church grew. Nothing is impossible for God when we let him use us. I hope this series has been encouraging to you. And, I hope you will begin to look for others who are on the same journey as you who want to grow in Christ and start a triad with them. Next week I’m going to start a series on the Didache which is an early second-century discipleship manual also known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. I’m rewriting a late 19th-century copy of it into modern English so I want to share it on the podcast while I’m doing it. Matthew 28:18-20
9 minutes | 10 months ago
Being a Disciple of Jesus – Part 2
Welcome back! Last week we talked about being a disciple and I tried to make the case for being a disciple. I went through some of the things the bible tells us it takes to be a disciple like time, commitment, and self-denial. We talked about it being hard and not being something every Christian will choose to do. This week I want to go through some practical steps we can take to get us started on our journey. The one thing I have heard said by several different people is, the longer you are on this journey, the more you realize you are just beginning. Paul talks about our part as disciples a lot, but a couple of the more noticeable places are Philippians 2 ‘Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ‘ And 1 Corinthians 9 ‘Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win it. Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one. So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.’ St John Chrysostom says it’s not enough to just show up and run. We have to train to box in a match or run in a race. We have to train to be the men and women we are called to be. He tells us to train our bodies so that when temptations arise we don’t give into them. Paul talks about those temptations in almost every letter he writes. Paul also makes it clear that it is not because of what we want to do that we become disciples. It is always God working in us that brings us back to him. Here are some practical steps we can take to be disciples. Have A Guide Just like we see Paul being a guide for those who were trying to be disciples in the churches he started, we need to have a spiritual guide who can speak into our lives. In the Orthodox church, we are well aware that we do not just become spiritual apart from the leadership of a spiritual parent. Our church teaches that we need a guide for the spiritual journey. This starts with our Father Confessor. Our priest knows us and knows our needs so he is our first guide. As we get started having someone to encourage us, who has been where we want to go, will help us stay on track when we start to get bored or lose focus. While our priest is the first person to hold our hand as we grow, God puts other people in our lives who can walk with us as well. Most of the people I rely on for spiritual guidance aren’t ordained. They are men and women who have been or are where I want to be spiritually. In order to be disciples, we have to be willing to listen to the people around us. If we can’t listen to the people we can see, how can we listen to God whom we can’t see? For me, having a person in my life who genuinely cared for my spiritual growth was a game-changer in my growth. I talked last week about the fits and starts my spiritual life had gone through over the last twenty years. Finally getting someone in my life who will walk me through the ups and downs of the spiritual life, someone to show me what I needed to do to take the next step got me out of just reading books and into the application of the spiritual life. Have a Prayer Life St. Nikon of Optina said, “Do not forget prayer─it is the life of the soul.” Having a prayer rule will help us to not forget prayer. It’s not really a rule but a practice to help us stay on track. This is also something you should work on with your priest or pastor. I don’t know about you, but I am prone to get overextended and try to do an hour of prayer when I haven’t had a prayer life. Instead of being ourselves and learning to walk before we run, we get burned out and give up on prayer before we really get started. A prayer rule helps us by forming a habit of when, where, and how long we pray each day. Prayer is a conversation. When we have a conversation with someone, we talk and we listen. Our prayer time should be the same. While many of us pray in the mornings, most of us only talk to God. We don’t spend time listening for him to speak to us. Metropolitan Anthony Bloom says in his book Beginning to Pray (Affiliate Link) that we need to spend time in quiet listening. Which is hard for us to do. Because, when we try to be quiet, everything we try not to think about appears. In the introduction to the book On The Prayer of Jesus, (Affiliate Link) we are told that the mind is like a wagonload of monkeys. That’s where The Jesus Prayer comes in. When we try to be quiet and listen to God, we lose focus. The Jesus Prayer gives us something to focus our minds on instead of the rampant thoughts. When we start to practice being quiet, we can recite the Jesus Prayer to bring our minds back to our true focus which is Christ. As we remain quiet when our mind wanders, and it will, we can remember the prayer and bring ourselves back from our wild thoughts. Not with force, but with peace. Prayer is a two-way street. As we learn to pray through the guidance of spiritual adults in our life we will begin to grow deeper into a life of Christ. Scripture Reading Before reading scripture, we should pray and ask God to open our eyes and our hearts so we can learn from his word. We pray to be open to the Holy Spirit speaking in us so that we may understand what we read. In the Orthodox Church, we have a gospel reading and an epistle reading for every day of the year. There are also yearly bible reading schedules you can find online. Whether you want to read the whole bible or just the new testament there are dozens of options. Just taking the time to read these two short readings every day will give us a better overview of the bible than most people have. The writer of Hebrews says that scripture is sharper than a sword and divides soul and spirit. When we read scripture it shows us who we really are and challenges us to be disciples. I think that is why 60 percent of all Americans say that the bible has transformed their life in some way but only 27 percent say they read it at least three to four times a week. We have the opportunity today that the majority of the history of the church didn’t have. The opportunity to read the scriptures. So let’s use this opportunity to be changed by God’s word. Other Spiritual Disciplines While prayer and bible reading are considered essentials by most churches, other spiritual disciplines are either not used by some or frowned upon entirely. St. Seraphim of Sarov puts it this way, “if prayer and watching gives you more of God’s grace, watch and pray; if fasting gives you much of the Spirit of God, fast; if almsgiving gives you more, give alms. Weigh every virtue done for Christ’s sake in this manner.” There are so many spiritual disciplines we can use to stay focused on God. We can live a simple life so we can give more or just go out of our way to help the panhandler on the corner. We can journal which helps get thoughts out of our head or spend longer amounts of time in solitude to study scripture on a deeper level. The options are literally endless because we are all different. God made us the way we are so each of us can find him in our own way. Find what works for you and helps your spiritual formation and do it. When we use the tools given to us out of love and not duty we understand the reasoning behind them. Discipling others When we begin to grow and become disciples we will want to begin following the great commission in Matthew 28. This is what being a disciple is all about, when we come to know CHrist, we want to share him with others. And, that is what the subject of next week’s podcast will be. Remember that you don’t have to do everything at once. If we want to be like a Saint, we have to start where we are and nowhere else. We can’t be anyone but who God created us to be. Thanks for listening, and if you get anything at all out of this podcast please consider sharing it with others. See you next week. Philippians 2:12-13 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 1 “State Of The Bible 2018: Seven Top Findings – Barna Group”. Barna Group, 2020, https://www.barna.com/research/state-of-the-bible-2018-seven-top-findings/. Accessed 12 July 2020. 2From @ChHunter66 Vespers to Matins on Twitter
10 minutes | 10 months ago
Being A Disciple
Welcome back! This week we’re talking about being a disciple which is the basis for this podcast so I probably should have done this podcast earlier, but I didn’t, so let’s get started. I view discipleship in two ways. Personal discipleship or being a disciple of Jesus and discipling others or group discipleship. Being a disciple is us imitating Mary in John 14? We are sitting at the feet of Jesus and we are learning what it means to love him and let him be part of our lives. Group discipleship is when we are learning with others in what Gregg Ogden calls a micro group of no more than four people. Our example for the group style is Peter, James, and John again with Jesus. Jesus set these guys apart and they in turn lead the others. Being a Disciple Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (Affiliate Link) That was written by Richard Foster in 1978. I read that paragraph for the first time 20 years ago when I was leading a monthly men’s book study. That paragraph started me down a road of fumbling and stumbling, fits and starts, and everything in between. I wanted to be a deep person. I can honestly say I have yet to become a deep person, but I have become a changed person. Being a Disciple Takes Time Personal Discipleship is the choice we make as Christians to grow in our relationship with God. Let’s face it, we can’t love God with all our heart, soul, and mind if we’re not spending time getting to know him. When we meet someone we like and want to get to know, we will go to any length to know them better. I have friends I make time to be with, every month because I want to know them deeper, not just as acquaintances. In Luke 10 we read the story of Mary and Martha. Mary chose to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear his teaching. Martha chose to prepare the food and exhibit hospitality to their guests. I don’t think Martha was any less a follower of Christ than Mary. Mary made a very specific choice to devote herself to be as close to Christ as she could and learn directly from him at that moment. We see this happen again when Jesus returns to their home after he raises Lazarus from the dead. John 12 says that Mary anointed his feet with oil and dried them with her hair as Martha again serves the meal. Martha is not doing anything wrong, Mary is CHOOSING the better according to Jesus. I get it. Someone has to serve the meals. Someone has to go to work every day and make enough money to support a family. Nothing is wrong with working and making money. I think the reason I have to qualify this so hard is that we have lost all sense of what being a disciple really is. Giving up a little of our free time each day to just sit and share life with God through the Holy Spirit isn’t asking a lot. I think it is what I am about to say next that people find hard to hear. Being a Disciple Takes Self-Denial In a 2011 article titled, Self-Described Christians Dominate America but Wrestle with Four Aspects of Spiritual Depth the Barna Group stated this ... most churches encourage people to engage in an increasing amount of religious activity, asking them to pour themselves into efforts related to the “core six” spiritual dimensions: worship, evangelism, discipleship, stewardship, service, and community. While growth in those areas is important, Barna expressed two related concerns. The first was that people often fail to realize that the end game of spiritual development is godly character, not worldly accomplishments. God does not need His followers to achieve things on His behalf in order for them to become more acceptable or valuable to Him. The research also indicated that sometimes people get so wrapped up in finishing church programs or producing specific religious results that they lose sight of the purpose of their faith, which is to have a life-changing relationship with Jesus. Barna noted that it becomes easy to substitute laudable religious activity for intentional and simple engagement with God. American Christians, in particular, have become known for doing good works and religious exercises rather than simply being friends and imitators of Christ. When we become disciples, we become imitators of Christ. Self-denial was at the center of Jesus’ ministry. ‘he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. ‘Philippians 2:8 We are choosing to humble ourselves and let our will become God’s will. In Luke 14 Jesus says that we need to count the cost of being a disciple. We need to understand that it won’t be easy because the world will not like us if we love Jesus. If we love him, we will keep his commandments which aren’t necessarily what the world wants us to do (John 14-16). We pray that God’s will be done when we pray the Lord’s prayer, Jesus prayed specifically that God’s will, not his will be done in the garden before he gave himself up for the cross. But, it’s not hard when we put our whole trust in him. Matthew 11 says, Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble of heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Progress Not Perfection Paul states this fact so well in Romans 7 ‘We know that the Law is spiritual. But I am merely a human, and I have been sold as a slave to sin. In fact, I don’t understand why I act the way I do. I don’t do what I know is right. I do the things I hate. Although I don’t do what I know is right, I agree that the Law is good. So I am not the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them. I know that my selfish desires won’t let me do anything that is good. Even when I want to do right, I cannot. Instead of doing what I know is right, I do wrong. And so, if I don’t do what I know is right, I am no longer the one doing these evil things. The sin that lives in me is what does them. ‘ Romans 7:14-20 Jesus says that if your arm or your eye causes you to sin then remove them from your body. He knows that it’s not the parts of our body that cause us to sin, it’s the sin in us. When we begin to be disciples we see that what we think, is worse than what we want to be. I think understanding that we are powerless over our sin frees us to put our trust in God. We are going to fall just like Paul did but the Holy Spirit lives in us and guides us. When we fall the Holy Spirit comforts us. When Jesus said the Kingdom of God is within you, he meant it. God is not out there, he is right here with us every hour of every day and all we have to do is ask for him to help us want to be disciples and he will. We Have A Choice We have a choice as to how we live. In Romans 12 Paul tells us to fully give ourselves over to God like living sacrifices. Not to be conformed to this world but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. I thought for a long time that the renewing of my mind was through learning. I thought that the more knowledge I acquired, the better I would be. It’s not about knowledge. All knowledge did was make me think I was better than some other people because I knew more than they did. Renewing our minds is about being disciples. It’s about letting God change us and make us into the men and women he wants us to be. Foster, Richard J. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. HarperCollins World, 2003. Ogden, Greg. Transforming Discipleship: Making Disciples a Few at a Time. IVP Books, an Imprint of InterVarsity Press, 2016. “Self-Described Christians Dominate America But Wrestle With Four Aspects Of Spiritual Depth – Barna Group“. Barna Group, 2011, Accessed 4 July 2020. Philippians 2:8 Romans 7:14-20
12 minutes | 10 months ago
The Law of Love – Loving Others
This week is the second part of The Law of love. This week we’re going to be talking about loving others and with what’s going on around the country and the emotions we’re starting to deal with, loving others is one of the farthest things from some people’s minds. So let’s see how we as Christians are supposed to respond to those around us. ‘ Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. This is the first and most important commandment. ‘ Here’s the deal. The world wants us separated. I say the world but what I mean is Satan, the enemy, the deceiver, whatever you want to call him. I use the term “The World” because the world is what Jesus says we don’t belong to (John 15:19) and if we focus on it we lose sight of Him (Matthew 13:22). The world, through the media, politicians, and other leaders separates us. First by race, and it chops us up into little pieces; Black, White, Asian, Latino, Native Ameican, European American, African American. Then it separates us by income; high, middle, and low. Next comes region; north, south, northeast, midwest, California, Florida. Then by sexual orientation Gay, Straight, LGBTQ, Lesbian, Asexual. Then by religion; Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, Baptist, Sikh, Buddhist, Bahai, Fundamentalist, Social Gospel. Finally by political party Republican or Democrat but mainly conservative or liberal, because everyone has to be one or the other in order to separate us. Every time we are separated from the people around us, we lose a little bit of ourselves. Because of the walls we put up between us and the people we live near, most Christians are more willing to go serve in another country than they are to serve the people in their neighborhood. Separation creates fear, and where there is fear, there is no love. Paul says in Philippians 4, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ‘ How are we doing with that Peace that passes all understanding? If we are going to love our neighbors as ourselves, we can’t live in fear. One of the old cliches is that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real. We fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. The only way to get over our fear is to let God in to change us, and for us to move out into the world around us. Where do we start? Prayer The first place is to start by letting God love us so we can love ourselves, then love others. I talked about this last week so if you haven’t heard that episode you may want to listen to it too. Anything that does not begin with prayer is probably not going to bear much fruit. We have to be willing to let God lead us and change us in order to get to an attitude of love. Each of the four groups I give below should be prayed over regularly in order to let God work. We can’t make ourselves do anything. The harder we try to be something the farther away from it we get. We can’t just will ourselves to love, we have to let God love through us. Love Other Christians 1st John 4 directly addresses this, ‘Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us. ‘ As Christians, we are supposed to love other Christians. By doing this it shows God’s love and helps His love to be perfected in us. This isn’t talking about anyone outside the church. This is talking only about Christians. In The Gospel of John chapter 15 Jesus says this is how the world will know us, ‘ “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” ‘ John writes about Jesus saying this in his gospel then reiterates it in a letter he writes. I think, to the Apostle John, loving other Christians was pretty important. This is our training ground for the world. Pray for each other lifting everyone up in love. The church should be a place we go to and find peace and offer peace to those around us. We can Pray as we stand or sit in church for people we see or people we know are not there. We should pray especially for our priests and pastors and our church leadership. Let God remind you of his love and ask Him to open your eyes to see your Christian family who needs prayer. Love Your Family Okay, I admit, loving your family and loving your enemies may be the same thing for some people. This will be harder for some people than loving their enemies because enemies aren’t always in your head. In the daily devotional book Bread for the Journey (Affiliate Link), Henri Nouwen put this Choosing Love June 14th How can someone ever trust in the existence of an unconditional divine love when most, if not all, of what he or she has experienced is the opposite of love-fear, hatred, violence, and abuse? They are not condemned to be victims! There remains within them, hidden as it may seem, the possibility to choose love. Many people who have suffered the most horrendous rejections and been subject to the most cruel torture have been able to choose love. By choosing love they became witnesses not only to human resiliency but also to the divine love that transcends all human loves. Those who choose, even on a small scale, to love in the midst of hatred and fear are the people who offer true hope to our world. Henri Nouwen If we have begun to let God change our view, we can begin to choose to love those who have hurt us. What I’m not saying is that you need to rush back in and embrace your abusive father or mother. I’m saying, start to let God change your view about the person who hurt you the most. Sometimes all you can do is love from a distance. Praying for them changes the way you see them. It may not change them, but it changes your view of them. And again like I did in the last episode, I recommend the book Healing for Damaged Emotions (Affiliate Link). It helped me tremendously in dealing with past family issues. But, for those of us without family problems, this is a great training ground as well. Loving your parents and siblings, your spouse and children, and your in-laws and extended family. (Colossians 3, Ephesians 5 and 6, 1st Timothy 5, and Dozens of Proverbs and Psalms) Let’s start with honor your father and mother and we’ll see how it goes. Love Your Neighbor But Steve you ask, “Who is my neighbor?” I’m glad you asked that question valued listener. I’m going to say, the people next door to start with. If you’re like me, you may not even know your neighbor next door very well. I know their names but not much else. This goes back to what I was talking about at the beginning. We would rather go to another country than talk to our actual neighbors. Start with prayer. You don’t have to be friends with people to love them. If the guy next door moves in and puts up an eight-foot privacy fence, don’t complain, just pray. If you get a chance, say hello and wave but don’t mumble under your breath that he’s a jerk. Other neighbors are people who we see in need. That was the premise of the Good Samaritan story. The person who showed mercy was the neighbor. We get very uncomfortable when we see homeless people or people in need. But, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t help them. If you are like a lot of people I know and talk to, you don’t like to give money to panhandlers because “They’ll just use it to buy drugs or alcohol.” They may do just that, but that’s not your business. Give the guy a buck and don’t wish he’d just go away. If you don’t want to give money make up a gallon freezer bag of ready to eat food and give that to them. Either way, don’t act like they don’t exist. And don’t put gospel tracks in them. Love Your Enemies Every person I mentioned above, by today’s definition, may be considered our enemy. Which is using the word out of context but if we really don’t like someone today we label them our enemy. An enemy is supposed to be someone who attacks you, but today they can be people we just disagree with. I’ve heard Christians say they hate people with different political views than they have. Everything goes back to the beginning. We fear what we don’t know or don’t understand. We can’t understand people we refuse to listen to. We can argue and say things today and remain anonymous in ways we couldn’t think of ten years ago. We need to reframe who our enemies actually are and stop making enemies out of our fellow human beings. Any time we label or place another person into a separate group, we are defaming God because God created them. He told Jeremiah, Before you were born, I knew you (Jeremiah 1:5). Paul says in Titus 3, ‘Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another.’ As Christians, we are to
8 minutes | a year ago
The Law of Love – Love Yourself
Learning to love yourself can be hard, but we can love ourselves because God loved us first. I need this just as much as anyone else and I hope you find it helpful. So what is the Law of Love? You probably know it better as the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22, Mark 12, and Luke 10 but originally found in the Book of Deuteronomy ‘ Jesus answered: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. The second most important commandment is like this one. And it is, “Love others as much as you love yourself.” All the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two commandments. This is the first and most important commandment. ‘ I use this verse a lot because, as I said in the beginning, I am trying to learn this myself. But, I want to take a different view at first because I think one of the most important parts is the, “Love your neighbor as YOURSELF.” I bet I’ve heard 20 sermons on this verse and only one I can remember on loving ourselves. That is mainly because most Christians don’t believe it. They come up with some self-deprecating quasi humble, “I’m not worthy” and that’s not what the bible says. Yes, we are supposed to have a proper sense of self but, the implication is obvious, if we don’t love ourselves we can’t love our neighbor. As Christians, we want to talk about ourselves like we’re dirt or worms or worm-dirt or worse but that is not how God sees us. And while we are sinners, God made us and he made us a little lower than Himself (Psalm 8:5) ‘ You made us a little lower than you yourself, and you have crowned us with glory and honor. ‘ (CEV) It’s Okay To Love Yourself God didn’t create you not to love yourself. We get those feelings of inadequacy from years of telling ourselves we’re bad (Which is what I did) or other people telling us we’re bad. When you are Chrismated into the Orthodox Church you get a new name. Just like Saul who became Paul after his conversion. I took the name of St. Moses the Black because he was the badest dude I could find. But deep down, I also knew that if God could heal a thief and scoundrel like Abba Moses, he could heal me. This was born of my low self-esteem. The Book That Helped Me See In his book, Healing for Damaged Emotions, (Affiliate Link) David Seamands gives four things that low self-esteem can cause. Low self-esteem paralyzes your potential – He says God grieves over this and very few people overcome this haunting self-doubt. It seems to settle in like a great fog. He references the story of the talents in Matthew 25 and how the servant with one talent was paralyzed with fear and feelings of inadequacy so bad he couldn’t decide what to do, so he just buried it. Low self-esteem destroys your dreams – In the prophecy of Joel 2:28 he says, ‘ Then afterward I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams.’ Seamands says the Holy Spirit helps dream the dreams God has for us but our feeling of unworthiness snatch them away. Low self-esteem ruins your relationships – Think about your relationship with God. Seamands says that if you feel inferior you will think God must not love or care for you. After all, He made you so he must have made you this way. This will also lead to our relationships with others. If we don’t like ourselves then we can’t like others. He says this, “If you have low self-esteem, you ask another human being to do for you what no other person can do–to make you feel adequate and able–when you are already convinced that you are inadequate and unable.” If you don’t learn to love yourself, you won’t let anyone else love you. Low self-esteem sabotages your Christian Service – What’s the first thing people say when you ask them to serve in the church, “I can’t….insert excuse here” If you’ve ever worked in church ministry you know this is true. Seamands says that our low self-esteem robs God of a “Marvelous chance to show off.” Go back to the parable of the talents. We don’t give God a chance to multi[ply our gifts if we are too afraid to use them. We create what Thomas Merton called the false self. Our false self is a projection of who we think the world wants to see. This false self is a wall that blocks God’s love from getting in and us from sharing His love with others. It is a barrier that separates us from God and the people around us. This isn’t what God wants from us. God died so that we may have life and have it more abundantly. God not only died for us, He lives in us so that we can be united with Him because He loves us and wants a relationship with us. We have to be willing to let Him change us So How Do We Start? Remember that you are not a bad person. You can love yourself because you’re a good person who may have made bad choices, but you are not bad. The Orthodox Church doesn’t even teach original sin like the western church does. Yes, we feel the effects of Adam’s sin but we’re not responsible for it. You can’t go to hell for what someone else did. God told Jeremiah, ‘“I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.”’ While God’s not speaking directly to us here we can be sure that if he knew Jeremiah, he knows us. Because Paul tells the Ephesians this, ‘For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.’ You are God’s masterpiece. You look in the mirror tomorrow morning and you know that you are God’s masterpiece and he has had a plan for you all along. Talk to Someone None of us need to go it alone. If that means talking to your pastor or priest or other outside help then do it for your own sake. Sharing our burdens is what Christians are supposed to do. Today we are so separated that we all try to go it alone and that doesn’t work. Let your false self down and let other people in. We need each other now, more than ever. I’m going to recommend the workbook for Healing for Damaged Emotions.(Affiliate Link) I can tell you from personal experience it will help you begin to let God in and heal you. As always, I hope this has been helpful. Next week we’ll talk about loving our neighbor and God knows we can use more of that as well. Matthew 22:37-40 Psalms 8:5 Seamands, David A, and Beth Funk. Healing For Damaged Emotions Workbook. David C Cook, 2015. Joel 2:28 Jeremiah 1:5 Ephesians 2:10
10 minutes | a year ago
Where Is God When I Pray
Last week we talked about Making time for God and how we could set aside more time throughout our day to pray and open ourselves to God. But what happens when God APPEARS to not show up? When I was doing the Introduction for the podcast I talked about knowing what it’s like to feel like you’re praying in a vault and asking, "Where is God". When you not only fell shut off from God but you’re shut off from the world. I can say this was the absolute lowest point in my life because I wasn’t praying. I knew God wasn’t listening and I stayed there for a couple of years. This week we are back in the book Beginning to Pray (Affiliate Link), by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. In the first chapter, he helps us see why sometimes it appears as though God is not present. Prayer Is A Relationship The first thing Metropolitan Anthony reminds us is that prayer first and foremost is a relationship that is deep and can’t be forced. Either on us or on God. If you have met someone you like and want to establish a relationship with them you make plans to get together, to get to know each other better. The same is true with God. If we really want a relationship, we will spend time with Him. And, like a relationship with a friend, there will be times we show up both physically and mentally and times we don’t. We may be there physically, but mentally we are just going through the motions. If we have to work at connecting to people we can see, how much harder do we think it will be connecting to a God who lives in us, but we can’t see. But, just like building a friendship, we don’t give up at the first sign of struggle. We don’t just expect it to happen, we make time to cultivate and grow the relationship. However, if we don’t “feel” like we connect with God on a regular basis we may give up on Him in a heartbeat. Let’s face it, if we are really honest about our relationship with God, He has a lot more to complain about us than we can complain about Him. Prayer Is A Moment of Judgement Metropolitan Anthony says that meeting with God is always a moment of Judgement for us. Not in an eternal sense but a personal sense. Think about the Israelites when God wanted to show Himself to them, 'When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen, but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.” ' God knows everything about us and there may be times when we don’t want Him to show up because of unaddressed sin in our lives that we think we can hide from Him. We can’t fool God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He wants to give us a chance to search ourselves and repent before He shows himself fully to us. As an Orthodox Christian, I attend confession with my priest, on a semi-regular basis. I also have two accountability partners who I can trust and can be open and honest with. Unlike most people believe, confession isn’t about punishment, it’s about drawing us back to God. The priest doesn’t forgive us, God does, but God knows that when we share our burdens they become lighter. In the book of James, we read, 'The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up, and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective. ' I know a lot of people both in and out of Orthodoxy who say they don’t need to confess to anyone else, they can confess to God and he forgives them. That is absolutely true. The thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that I can lie to myself. I can always justify my behavior. But, when I am talking to someone else about my behavior they can help me carry it just a little. If we are truly honest with another person it cleanses us and ...
8 minutes | a year ago
Making Time For God
We can all make time for God if we waste a little less. Steve uses the book Beginning to Pray by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom for hints at ways to make time for God. Transcript This week we’re going to talk about making time for God and this is inspired by the fourth chapter of the book Beginning to Pray (Affiliate Link) by Metropolitan Anthony Bloom. When I was a kid television stations actually went off the air at midnight or one am. Even some of the 12 cable channels we had; went off the air for a few hours each night. But, today I think every station has something on 24 hours a day. We live in a world that never stops. I think that’s why Time management is a big deal today. We spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year on time management From apps on our phones to the standard paper planner, (I use the bullet journal method) to classes costing thousands of dollars. Time management is a big business. The reality is that we can not make time. We only have what we have and once it is gone we can’t get it back. Instead of managing our time what Metropolitan Anthony asks us to do is waste a little less. He says if we waste a little less, we will always have more and we can use those once wasted pieces to draw closer to God. He also says, there is no way to grow our inner life in a hurry. Our relationship with God only comes from slowing down and making use of the time we are given. We can’t hurry enough to make more time. This is about taking time out of our busy schedule to be present with God. Ephesians 5:15-17 says Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Making the most of my time is where I like to make excuses. I don’t have time, I’m to busy, I’ll do it later. But I watch my wife, who is actually busy and realize I’m just making excuses. She works and takes college classes but makes time every morning for prayer, bible study, and journaling. She helps me see that if I really want a relationship with God, I can make the time. Think of spending time with God as our food or air. We wouldn’t refuse food or air if it were offered to us after a long absence so neither should we refuse to spend time with God if we honestly want to seek Him. Just like food and air, once we have spent time with God, we won’t want to do without it again. What can we do to Make Time for God? Have a Prayer Rule One of the best ways is the use of a prayer rule. A prayer rule helps us focus and stay on track with our prayers every day. It gives us a guided way to approach God instead of just showing up and trying to figure out what were going to do. It frees us to give in and just be present. I’ll do a whole episode on developing a prayer rule later but a short prayer rule would include when, where, how long, and what to pray for. In Orthodoxy, we have a set of daily prayers we should start with but the list is absolutely endless with prayer options. Practice Short Prayers Another way we can spend more time with God is by carving out short blocks of time during the day. Metropolitan Anthony says we can start with any amount of time we can get and just begin to sit quietly in God’s presence letting go of the “Cares of the world” and just being present with God. Since our minds are so cluttered with work, family, and life in general being silent for five minutes may seem like an hour. So being quiet for a couple of minutes at first is a great accomplishment. If sitting quietly isn’t your thing then try saying the Jesus prayer. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me a sinner. As you breathe in, say, “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God” and as you breathe out say, “Have mercy on me a sinner.” The Jesus Prayer has been practiced for centuries by everyone from monks to generals and everyone in between.
8 minutes | a year ago
Introduction to Spiritual Teamwork
This episode is an introduction to Spiritual Teamwork and the host Steve Crenshaw. Introduction Transcripts You can go to About Steve or About Spiritual Teamwork to read the transcript of the podcast. If you would like to learn about my Christian Journey, you can see a talk I did at St John The Divine Greek Orthodox Church on YouTube, Heroes of the Faith--Abba Moses the Ethiopian
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Trailer For Spiritual Teamwork
Short introduction trailer for Spiritual Teamwork
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Spiritual Teamwork Promo 1
This is the first promo spot for the Spiritual Teamwork podcast Life must be understood backwards; but... it must be lived forward.Soren Kierkegaard First Episode Releases June 3rd
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