by Chris Banescu – God respects our freedom and does not force us to love or follow Him. He expects the same consideration from us. He wants us to respect His freedom in deciding if, when, and how He acts. Mutual respect of one another’s freedom is a precondition to all healthy and loving relationships, especially our relationship with our eternal Father, the Lord of all creation.
From the very beginning God created us to have free will. He gave us the freedom to chose right or wrong, to either love or reject Him. Knowing that free will would eventually bring about evil, God nevertheless gave us the liberty to chose and be in control of our destiny. He most likely did this because, “free will though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having,” wrote C.S. Lewis. A world of puppets on a string, of creatures that were no better than programmed robots and worked like computerized machines, would “hardly be worth creating.” [Read more…]
by Chris Banescu – The Bible warns us that confronting and trying to correct and rebuke scornful and wicked individuals can be harmful. The Proverbs caution that “he who corrects a scorner [scoffer] gets shame for himself” and “he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself” (Proverbs 9:7). The Scriptures further instruct us to “not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you,” but instead “rebuke a wise man, and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8).
A scorner (or scoffer) is typically someone who treats others with disdain and contempt, someone who unjustifiably considers others as despicable and unworthy.
Scoffers and the wicked unfairly dislike and disrespect anyone they disagree with, even on the smallest of points. They insult and ridicule those who try to correct and rebuke them, frequently responding with open hostility and outright hatred. They always resort to attacking the messenger and ignoring the message. The more reasonable, logical, and true the messages are, the greater the insults and anger that scorners direct at the messengers. [Read more…]
by Chris Banescu – Christianity is not just a “religion.” The Christian Faith embodies the most important truths of this life and all human existence which God first revealed to Moses and the other Old Testament prophets. The fullness of that truth was then completely made manifest in the birth, life, teachings, miracles, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “It is the fulfillment of all religions in their search for divine truth and human meaning as inspired by God’s law written on human hearts,” explains Fr. Thomas Hopko.
Our God is the God of the whole universe and all life. His laws and wisdom govern all creation and all matter, seen and unseen. This is why Saint John the Theologian so powerfully declared a truth that shook the very foundations of the world: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:1-5). [Read more…]
by Chris Banescu – Fr. Peter Gillquist was a loving and faithful shepherd of our Lord. Not only did he bring many in America into the Orthodox Church, but his powerful and public witness to the truth served as a guide and inspiration to many Orthodox. His work helped re-kindle the faith and inspire many cradle Orthodox Christians, like myself and others, to better understand the depth and richness of our Christian Tradition and embrace our heritage with renewed fervor and commitment.
Having been born and raised in the Orthodox Church, I have always believed that that the Orthodox Faith embodied the fullness of the Christian life and faith, Scriptural teachings, and liturgical worship as established by Christ and His Apostles. However, it was not until I read about Father Peter and his flock’s journey of discovery that I truly recognized how much of a priceless treasure it really is. The spark that triggered that awareness and forever changed the priorities of my life sprung from the pages of his book “Becoming Orthodox.”
Fr. Peter’s account of the incredible journey undertaken by the group of American Protestant ministers in search for the New Testament Church shook me to the very foundations of my soul. Here was a group of devout Christians who loved Jesus Christ so much that they dedicated their entire lives in searching for His True Church and in finding a deeper and closer communion with Christ. They did not have the privilege to grow up in the Orthodox Church and partake of its vast spiritual and religious wealth, yet they worked hard, searched steadfastly, and struggled for many years trying to find what was given to me freely. In reading their story I realized just how blessed and fortunate I was to have been entrusted with such a Pearl of Great Price and ashamed of how little I had done with it. [Read more…]
by Chris Banescu – It is reassuring to the flock when a faithful shepherd preaches Christ and teaches the Truth at every opportunity. It is also uplifting for the laity to see an Orthodox Bishop who publicly and clearly proclaims and defends the unchanging moral teaching of the Christian faith and the Holy Orthodox Church. His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah, recently addressed the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) and his comments showed the Church and those listening why he is a worthy leader of the Orthodox Church in America.
In his remarks, Metropolitan Jonah warns us about the radical departure from traditional Christianity we’re experiencing in the West and the dangerous consequences of such actions. He identifies key challenges that Christians face in the increasingly hostile and secularized culture we find ourselves living in and the increasing persecution we will encounter. He also emphasizes the importance of traditional Christian denominations to stand united in opposing such falsehoods.
I have highlighted below several important points and observations from his speech. His words must be shared with the rest of the Orthodox Church and other Christians. The full text of his address is also reproduced further down.
(1) We are all in a serious battle with secularism. Christians must stand together and proclaim the True Christian faith, without alteration, without change, without revisions.
Our battle is against secularism. His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI, has called for us to stand together against this enemy. This is the realignment: to stand together for the faith once delivered by Christ to the Apostles, and thence to the Bishops, without alteration, without change, without revisions; against those who would submit their faith to the current of the age, the wisdom of this world. We must stand together, and we cannot stand alone. Even the immense Roman Church is buffeted by the militant secularists, who defy authority and criticize that which they know not, and we can see in this country how increasingly fragile their unity is. [Read more…]
by Chris Banescu – This past weekend we lost an influential and great champion for Christ and truth. Charles W. “Chuck” Colson’s bright light is no longer in the world, but still shines on in eternity as a beacon of hope and faith for current and future generations. His legacy and example will live on in the hearts and souls of many Christians – Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant – who were inspired by his strong faith, admired his clarity of thought and vision, and were reassured by his courage and conviction.
It is fitting that he went to meet the Lord at the end of what is Bright Week for all Orthodox Christians. For during this time the Resurrection Hymn is sung at all memorial services to remind us that Christ’s Resurrection destroyed death granting us eternal life: “Christ is Risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!”
Unfortunately, I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Colson in person. However, I have followed his active Christian ministry and prolific commentaries with a lot of interest and admiration, often sharing his wisdom with many of our Orthodox Christian readers [Read more…]
by Chris Banescu – Perpetual crises and suffering, societal unrest, financial emergencies, institutional dysfunction, governmental tyranny, murder and mayhem, wars, riots, terrorism, and the persecution of the righteous and innocent continues to be the “normal” state of affairs for people and countries around the world. Despite the constant assurances from most secular governments and politicians who promise us “utopia on earth” in exchange for surrendering more of our freedoms and embracing their atheistic and progressive “solutions”, things are getting worse, not better. This seems to be a persistent problem of all human civilizations throughout history, not just a defect particular to our own age. “Terrific energy is expended — civilizations are built up — excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top, and then it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down,” observed C.S. Lewis. What is the real source of this suffering and is there any hope for a cure?
It is foolishness to believe that the turmoil, economic devastation, social corruption, and societal instability happening in Greece, Egypt, England, France, Romania, other European countries, and even here in America is simply about economics, politics, education, financial mismanagement, or religious, ethnic, or cultural differences. What it is about is the catastrophic moral failure of individuals with power and influence across many organizations and institutions, especially politicians and government leaders. The immorality, vanity, arrogance, hypocrisy, selfishness, corruption, cowardice, envy, greed, and reckless disregard for the long-term safety, liberty, and well-being of the people – whom they have sworn to serve and protect – that we see in the conduct of our leaders are symptoms of what always happens when man rejects God’s truth and wisdom and tries to setup for himself an earthly “utopia” separate from Christ’s teaching. [Read more…]
by Chris Banescu – As the Christmas season fades into the distance and the New Year is upon us, we tend to feel the passage of time most acutely. With the conclusion of the bright and joyous celebrations that commemorate and bear witness to the birth of the Messiah, we often experience a sense of loss, of sadness. We never seem to have enough time to fully immerse ourselves in the feast and absorb the joy and peace that our souls yearn to rediscover and embrace. It all goes by much too quickly. We find ourselves heading back towards the daily routines of our lives, feeling weary, tired, and spent. The light inside us that burned so brightly a few days ago is flickering.
In response, writes Fr. Alexander Schmemann, “come words from an infinite loftiness and an infinite profundity” from the Gospel of Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist. Jesus Christ “was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name… And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:9-12, 16). [Read more…]
by Chris Banescu – There is a reality of the human condition that holds true throughout the history of mankind. Human beings are born with an inner desire for something timeless that nothing in this material world and life experiences can ever truly satisfy. We are all created with a hunger and thirst for God.
All creatures hunger for that for which they were created. A hummingbird hungers for nectar, a lion for meat, a sheep for grass, a dolphin for fish. Man also hungers for food, but he has an even stronger craving for something much greater and more meaningful. “Greater than the hunger for food in man is the hunger for God which manifests itself basically in the hunger for security, for love, peace, joy, meaning, and life,” explains Fr. Anthony Coniaris. This is why Christ reaffirms that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4-4). God is indeed the living water that Jesus spoke of to the Samaritan woman near Jacob’s well, the living water that whoever drinks “will never thirst again”, the water that will become in man “a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4-14).
Real Want for Heaven Man’s inner longing for meaning and happiness is often expressed in a “real want for Heaven” that is present in our souls but which we may not recognize or understand. [Read more…]