Friday, June 16, 2006

The Word of God according to…

2 Timothy 3:16 & 17 – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Ps 119:11 – “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Joshua 1:8 – “Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” 1 Timothy 4:13 – “Until I come, devote yourselves to the public reading of the Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.”

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Get back to the Scriptures…

It is no use taking refuge in abstract discussion, or trying to make excuses, so let us get back to the Scriptures, to the word and call of Jesus Christ himself. Let us try to get away from the poverty and pettiness of our own little convictions and problems, and seek the wealth and splendour which are vouchsafed to us in Jesus Christ.

When the Bible speaks of following Jesus, it is proclaiming a discipleship which will liberate mankind from all man-made dogmas, from every burden and oppression, from every anxiety and torture which afflicts the conscience.

The command of Jesus is hard, unutterably hard, for those who try to resist it. But for those who willingly submit, the yoke is easy, and the burden is light. ‘His commandments are not grievous’ (1 John 5:3).

— Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martyr (April 9, 1945), from The Cost of Discipleship

Monday, June 12, 2006

The Spiritual Warrior

Because of the glib and unmerited use of the word ‘warrior’ by some of today's Christians in reference to their performance as ‘prayer warriors’, ‘worship warriors’ and the like, I have been reluctant to publish this poem image that I wrote many years ago. We don't confer on ourselves the title ‘warrior.’ It is to be conferred by others, best of all, by God Himself. He is again forming heroes as prophesied in my poem.

                The spiritual warrior is violent and fierce.
                He is violent in scattering the enemies of the Cross
                and fierce in opposing sin.

                His lips do not sow threats or boasts.
                His eyes are twin swords.

                Because the power he wields is infinite,
                he is perceived as gentle.
                Because the power he wields is not his own,
                he wields it with humility.

                He honorably protects the victims of the warfare.
                He battles only his enemy.

— Romanós

Why the Lord came

The Lord came, not to do something easy, but to do something true. He came to bring truth and life. By His obedience unto death, He rent from top to bottom the veil of corruption and rebellion that separated us from God, and He opened to us the entrance to the Holy of Holies of freedom and unity. He did not come to unite men among themselves by making light of their differences. He did not come to exhort us to mere "peaceful coexistence." He came to unite us, through Himself, with His Father and our Father. "For through Him we have access in one Spirit to the Father." (Ephesians 2:18)

He did not aim to leave behind Him a group of individuals working well together, for even sinners do this: they cooperate with sinners (cf. Matthew 5:47). He came to give us rebirth and to bring a new unity, one which is trinitarian; to bring a peace which passes all understanding, His own: "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you." (John 14:27)

…He came to give Himself, to distribute His flesh: "Take, eat My Body which is broken." He came to give His Spirit: "Receive the Holy Spirit" (John 20:22). So He created the little flock of the twelve, the Church. He brought to the world the dynamic force and health of the Trinity, the leaven of the Kingdom which will leaven the three measures which represent the whole of creation (Luke 13:21).

What the world needs is the trinitarian flock, regardless of whether it is small or large. Its greatness is to be found in its trinitarian nature. What man thirsts for is eternity, "even a little part of eternity"; and this is what we have here. To have the character of the Trinity is to be eternal.

"This is eternal life, that they know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." (John 17:3)

— Archimandrite Vasileios

Thursday, June 8, 2006

The great divide

Everywhere we look, there is a process of winnowing, of dividing, going on…

In the world, it's between the followers of Jesus and the devotees of "demons who are not God" (Deuteronomy 32:17).

In the church, it's between those who know who Jesus WAS, and those who know who He IS.

In the individual, it's between what we say we are, and what we are.

Time is only given to us, so that we can make a decision.
As long as time seems, even if we have (or think we have) 40, 50, 60, or 70 more years of life, it will all be over in the blink of an eye, and we will come to the Lord full of His acceptable years (kairós), or bearing in our hands only our empty, wasted years (chrónos).

"Night is coming, when no one can work." (John 9:4 NIV)

For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2 NIV)

Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3 NIV)

Comment on faith

In the closest following of Jesus, the miraculous is not only possible, it is inevitable. It is into the life of this kind of faith that we are called, but very few Christians even consider it.

"Ordinary" Christian faith usually means just "trust Jesus" and "God will take care of everything, no need to worry." But this is not the kind of faith that Jesus is leading us to when He says, "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him." (Mark 11:22-23)

Brother, yes, you are on the edge. Yes, you are standing on the precipice of something miraculous. We all are. Some of us have stepped off into that "walk on the waters" and have known that kind of faith, but it is too strong for our weak human nature, and we dash back to safety. But the call doesn't go away, and when we have been strengthened, we go out again, following the call, into the realm where "all things are possible, if you only believe."

Everything that Jesus said is true. He wasn't joking when He said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing." But neither was He joking when He said, "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." (Matthew 18:19)

Monday, June 5, 2006

Ramblings on hymns, and some courteous history

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Come unto me and rest;
lay down, thou weary one, lay down
thy head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
weary, worn, and sad;
I found in him a resting-place,
and he has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
the living water; thirsty one,
stoop down and drink, and live."

I came to Jesus, and I drank
of that life-giving stream;
my thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
and now I live in him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's light;
look unto me, thy morn shall rise,
and all thy day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found
in him my Star, my Sun;
and in that light of life I'll walk
till traveling days are done.

The image above is my favorite picture of Jesus. I know that it's not an icon, and it should be, 'cause I'm a Greek Orthodox, but so what? This is Jesus as I know Him visually, if I may be so presumptuous to say it that way. The lyric above is my favorite hymn. Same comment about it not being a Greek kontakion or whatever, and again, so what? A very dear friend of mine who was a jazz pianist used to play Thomas Tallis' third mode melody, very tenderly, and I would sing this hymn in an empty church that he was custodian of, when we would get together to study the Word in wintertime in his unheated room, snow falling outside. My friend was killed in a so-called ‘accident’ in Saudi Arabia, along with his wife, in September, 2000. May their memory be eternal. Aiónia i mními aftón!

I spent this evening looking thru my copy of the 1940 Hymnal of the Episcopal Church, singing my favorite hymns softly to myself. How many of the traditional Protestant hymns are dreadful poetry, and even worse theology! But they meant well, the writers, and for several generations people found meaning in them. As I perused, I started marking the ones I'd keep, the ones I could still sing because of their realism, good theology and biblical integrity.

Surprisingly, some of the "old favorites" were in the "keep" group, and some in the "discard" pile. Number 266 (Nicaea) "Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee…" was a keeper. Maybe I'd better not say which ones were in my discard pile. This post is not to be an exercise in alienating others. I do, however, want to put on record that I think we Orthodox owe a debt of gratitude to our Anglican brethren who, in the Americas, have always lent us a helping hand in getting established. Someday, when the Orthodox are finally ready to evangelize the Anglo-American people, we'll prove it by giving the greatest English hymns a place in worship, along with our ancient Greek praises. As much as I love and appreciate the beauty of our Greek hymns, they're really only accessible to those who take the trouble to learn Evangelical (koiné/kiní) Greek. To the rest, the hymns are beautiful but meaningless.

Could this be why a mother and unmarried daughter in our community for many years used to sing in the choir of 1st Presbyterian downtown? I remember Aretí, the mother, telling me that they liked to go and sing English language hymns at the Presbyterian church, because "back then" only Greek hymns were chanted in ours. This was before my time. So, my appreciation goes out also to the Presbyterians, who were gracious and honored to have some Greeks singing with them. (I know this, because I worked with a member of that church who boasted about Aretí and her daughter.)

This is indeed a rambling, but I don't care. If you're still reading this, I recommend you stop, and go read your Bible, and maybe come back after you've gotten some REAL food for thought (and action)! But if you do come back…

Again, I want to eulogize the Anglicans one more time. My wife's grandmother Domnica, the daughter of Russian Orthodox presbyter, Father Theodosius, was given a Book of Common Prayer (of the Anglican Church of Canada) back in 1909. Inside it's inscribed "Lent 1909, from Daisy with love to Dorice." The BCP also includes the hymnal, and so there's some juicy antiquated lyrics there that antedate the 1940 Hymnal. I love looking at this family heirloom, and finding beautiful prayers and hymns. It is a relic of a different age, for sure!

But what it demonstrates is that the love of Jesus Christ, that knows no denominational walls, was at work in early 20th century western Canada. For friendship's sake, a "white" girl gave a "Ukrainian" girl, the daughter of an Orthodox priest, a present, which was probably the best gift she could think of, that which was most precious to both of them, a gilt-edged leather-bound book that brought them close to Jesus, and to each other. God be praised! Slava Bohu!

I pray that the God of peace, who brought our Lord Jesus back from the dead to become the great Shepherd of the sheep by the blood that sealed an eternal covenant, may make you ready to do his will in any kind of good action; and turn us all into whatever is acceptable to himself through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21 Jerusalem Bible)

Comment: Our words are powerless! Notice how, after reading my blog post, when you got to the scripture passage quoted at the end, your heart just leapt for joy at the simplicity and power of God's own Word! As Brock, my faithful brother in Christ has said, "Let God be true and everyman a liar." Nothing can hold a candle to the Light of God's Word.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

The Pursuit of God

In the few short moments I have between getting ready for church this morning, and actually leaving, I sat down at my PC and read a little more of A. W. Tozer's book The Pursuit of God, on line. (The on line link is in the side panel of this blog.) Out of curiosity about the author, I also looked him up on line, and though I didn't find out when he was born, I found out that he went to the Lord on May 12, 1963.

A. W. Tozer has just joined C. S. Lewis and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as the third Christian writer who will never leave the second shelf of my heart's book case. Only the Word of God is on the top shelf—to be "read, marked, learned and inwardly digested" (BCP, Proper 28).
But these three greatest modern Christians, the faithful martyr Bonhoeffer, the faithful professor Lewis, and the faithful confessor Tozer, they will never be far from my heart, mind and hand either.

Interesting that Lewis and Tozer both went to the Lord in 1963.

Wine flowing straight to my Beloved,
as it runs on the lips of those who sleep.
— Song of Songs 7:9 (Jerusalem Bible)