Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Walk by Faith...

And yet to those who read with knowledge, a great truth is to be found in each. For it is difficult for interpreters to differ so widely as not to touch at some point. Accordingly here, as understanding consists in sight, and is abiding, but faith feeds us as babes, upon milk, in the cradles of temporal things for now we walk by faith, not by sight; as, moreover, unless we walk by faith, we shall not attain to sight, which does not pass away, but abides, our understanding being purified by holding to the truth;—for these reasons one says, "If ye will not believe, ye shall not understand;" but the other, "If ye will not believe, ye shall not abide." - Saint Augustine, On Christian Doctrine
How do we do it? To walk by faith, is to fully live being confident of whats ahead of us; in the belief of the existence of unseen realities; and to actually have an affect on us as if they were seen.
The Christian has a firm conviction of the reality of the glories of heaven; of the fact that the Redeemer is there; of the fact that there is a crown of glory; and he lives and acts as if that were all real, and as if he saw it all. The simple account of faith, and of living by faith is, that we live and act as if these things were true. - Anonymous

To back track a little, what is faith? St Paul defines it in Hebrews 11:1 "Now faith is the subtance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

Hebrews Chapter 11 continues to show us what Faith has done from the time of Adam to King David. "By faith... By faith.. By faith..." St Paul shows us how the all-stars of the Old Testament did what they had to do, and at times what they didnt want to do, but faith guided them. What does the Epistle of St James say? "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead" - James 2:26 He is comparing it to actual death! How important than is the concept of faith, and living by it, and walking by it, and doing all things through it?
When you pray, or read, or listen to the Word of God, have faith in it. Believe in the things you are saying, reading, or hearing. Believe that these words can change you and that your prayers will be heard, and that God will accept you. Have faith when you repent and confess, that your sins will be forgiven and that God will accept your repentance. Believe in His words, and He will believe in your faith...
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" - Hebrews 11:6

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Quiet Time...

I know its been a long time since I have written, I apologize. There is just so much I have to say that I didn't know where to begin!

This summer I had the greatest opportunity to travel to Kenya and serve there with H.G. Bishop Paul. Going there, I thought something completely different than I had actually experienced.

Let me just jump right into it. They had a daily schedule for us to follow at the monastery, which I'll try to summarize. Wake up at 7. 7-8:30 quiet time, 8:30-10 praise and worship/bible study, 10-11 breakfast, 11-6 SERVICE, 6-7:30 quiet time. 8-9:30 praise and worship/bible study, 9:30 dinner, 10 praise and worship/tasbeha/sleep.

If you could tell, there were 3 hours of quiet time per day in the schedule. At first I thought it was a joke. How could I read the bible and sit in quiet and meditate on a couple of verses for so long!

I never absorbed the term 'quiet time' before. I mean I would do my daily readings (or try at least), put my bible away, and call it a day. After a week or so following the schedule and being woken up everyday to sit in like 2 hours of quiet, was kind of exhausting (physically and spiritually). I thought to myself, "Why am I waking up early, to sit in quiet?"

I tried to follow as diligently as I could, skipping a day here and there, thinking I was just doing an assignment. After about 10 days, I thought again, "Why am I just reading this and not even benefiting?" From hearing Bishop Paul and others about reflections on quiet time, I began to take it a little more seriously. Bishop Paul would say "How can you go out and serve and give during the day, without being filled first?" Also, they would emphasize that the point of quiet time is to hear God's personal message for you. I never knew what this meant until the day after I decided to take quiet time seriously. Even though mostly all of us were following the same St Mark's DC quiet time schedule, I felt the message and reading was directly to me, solely and nobody else. After this had happened, I was never as excited to read the Bible as I was now. I would have never thought when I woke up that I would be anxious to read the Bible, it was a crazy thought!

God bless the people that have been doing this out of their heart, but unfortunately I needed it to hit me directly for me to start taking it seriously. So in quiet time, sit in quiet for a little before reading. It cleared my mind of anything and everything, ready to absorb the Word of God and hear not only with my ears or eyes but with my heart. The quiet time that changed my life was from Revelations chapter 3 about the Lukewarm church. Knowing myself, I learned a lot about myself (well actually that its not knowing myself at all). And if God was able to speak to me and I was able to hear it, and accept it, and yearn to listen to His voice everyday, than anybody can do it...

"Now Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, for of from the camp; he called it the tent of meeting. And everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp." Exodus 33:7-8

Even Moses did quiet time!! He set his tent OUTSIDE THE CAMP, away from all distractions, so he was able to hear the Word of God. Let us go outside our camp, away from our comfort zone, and close the door of our room, and open the door of our hearts..

Friday, June 12, 2009

Lets get it started!

No.. I didn't mean the Black Eyed Peas song lol

I meant our spiritual life. I am reading "The Orthodox Way" by Bishop Kallistos Ware. I read bits and pieces of it a while ago, but never really sat down to read it. What better introductory book ''gives a general account of the doctrine, worship, and life of Orthodox Christians".

We need to take our spiritual life seriously. Be responsible and take it into your own hands. My favorite quote so far says "God has children, but He has no grandchildren." This really opened my eyes. We can't rely on others or advisors or anything, even though they are all necessary. "The Creed does not belong to you unles you have lived it" - Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow.

We need to have a direct, personal relationship with our Creator. I am the first one who should take my own advice. I am stuck on this fence, this lukewarm fence, that only God can help me to make the jump over. I think I'm okay because I go to church, serve, take communion, etc. "Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach wil be judged with greater strictness" - James 3:1 So being in the position that I am, am writing this mostly for my own benefit, and anyone who may be in the same boat as me.

So to start, we need to make God our friend, our best friend. As I stated in an earlier post, we need to stop thinking "what would Jesus do" and start doing it. Many people look to pray and ask God for help on decisions and choices, but if we make Him our best friend, we will already know what choice He wants us to make, and He will just guide us there.

Look at the book of Psalms, how many times does David say Praise Him, Praise God, Give thanks to the Lord.? There needs to be a reason to Praise Him so much, there must be something special about Him right? I attended a retreat entitled WOW, whose focus was to make us understand how much God appreciates us, then we will learn to be appreciative of Him, proud of Him.

One thing I learned was a great meditation on how much God loves us, to make us realize it, and LOVE HIM BACK. Matthew 13:44 "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sels al that he has and buys that field." I always thought that we are the ones who would sell all that we have and obtain the kingdom of heaven. The other meditation I heard about this parable says that God is that 'someone'. He sold all that He has (Giving up His life for us on the Cross), and bought the field. WE ARE HIS HIDDEN TREASURE.

So now lets take a second thought on how we should view our relationship with God. Look at how much He loves us, let us make Him our personal Friend, Father, EVERYTHING!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Set Free our Hearts

St Basil the Great says "One cannot approach the knowledge of the truth with a disturbed heart. Therefore we must try to avoid everything that disturbs our heart, that causes forgetfulness, excitement or passion, or that awakens unrest. We must free ourselves as much as possible from all fuss and flutter and ado over vain things. Yes when we serve the Lord we shall not be 'troubled about many things, but always keep in mind that one thing is needful' Luke (10:41)"

Tito Colliander, author of Way of the Ascetics, comments on this by saying "In order to bathe, one must first undress. So it is with the heart: it must be set free from the world's outer covering in order to be accessible to the Cleanser."

What are we holding onto that is so important where it stand between us and God? Some people may struggle with material things, careers, friendships (attachments), etc. I feel that these are problems that need to be addressed, but can be dealt with. The bigger problem is not the outside attachments to any of these, but underneath the shell, where the heart lays, is the most delicate, yet dangerous tool of all. Material things and all entailed are not the problem. "For the love of money is the root of all evil..." 1Timothy 6:10.

It is rooted deep in our hearts our most precious love. That is why St Basil says that we need to free what it is in our hearts before approaching God. Not only to empty our hearts, but to be honest with ourselves about our passions.

When we approach God, with a full heart, black heart, open heart, closed heart, etc.. He will always be willing to accept us. It is up to us to be willing to "take off the old man and put on the new one".

How is it that we struggle so much to give God so little, and He has worked all of time to get us back to where we were originally supposed to be, with Him.

This cleansing of the heart is not only going to help us spiritually, but in everyday life. I heard an old saying that goes ''You may hold my hand for a while, but my heart forever." We cannot expect God to just be there when we need Him, to hold our hands to get us out of a mess (even though He will anyway). But we need to learn to give Him our heart forever rather than a temporary fix out of a problem.

As Ruth said to her mother, we must be willing to do so to God.
"Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you will die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts you and me"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Where two or three are gathered in My Name

So I just graduated yesterday, and it really hit me that time is passing by.

Its a time of change for everything. My routine activity was that of a student, (although my parents may disagree lol). It was repetitive; registering for classes, exams, hw, finals, coming home on the weekends, etc.

Speaking for solely myself, other things need to change as well. In general, people have a core group of friends that never change with the scenery. You pick up friends along your life's time-line. You have your high school friends, your college friends, your study group friends, your ''lets chill'' friends, and hopefully for some of us, a lot of these categories have the same people in them.

I received the blessing of being able to read and discuss the Bible with some friends a couple of days ago, as we were just relaxing on a normal summer day. I was so happy to be able to openly speak about the Bible and our spiritual lives, and not be afraid of doing so.

Do we have friends like these? Do we want friends like these? Do our friends bring us down, or help us in our spiritual struggle?

As you may notice more easily in kids from the age of 10-15, but still shows in us on a more 'mature' scale so to speak, we see that kids like to talk the same, dress the same, like the same things, etc. And we see this happen to really close friends. You see them maybe even finishing each others sentences. Now why can't we do this with God?

If we become close to Him, and make Him our best friend, we will start SETTING OUR EYES on the same things, 'DRESSING' ALIKE, LOVING the same things, etc. Why not let God finish our sentences?

Lets not have this zeal to do better things and change our ways, and put if off till tomorrow. "This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Ps 118:24
(I kind of like this translation a little better, which says WE WILL rejoice.. as opposed to LET US rejoice).

So let us SET OUR EYES on the same things (..And looking up to heaven, He blessed them and broke them - Luke 9:16), DRESSING ALIKE (Take off the old man... ... put on the new one - Ephesians 22-24), and LOVING the same things as God (Love one another, as I have loved you - John 15:13)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

My first post!

So this is whats going on in my head:

1. Just finished my last college exam yesterday
2. Don't have a job yet
3. Trying to get my spiritual life back on track
4. Just realized that the 3rd thing going on in my head is working on my spiritual life, which is probably my problem because its not my first priority lol
5. What better way to feel grown up than to pretend my thoughts matter :)

So first thing, I did not know what a blog was until a friend who will remain nameless (Nader A Abadir), created one. I thought it was corny at first, but it actually helped my spiritual life.

I'm not a mentor, spiritual advisor, or anyone for that matter (hence the name of my blog).
A laborer of the eleventh hour - I come at the last minute to God, and expect to receive the best treatment. Lo and behold, He gives me that treatment, but I dont deserve it.

I'm a struggling Christian that blames it on the environment around me, but I know it has nothing to do with that.
So I'll post my thoughts and experiences, and thats about it. :)