Monday, December 12, 2011

The Energizing Rush of Sin

I was thinking today about why our bodies take to sin so readily - why does it give us satisfaction? I thought about the energy of our life being lived out in these bodies. I thought perhaps the self-contained impact of us acting selfishly or sinfully energizes us because our focus and energy is churning inside of our being like an internal combustion engine.

Now I am certainly not justifying sin by any means, but I can see in it this self-perpetuating fire that gives us a temporary rush and feeling of being alive. But, it burns us out. Sin spends all of our internal fuel on destroying ourselves unbeknownst to us, as we can only feel the flesh-gratifying rush of our own bodies burning up our fuel.

When we become Christians, the opposite occurs. Instead of a self-gratifying rush, we feel a different energy, an uncomfortable and unsettling pain of denying ourselves. Sure, we often fall back on the highly addictive impulses of fulfilling the desires of our flesh, and then we, if we are following the Christian ways of repentance, feel the unsettling pain of confession to purge ourselves of this addiction.

One way to look at it is, before we were Christians, we turned inward to our own bodies as our comfort and home, and a temporary home at that. As Christians, we are breaking free of this flesh-driven existence like an eagle breaking out of its egg, or a flower emerging from its seed. Once the shell is broken and the eagle emerges, this body then becomes the vehicle for the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, the grace of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

This is why the spiritual life is such a battle - it is always about not getting comfortable and continuing to fight the good fight. If we get comfortable, then we are allowing the flesh to get its way. It will burn up our life until we are nothing but ashes. But, when we fight to break out of this shell, out of this seed, the flesh is crucified and risen, and our energies fill the world with life – God’s life. We become deified and transfigured - we attain to theosis, spirit, soul and body. We acquire the Holy Spirit.

When we choose to sin, we close the door on the light God is shining in us, and our being is filled with darkness. We feel the consequences of the death sin brings. We beg for mercy and forgiveness hoping to never sin again and know the horrible emptiness of our sin. We repent and open the door again for the Light to shine forth in our beings and transform us into the image of Christ; to transfigure us as He did Himself on Mount Tabor. I think this is the hope of all Christians – Christ in us, the hope of glory. Few will know it in this life to the extent I have described it above, but we all will know this glory, in all its fullness, unto the ages of ages.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Biggest Hang Up With Ancient Christianity

Almost without exception, when I tell my friends I converted to Orthodoxy, they ask me, "So, do you pray to Mary?" If I say I do, then in their minds, I am not really a Biblical Christian.
But, is that really true? Certainly, everyone has the right to interpret the Bible anyway they like, and all churches will have a foundational system, whether formal or informal, on the way to approach the Scriptures. As you will see below, the Bible certainly supports the practice of praying to Mary.

First of all, do Christians die? In the beginning, God told Adam that if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would die. In fact, he did not die physically for a long time, but he did die spiritually. In the same way, Christians die physically, but they never die spiritually. When the Sadducee's tried to trap Jesus in regards to the resurrection, he said in Matthew 22:31-32:

"But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living."
One can conclude, then, that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are not dead. In another passage regarding the resurrection, Jesus is speaking to Martha:
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:23-26).
I think His point is clear: Christians shall never die.

I guess it could be argued here that Jesus is saying we will never die after the resurrection. But, that would seem to contradict what He said to the Sadducees. He said He is the God of the living, and since even His own resurrection had not yet occurred, then His statement must mean the righteous do live after their physical death, and will later resurrect physically as well.

But, because they live spiritually, can we assume we can pray to them; that we can ask them to intercede for us? Isn't that a bit of a stretch? Before I continue with some more biblical references in this regard, let's ask this question: When we die, do we become greater or lesser? Do our capacities, powers and talents increase or diminish? Paul said, "To live is Christ, to die is gain". When Jesus is judging the ones whom He gave the talents to, to the ones who were faithful, He gave more. Another passage states the gifts and callings of God are irrevocable. From these passages, I think the biblical case can be made that we become greater when we die. Who we are is magnified in Christ.

With that said, how do we know if the citizens of heaven can pray for us? We know for certain we can pray for each other here on earth, so if we become something greater after death, then there is no reason to believe we stop praying for people once we enter heaven. Even Jesus still prays for people! If He is our Lord and we follow Him in all things, then this aspect of our afterlife in the interim, before our physical resurrection, means interceding for others, even as He intercedes for us.
Let's look at some other interesting scriptures. 1 Peter 2:4-5:

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men but chosen by God and precious, you also as living stones are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
If we are "living stones" being built up a "spiritual house", then this ministry, this calling, this state of being could not possibly end at our physical death, as we are a spiritual household. This next passage in Ephesians drives this point home:
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building , being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Paul re-emphasizes that we are a spiritual household. We are being "fitted together"; we are growing, and our foundation is Christ, the apostles and the prophets. If there is any doubt about this new city, this heavenly city, then these next verses out of the book of Hebrews will illustrate how it all ties together:

By faith [Abraham] dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise, for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. (Hebrews 11:9-10, 14-16; 12:22-24)
If this is my country as a Christian, why would I not ask my spiritual brethren to help me by asking for their prayers? Like Abraham, I dwell by faith in my promised land, whose builder and maker is God. But, even though it is by faith I dwell there, this passage indicates it is a real place – it is Mount Zion, the city of the living God, and I am a member of this spiritual household as a fellow citizen with the saints. As the book of James states, the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. And I, dwelling amongst the most righteous ones, would much rather have one of these triumphant victors, who have run the race and obtained the crown, pray for me than anyone else on earth. And Mary, the first of all saints and honored by her Son, is certainly a most effective and fervent intercessor in this eternal, undying and glorious heavenly country – the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Game Day

Every morning when I get in the shower, I see my Old Spice body wash facing me, and its particular scent is "Game Day". The other day, it hit me what a profound truth that is to wake up to. Today is game day. Today, I go out to run the race and win it. Today I go out to conquer sin in my life. I get in the shower and wash away all the filth and crud I have accumulated the past day, and now I am ready to begin anew. It's a new game, and I can win today. I can't do anything about yesterday, but today, it is game day. The opponent already has his plan laid out for me today. My coach also has a game plan. So, I get in the huddle after my shower, and I listen to the plays for today's game. I do my spiritual calisthenics and keep my eye keen and my mind sober – I attack with the Spirit of love and joy, peace and patience, gentleness and kindness, faithfulness and goodness, and self-control. Today gives me another opportunity to score for my team, to be the MVP, to contribute to a winning game. Sure, some days I suffer injuries and some days I am benched, but my head is always in the game. I know the plays and the players on both teams. I fight to win, and my coach is there to lead me to victory. It is game day. Let's win this one.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Post Pascha Blues

Dead silence has fallen upon the beginnings and endings of my prayers. For forty days I have been singing "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life". In a reliving the experience sort of way, I feel the emptiness the apostles must have felt when Christ ascended in to heaven after being with them the forty days after his resurrection. By taking away my joyful song from my prayers, I also have a heightened sense of anticipation for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And so, the celebration and power of God is realized in its fullness as the Holy Spirit comes and abides in us, cleanses us from our sins and saves our souls to the uttermost. God is good, and he has given us these touch-points of grace so we can perpetuate the realness of his life, death, resurrection, ascension and outpouring of his Spirit and taste of his salvation - we can experience it just like the apostles.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Lights Are Back On

I started a new job not long ago, and I met someone who is also a blogger (His blog is Benedictus). I mentioned my blog to him, and after he read some of my posts, he encouraged me to pick it back up again. I have left it dormant for over two years, and I have been taken off the blog rolls of other bloggers. I guess I had unrealistic expectations when I first started. I tried to model my blog after someone who wrote frequently, and I just couldn't keep up, so I figured I was not meant for this game. Then, as I looked around at other blogs, many do not have new posts every other day or every week for that matter. I was setting the bar too high. On that note, I will do what I have noticed a lot of bloggers do: write when I am moved by a thought, an experience, a conversation or a great quote. I am hoping I pick up some new readers and regain some old ones. Even if none pass this way, I feel I will be sharing with the online world what God has given me and allow Him to do with it what He will. May God's blessing be on these writings and on you as you stop by and visit in your online adventures.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Lights Out

The new year has begun, and with that, time to rethink things. For now, I am turning the lights out on The Midnight Disciple. With lots of church and family activities pressing me for my time, I seem to never have a moment to crank out a good blog.

However, I am not closing the blog, so please feel free to enjoy many of the past posts on this blog. If you care to make a comment on any of the previous blogs, simply add a comment to this last blog as well so I can easily find your comment.

I appreciate those who have checked here regularly, especially those who have taken time to comment. I wish all a happy new year, and if you happen to stumble across this blog, I hope the previous articles are a blessing to you.

May God's profound peace be yours.


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lord, Teach Me To Pray!

I remember for many years crying out to God for a meaningful prayer life. I would hear our pastor emphasize each week in his sermons the need for spending time alone with God. So, I tried. I would show up to my "appointment with God", as he liked to call it, with my Bible in hand and with my list of things to pray about. I never felt like I was quite getting it right.

I wasn't alone in this feeling. My Christian friends would often bring this topic up in conversation. They would ask, "How do you do your devotional time?" I could only say I was struggling with it too, and I told them that I would read the Bible and offer up some prayer requests during my devotionals. Others would say you should use a Bible study guide or a devotional book. As much as it was a struggle and mystery on how to do this, I would continue to show up, even if for only fifteen minutes. My prayers seem to fall flat, and the most oft repeated prayer for me was, "God, how do I pray? How do I have a fruitful time alone with You?"

My wife and I went to a reunion of some of our long-time Christian friends several years ago, and the guy who used to lead the group gathered us all in his living room for a short devotional. He asked how many of us are consistently spending time alone with God. I raised my hand, even though that time alone often seemed empty. But, surprisingly, no one else raised their hands! At that point, I was embarrassed to stand out as "Mr. Super-spiritual". As the conversation ensued, however, it was evident others had struggled and simply gave up trying to create a meaningful time alone with God.

And, several years later, along came Orthodoxy. Now, it's not a matter of what I should pray, but in finding enough time to pray! My prayer time now is radically fruitful; radically meaningful. Not to say it isn't a struggle to get myself out of bed, but once I am up, I know what needs to be done according to my prayer rule. The Lord answered my prayer by bringing me the time-tested and enriching prayers of the Orthodox Church. My prayer life has become something far more than it ever was as a Protestant, and something far more than I ever expected it could be!

I think everyone needs a system to make their prayer time meaningful. After trying many different ways, I find the Orthodox system to be the most engaging and life-changing. Instead of sitting on my couch, coffee in hand and my Bible open to an inspirational passage as I send up my wish-list of things I want to happen, I now enter the prayer arena in the Orthodox fashion. This means lighting a candle, fasting, awakening my spirit and focusing my mind through using the Jesus prayer, acclimating my senses to the Kingdom of God by using icons, Christian symbols and colors, opening my prayer book and engaging in prayers written by the humblest of Saints that change me as I pray through their penetrating insight into the condition of my soul.

Yes, it is a radical change from my Protestant days, and most Protestants would find the typical Orthodox prayer corner distasteful. Nonetheless, it is a system of spiritual saturation in all things Christian designed to change you from glory to glory and prepare you for His glorious Presence, both now and ever, and unto the ages of ages.