LIFE CAN COME at you fast. For a student, it seems like every moment at the end of the semester is required for study. If you are like me, this could have been prevented with proper preparation. The Bible warns us of being idle and slothful, this is because when this happens, we forget our obligations as Christians. It has been said that "much study is wearisome to the flesh," so after burying ourselves in books we are often too tired to pick up our Bible to read.
What then should a diligent Christian do? It is important to always be prepared and to never be lazy. "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise!" Be always prepared, for a Christian delights in work. Our examples from the Old Testament such as Daniel and Joseph show us that hard work can be used to glorify God. God will reward your work with prosperity, especially when it is done in a righteous manner. This is no different for our spiritual life. Christ instructed us to always be ready, for the end is at hand.
I now look back at the past few weeks and realize the effect procrastination has had on my spiritual life. There is a certain wisdom involved in being diligent and I think it is worth considering the value in good, honest work which is done early for God's sake.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
I'VE BEEN THINKING a lot lately. Crazy isn't it? Surely God gave us our minds to think rationally and I don't think anybody would argue that they would rather be without a mind. The problem is, our mind can get us into trouble if we are not careful. I am the kind of person that likes to think things over man as much as possible; I tend to dwell on things. I thank God for this, I believe it makes me a smarter person because my mind is always working. Unfortunately, a constantly mindful person can also lose focus and begin thinking about lustful desires, or even just overthinking life's decisions. Also, I tend to begin thinking things over excessively and begin to either doubt my original understanding or try to rationalize a wrong one. This is often the devil laboring to mess with you. Be wary.
The fact is, God resides in our hearts. Therefore, where does the devil reside? Well, we know it isn't in our hearts, God is there. Satan is working through our minds. Our doubts come from Satan, our desires come from Satan, our rationalizations can even come from Satan. Our church fathers warn us about the dangers of an unfocused mind, and their solution is prayer. A prayer that comes from within is without any impure thought and because God is in our hearts, comes from Him.
Therefore, when we begin overthinking things, we must learn to stop and wonder where these thoughts are coming from. Are they genuine Godly urges from our hearts, or are they impure thoughts from Satan? This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the Bible: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."
Posted by Jake at 11:20 PM
Monday, April 20, 2009
LOVE IS FULL OF PARADOXES. Yeah, it is "longsuffering and is kind;" but it most importantly "endures all things" for "Love never fails." I believe love can be summarized in a word: sacrifice. A loving sacrifice is tough, especially when it is your "only begotten Son," but sometimes, it is simply inevitable.
It can be very tough willingly enduring a hardship to do what you know is best. I take solace in Him, knowing He felt the same when He prayed in the garden. We can pray for the cup to pass, but if He wills it, we must drink it.
Posted by Jake at 12:36 AM
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
HAVING JUST CONCLUDED Monday of the Holy week of Pascha, I realized there was a certain underlying tone in the readings; God was simply unhappy. We started the day with readings from Genesis, continued with Gospels concerning our Lord driving people out of the temple again, and Jesus cursing a fig tree. Then in the evening we read a great deal about the end of times and the difficult path to Heaven. None of which was very happy stuff, but where is the God of love? The God of mercy? The God of compassion?
I recall a sermon in which the lecturer likens our relationship to God to that of a father and son. The lecturer, being the father of a toddler talks about disciplining when the child does not obey. Surely, God does not take pleasure in disciplining us, but it is out of love that He chooses to do so. He prepares us for the trials that lay ahead for entering Heaven, just as a father disciplines a son so that he may learn and grow. I am not yet a parent, but I'm sure disciplining a child is more difficult for a parent than it is for the child. But it certainly done out of love and in the best interest of the child. It is no different with God. We are His children. He wants to shower us with Blessings, but instead disciplines us in Love. What did we do wrong to warrant this discipline? For Adam and Eve, it was the original sin, for the vendors at the temple, it was turning His house into a "den of thieves," and for us, it was for having leaves but not bearing fruit.
Let us not forget that as children of God, we have an obligation to make Him proud. Use this week, the week of the Holy Pascha, to reflect on how to yield fruit and how to make our Father proud.
Posted by Jake at 11:22 AM
Thursday, April 9, 2009
DURING A HEATED debate in class today on the subject of abortion, I started to think about my own opinions. Obviously there are many extenuating circumstances having to do with abortion, but I have come to believe that with the options available to us, the issue of abortion has become moot. Medicine has advanced to allow for contraceptive and block fertilization immediately following intercourse (of course the latter is to be used in extreme circumstances only).* The justification behind allowing these medicines and condemning abortion is the intent; medicines prevent, and abortion ends what has already begun (this is a euphemism of the termination of a fetus' development if that is at all possible). This is the stance the Coptic Church has taken, but in the wisdom of the Church, every case is handled individually by the woman's father of confession.
Concerning the debate on when a fetus can be considered a human, I don't buy into the viability argument. Many of the elderly aren't viable in the sense that they cannot live without life support; are they not human? Many are also without a functioning heart; I assume they are not human as well? A sound argument should be without exception, so it must be that those arguments are simply justification to meet a person's personal agenda. A human is a human, even if he/she/it is composed of only one cell.
God has a hand in everything. If He wills a child to be born, it will happen. This is why He said "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." To me, it is arrogant to say a mother has authority over the life of her child, for only God has that authority to determine which lives should begin and end. It is not part of a woman's body either; this seems silly to me because how can a part of a body become its own body? A woman cannot regenerate as other simple organisms do (duh); therefore a woman begets a child, a women doesn't simply break off a fetus. Besides, a man contributes to the child's cell development, so the child doesn't completely belong to the woman. The baby is God's child before it is any woman's, therefore we must use reason before allowing such a travesty to become commonplace.
Posted by Jake at 10:42 AM
Monday, April 6, 2009
SOMETIMES WE TRY to do too much. We forget that we were told only to love our neighbor, and not the entire world. I've been giving this much thought lately; servants being overburdened and friends inheriting drama. As if life isn't strenuous enough, certain gracious people take on the burdens of others in an attempt to do good. I'd like to share an excerpt from an article I stumbled across by Father Charles M. Mangan:
Selfless service is not always easy. We become tired. We may feel as though we are unprepared to perform the specific task that God desires of us. We may be inclined to become agitated at those who don’t cooperate or who even oppose our endeavors. We may find ourselves burdened servants while our neighbors seem oblivious to all that remains to be accomplished for the glory and honor of God and the salvation of souls.
It is undeniable that service is strenuous, but that is no reason to be discouraged. The path of the righteous is never an easy road, but there lies its beauty. I don't think any reasonable person would try to argue that service is a bad thing, but it is important to set a limit. Service can be emotionally draining, which makes all the more appreciative of Christ's stay on Earth. I propose that God does not want us to burden ourselves. No where does He say to fix the entire world, but rather to do good to those around you. I admire the zeal of the servant, but wish that their service doesn't become destructive. Probably the biggest lesson I had to learn as a Christian is that Christ saves, not us.
Posted by Jake at 11:34 PM
Friday, April 3, 2009
THE JOB MARKET is awful right now. People are worried about losing their source of income, and we are reminded about how bad it is wherever we turn. But it is written: "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things." God provides, so you need not worry.
Posted by Jake at 4:43 PM
Thursday, April 2, 2009
EVERYONE IS WAITING for a miracle, but what is easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven you" or "Arise, take up your bed and walk?" Non-believers are always looking for miracles, but He said "Blessed are those who believe without seeing." I heard a sermon recently in which the speaker asked why Christ would want someone to find Him on their own? The speaker likened it to ruining the plot of a movie for someone (admittedly not the greatest example, but just to better understand the idea), it is something that is best experienced first hand to grasp the full effect.
The truth is, miracles, in the common understanding, really aren't all that miraculous to a Christian. The sacraments are miraculous, salvation is miraculous, love and forgiveness are miraculous; appearances of Saints aren't nearly as glorious. I really like how Jesus emphasized this point in the story of the four men bringing the paralyzed man to Him for healing. The paralyzed man's sins were forgiven before he was healed, again asserting that salvation is more important than health or any other worldly matter. So I conclude, if you want to see a miracle, witness the change Christ can have in a person, for that is a real miracle.
Posted by Jake at 11:03 PM
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
WHEN DID DISCRETION die? I am currently reading a book about law in the United States and how it no longer allows for the courts to use any type of discretion. The author states that law is now devoid of "the one indispensable ingredient of any successful human endeavor... judgment." In an idiot-proof world, we are taught that things are to be done by the book, and we are never taught to exercise our judgment. Instead of children learning on their own, warning signs and directions abound. Nothing will ever replace experience, nor will laws ever be all-encompassing.
We have all heard the expression: "the spirit of the law." This is to say that more important than the actual wording of the law, is the intent of it. Unfortunately this was lost in much of America's laws (which is Phillip Howard's argument), and for society as well. Howard continues by saying "human activity can't be regulated without judgment by humans." This is because within human beings is our God-given morality. Although some are trying to suppress this little voice, it is still within us pressing us to be loving and compassionate.
So important is this idea of using discretion and understanding the spirit of the law, that Christ sought to correct the understanding of the almost law-worshipping Jews of the time. So when the Pharisees "saw some of His disciples eat bread with undefiled, that is, with unwashed hands, they found fault." What good is holding tradition if you do not remember why you are holding this tradition? If you aren't asking yourself why, then you are doing it wrong; and if the answer to that "why" isn't "my salvation," then you fail again.
It has also been said that the best law is one that is complete and brief in wording. Love the Lord God and Love your neighbor; I'd say that fits the description.
Posted by Jake at 10:17 PM