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Armenian Pastor

A Christian Witness Since 301 A.D.

Ten Spiritual Disciplines That Create Intimacy With God

Below are ten Spiritual Disciplines that create intimacy with God. Try them and see which one is a good fit for you.

  1. Solitude: Refraining from interacting with other people in order to be alone with God and be found by Him. Just like any relationship, you must put time and effort to deepen the bond. Create your own Fortress of Solitude, where there are no distractions so you simply sit still before the Lord.
  2. Prayer: A conversation with God. The Lord’s Prayer is the best template to use to understand how to pray. When we pray we must see God as our loving Father, we can talk to Him like we talk to our own parents when we were children. Having a specific time each day and using a prayer journal can help cultivate a prayer life.
  3. Fasting: Abstaining from eating food for a while (drink water).  Fasting can be as short as skipping a meal for one day to being as long as forty days (see medical professional before attempting). From personal experience, fasting enhances prayer.
  4. Study: Understanding the revelation of God found in Holy Scripture (Luke 2:46). If you are reading your Bible correctly, it should help you understand who Jesus Christ is and what he has accomplished for us. The more you understand Jesus Christ, both your self-awareness and your awareness of who God is will increase.
  5. Reflection: Paying attention to our inner self in order to grow in love for God, others, and self. Journaling is a good way of reflecting on the past to help your future. Asking the Holy Spirit to help with reflection is extremely important. Also processing your discoveries out loud with someone else is crucial.
  6. Secret Service: Being a ninja with your good deeds. It’s doing good things like donating your money to good causes with the motive of serving God rather than serving your own personal brand. It’s the love language of giving your time and money without expecting anything in return.
  7. Sabbath: No work! Say no to consumerism and the love of money once a week by resting in what God has accomplished for you in Jesus Christ.
  8. Confession: If you hold on to secrets with a significant other it will destroy intimacy with that person. The same principle holds true with God. We must acknowledge our sin to God and live in the freedom God’s forgiveness provides. It is important to Confess with another brother or sister in Christ.
  9. Worship: Enjoying the arts that give glory to God. We are made in the image of the Creator who gave us creativity to use. Whether it is music, dance, painting, graphic design; we can connect to God through the beauty of the arts. The most common one is enjoying worship music.
  10. Celebration: Taking joy in what God has done. Jesus Christ’s first miracle was open-bar at a wedding. It’s important to know how to party (without breaking commandments) to be thankful to God for milestones in history, and for our personal and community lives.

Mesrob Mashtots’ Trinitarian Prayer

Mesrop Mashtots was a monk that created the Armenian alphabet in A.D. 405, so that Armenians can read the Bible and worship God in their own language. The invention of the alphabet ushered in an intellectual renaissance that anchored Armenian culture in Christianity. Below is a Trinitarian hymn that Mesrop wrote that focuses on the economic justice theme found in the Gospel of Luke. 

Christ, God of gods, have mercy on me. In iniquity did my mother give birth to me. I beg you, Savior, have mercy on me.

Wounded in sin, I fall down before you, Savior. Do not overlook me. Have mercy on me. 

Sighing, the tax-collector received forgiveness in the temple. In his very words I too call out, “have mercy on me, God” (Luke 18:9-14).

The thief cried upon the cross: “Remember me, Lord.” In his very words I too call out, “Have mercy on me, God” (Luke 23:39-43).

Pleading, the prodigal son begged you, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.” in his very words I too call out, “Have mercy on me, God” (Luke 15:11-32).

With the poor, Lord, grant us sobriety, by the example of Lazarus, so that in voluntary poverty we might be worthy with him of the kingdom of heaven. Hear us and have mercy on us, Christ God.

In the place of bread of deprivation, you granted him the bread of immortality. And contrary to the uncompassionate rich man, you received Lazarus into the Bosom of Abraham. Hear us and have mercy on us, Christ God (Luke 16:19-31).

Enlighten the eyes of our heart so we may receive the mercy that comes from you, Lord of mercy, lest like the rich man in the fiery furnace, we ask to be refreshed with a fingertip of water. Hear us and have mercy on us, Christ God together with the wakeful ones in heaven, glorify the almighty Father, God who has no beginning!

With angelic voice, glorify the Only-begotten Son, begotten of the Father! And with joyous sounds, glorify the Holy Spirit, the Restorer, with unceasing voice!

God without beginning and heavenly king, glorified by the immortal heavenly hosts, we bless you, O Father without beginning. You humbled yourself from the heights for our salvation, O Liberator of bonds and Healer of our souls. We praise you, Only-begotten Son. Consubstantial with the Father and glorified with the only-begotten, distributor of gifts and bestower of mercy, You we glorify, true Holy Spirit.

O Wisdom of the Father, who shined the divine light of your Word upon the darkness of ignorance enclosing the world, enlighten us also. You signified in the rich man and Lazarus an example of the universal judgement by handling them the contrary fates they received. And so we shall ask you, Lord, to save us from the fire of sin and suffering, that we might rest in the bosom of the righteous patriarch.

With him, we too join the voice of the choirs of angels singing glory in the highest to the indivisible Holy Trinity!

Stop Speaking Satan

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” Jesus Christ 

The language of Satan is lying. God’s language is sharing the truth in love.  Satanic language leads to distrust, condemnation, slander, and destruction. Godly language builds people up in love. The problem with the human condition is that we are bilingual. We speak both the language of God and the language of Satan. But, we are all called to become illiterate in Satan’s language and become literary scholars of God’s love language. We become illiterate in Satan’s language when we stop lying to others, stop lying to ourselves, and stop hiding from God our Father, who knows everything.  We become experts in the language of God when we hold on to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, obey His commandments, and confess our dark secrets in the light of God’s grace.

Everyone hates being lied to. Why lie to others? We need to tell the truth to others just as we want to hear the truth. Plus, God hates it when people lie. “The LORD detests lying lips, but he delights in people who are trustworthy” (Proverbs 12:22). We must share the truth in love. This is not an option but a command. The truth is always to love. And love must always have the truth in it.  

The lies we believe about ourselves shape our identity. What lie do you believe about yourself? The biggest lie you can believe is that God does not love you. God is Love and God loves you (1 John 4:8). No matter what you have done and no matter what has been done to you, God’s love in Jesus Christ is the ultimate truth. That loving truth covers us in righteousness.We do not need to seek our value from our own performance, but we must find it in the finished work of Jesus Christ. We no longer need to seek approval from others; instead, we should live freely in the enjoyment of the acceptance that we already have in Christ Jesus.

Confession means to speak the same thing. In other words, confession is acknowledging what God already knows. However, we like to keep our sin in darkness. Sometimes it seems that God lets us stay in the dark, but living in the dark is detrimental to our souls. As the late Carrie Fisher said, “you are as sick as the secrets you keep.” We must expose our secrets under the divine spotlight by confessing them to God and others. When we confess, there is always forgiveness at the end of the tunnel.

We must be witnesses to the truth—we must not bear false witness. We must delight in the reality that God is a loving Father who is quick to forgive because of Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross. We must rely on the Spirit of Truth to illuminate and guide us into all truth (John 16:13). This is how we can eliminate Satan’s vocabulary from our minds and speak the language of God.

A Letter To My Beloved: Hrant Dink Eulogy

This eulogy of Hrant Dink was delivered by his wife Rakel Dink on January 23, 2007. The funeral service turned into a demonstration of thousands of people gathering in the streets of Istanbul demanding free speech in Turkey.   

I am here today full of immense grief and dignity. My children, my family, you and I are in mourning. This silent love bestows upon us some fortitude. It enables us to experience within us a sorrowful calm.

In the Bible, the Gospel of John 15:13, states, “there is no greater love than for a person to give up his life for the sake of his friends.”

My dear friends, today we send off half of my soul, my beloved, the father of my children and your brother. We are going to conduct a march without any slogans and without showing any disrespect to those around us. Today we are going to generate immense sound through our silence.

Today begins the moment when the darkness of the valleys rises towards brightness.

Whoever the assassin may be, whether he was 17 or 27 years old, I know that he was once a baby. My brothers and sisters, one cannot accomplish anything without first questioning the darkness that creates an assassin from such a baby…

My brothers and sisters,

It was Hrant’s love for honesty, for transparency, for his friends that brought him here. His love that challenged fear made him great. They say: “He was a great man.” I ask you: “Was he born great?” No! He too was born just like us. He did not come from the heavens; he too was created from earth. But what made him great was his living spirit; his deeds, his style, and the love in his eyes and his heart. It was what he did, the style he chose, the love in his heart that made him great.

A person does not become great naturally; it is through his deeds that he becomes great… Yes, he became great because he thought great things and pronounced great words. You too all thought great things by coming here. You talked greatly through your silence; you too are great.

But do not let this suffice; do not be content with this alone.

Hrant marked the birth of a new era in Turkey and you have all been his seal. With him changed the headlines, dialogues, and bans. For him, there were no taboos or forbidden topics. As it is stated in the scriptures, it all sprang from his heart. He paid a great price. Futures for which great prices are paid can only be accomplished through such love and belief; not with hatred, insults, by holding one blood superior to another. This rise is only possible if one sees and respects the other as oneself, if one assumes oneself to be the other.

They separated him from the heaven of his home he had created with the help of Jesus. They made him spread his wings to the eternal celestial heavens – before his eyes tired out, before his body had the chance to age, before he could become sick, before he could spend enough time with his loved ones.

We too shall come, my beloved. We too shall come to that matchless heaven. Love and love alone enters there. Love and love alone that is superior to the speech of humans and angels, to prophecy, to mastery of all the mysteries, to faith that moves mountains, to sharing all one possesses, even to giving up one’s body up to flames.

Only that love will enter heaven. There we shall live together forever in true love. A love that is not jealous of anyone, a love that does not covet the property of anyone else, a love that does not murder anyone, a love that does not belittle anyone, a love that holds one’s brother and sister more dear than oneself, a love that abandons one’s own allocation, a love that demands the rights of one’s brother and sister. A love that is found in the Messiah. And a love that has been poured into us.

Who could forget what you have done, what you have said, my beloved? Which darkness could erase them? Could fear? Could life? Could injustice? Could the temptations of the world? Or could death have them forgotten, my beloved? No, no darkness is capable of having them forgotten, my beloved.

I too wrote you a love letter, my beloved. Its cost was dear to me too, my beloved. I owe it to Jesus that I was capable of penning this, my beloved. Let us give his due to Him, my beloved. Let us give back everyone their due, my beloved.

You departed from those you loved; you departed from your children, your grandchildren. You departed from those here who came to send you off. You departed from my embrace. You did not depart from your country, my beloved.”

 Translation by Fatma Müge Göçek.

Top Ten Pastor Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes

In the quiet recesses of my heart, I am fundamentally a clergyman, a Baptist preacher. This is my being and my heritage, for I am also the son of a Baptist preacher, the grandson of a Baptist preacher and the great-grandson of a Baptist preacher.

  1. We need to pledge ourselves anew to the cause of Christ. We must capture the spirit of the early church. Wherever the early Christians went, they made a triumphant witness for Christ.
  2. Those of us who call the name of Jesus Christ find something in the center of our faith which forever reminds us that God is on the side of truth and justice. Good Friday may occupy the throne for a day, but ultimately it must give way to the triumph of Easter.
  3. Evil may so shape events that Caesar will occupy a palace and Christ a cross, but that same Christ arose and split history into A.D. and B.C., so that even the life of Caesar must be dated by his name. Yes, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.
  4. Use me, God. Show me how to take who I am, who I want to be, and what I can do, and use it for a purpose greater than myself.
  5. The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.
  6. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love.
  7. Christianity affirms that at the heart of reality is a Heart, a loving Father who works through history for the salvation of His children. Man cannot save himself, for man is not the measure of all things and humanity is not God. Bound by the chains of his own sin and finiteness, man needs a Savior.
  8. By opening our lives to God in Christ, we become new creatures. This experience, which Jesus spoke of as the new birth, is essential if we are to be transformed nonconformists . . . Only through an inner spiritual transformation do we gain the strength to fight vigorously the evils of the world in a humble and loving spirit.
  9. Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
  10. I heard the voice of Jesus saying still to fight on. He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone. No, never alone.

The Three Gifts of Jesus

“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, ‘Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.’” –Matthew 2:1-2

According to an early Armenian source, the names of the three magi were Kaspar, Melkon, and Baghdasar. Kaspar was thought to be from India, Melkon from Persia, and Baghdasar from Arabia. However, the truth is that it is difficult to confirm this information. We do not know how many magi visited, or their ethnicity, and we are uncertain what a career as a magus entails. The Bible remains silent on these issues. But what we do know for sure is that the magi brought three gifts that show us why Jesus Christ is worthy of our worship. The gold, frankincense, and myrrh are symbolic of why Jesus Christ is humanity’s greatest gift.

The gift of gold represents Jesus our king. Jesus is the long-awaited messiah that fulfilled the promises of the Old Testament. King Jesus is the one whose kingdom will have no end (2 Samuel 7). Christmas is the inauguration of heaven invading earth. The gift of Jesus as our king frees us from the responsibility of playing God. When we confess Jesus as the Lord of lords and the King of kings, we allow God to take his rightful place as the ruler of our lives. Only when we serve Jesus as king will we be able to live out line from the Lord’s prayer: “your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). 

Frankincense symbolizes Jesus as our eternal high priest (Hebrews 9:11–14). Frankincense can be used as incense, which was used in the Old Testament for sacrificial rituals for the forgiveness of sins.  Jesus is not only our Lord, he is also our Savior. He came to save us from our sins. Jesus was born to die, to provide the sacrificial offering to once and for all put an end to the powers of sin and death. When we receive Jesus, we experience the gift of complete forgiveness of sin. God’s Holy Spirit can now take residence within us. Because of Jesus’ blood, Jesus’ righteousness becomes ours—we are granted eternal life.   

Myrrh represents Jesus our prophet. To be a prophet of God, one needs to receive the spirit’s anointing. Myrrh was used as an important ingredient for anointing oil (Exodus 30:22-30). Jesus Christ is our ultimate prophet because he is the only person who reveals God to us. He is the one who communicates to us what God is like because he is God. “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe” (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus is our prophet who shows us the way to God. When we follow Jesus, we take on the prophetic role by pointing others to him. We tell others that Jesus is indeed the Savior King. 

Jesus gives us grace. He is our king because he brings order and purpose to our lives. He is our high priest because he has redeemed us from the shackles of sin and death, and gives us God’s goodness and eternal life. Jesus is our prophet because he teaches us who God is and how humanity should act. Jesus is our glorious king, priest, and prophet, whom we, like the magi, must worship, praise, and thank forever and ever.

Christ Centered Expectation

“We have this hope, a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered, having become a high priest forever.” –Hebrews 6:19-20

When I was eating lunch at my seminary cafeteria, I had high expectations that the burrito I was about to devour would taste amazing. The burrito smelled and looked good, but it tasted awful. It was so bad that it made me lose my appetite. My friend Ryan, who witnessed the whole scene, told me that I need to set my bar low. He went on to discuss his set-the-bar-low life philosophy, which is to not have high expectations. Whether it is seeing a new movie, going out on a date, or eating a meal, you need to have low expectations in order to secure your happiness. For example, if I set the bar low for the burrito, I would have not been as upset about the nasty taste.  On the flip side, if the burrito were delicious, I would have been especially happy because it surpassed my expectations.

Christmas is when God sets the bar high for His creation. Jesus Christ reveals God to us and the standard by which we are to live. The bad news is that the bar is set so high that it is impossible for us to attain it on our own. The Good News, however, is that Jesus Christ is our savior who imparts his righteousness to us. In Jesus Christ, we have already met God’s expectations for us! This is called the gift of grace. Christ Jesus gives it freely to us; we in turn live for Him and place our ultimate hope solely in Him.

Christian hope is having proper expectations in the promises of God, promises that are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. When our ultimate hope rests in our Savior King, we will become realists. We will not be overly optimistic because we will not be surprised by the chaotic effects of sin and death. We will not be pessimistic either because we will be aware of God’s forgiveness and the victory we have over the grave. Hoping in Jesus Christ gives us proper perspective. It helps us see what is true and enables us to endure through any hardship. Again, as Christians, we do not have our heads buried in the sand. Rather, our hope in Christ causes us to be more in touch with reality.

What is the difference between regular hope and ultimate hope? There is nothing wrong in hoping to have good things like a family, a good career, and health. However, when anything earthly becomes our ultimate hope, the thing without which we cannot be happy, we commit the sin of idolatry. Having our ultimate hope in Jesus Christ will purge the idols that lay dormant within our hearts. Hoping in our risen Savior will align us with God’s will.  Only when our ultimate hope is found in Jesus Christ can we hold onto something that will last in this life and the one that is to come. Only when we find ourselves in Jesus Christ can we meet God’s standards of living.

Christmas is a time to remember the one in whom we have our ultimate hope. Jesus is the one who can forgive our past, give our present purpose, and secure our future. Christian hope entails completely depending on Christ: He is worthy of our hope!

Patience Is A Virtue

“It is patience which firmly fortifies the foundations of our faith. It is this which lifts up on high the increase of our hope. It is this which directs our doing, that we may hold fast the way of Christ while we walk by His patience. It is this that makes us to persevere as children of God, while we imitate our Father’s patience.”  -Cyprian, On the Good of Patience256 AD.

The popular expression “patience is a virtue” derives from a fifth-century epic poem, “Psychomachia” (which translated means “soul war”). In the narrative, virtues and vices are personified forces that duel one another on the battlefield. One of the fights is between Patience and Anger. Anger assaults Patience with her attacks. Patience is able to hold her ground and take every attack Anger throws at her. Anger is so frustrated that her assaults are not working that she self-destructs, killing herself. Patience is victorious because she endures the punishment of Anger and does not respond in kind.

Love is the greatest Christian virtue, and patience is a vital component for being a loving person. While the statement “patience is a virtue” is not found in the Bible its sentiment is there. The opening line to the Apostle Paul’s love hymn is “love is patient” (1 Corinthians 13:4). Furthermore, patience is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22 ESV). To be like Christ is to be patient. It is to be able to endure hardship, to resist being flustered easily and acting out in fear or pride. It is to be at peace knowing that God is in control.

The early church grew because of it’s patience. Alan Krieder’s book,  The Patient Ferment of the Early Churchexplores how patience was vital for the flourishing of Christianity before Constantine’s conversion. The church grew because their was an emphasis on the slow process of creating disciples of Jesus Christ rather than just winning converts. It was common for new believers to take up to three years of christian training before they were baptized. The model is based on Christ’s ministry, who took three years to train his disciples before they were ready to live out the great commission of making disciples of all nations and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The emphasis of quality Christianity over quantity Christianity led to genuine christian communities that reflected the lifestyle of Jesus Christ.

Without patience it is impossible to follow Jesus. If we are impatient we will become dismissive of the Heavenly Father’s love for us. Patience  keeps our hearts humble. It is what allows the Holy Spirit to work within us. Patience is a virtue indeed.

Hiding or Seeking God?

 

But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” –Genesis 3:9-10

The tragedy of the human condition is our tendency to run away from God rather than sprint towards Him. When we hide from God, we lose intimacy with God, and when we lose intimacy with God, we lose ourselves.

Guilt, shame, and fear are three unholy things that prevent us from experiencing a healthy relationship with God. The Good News is that God does not want us to live in guilt, fear, or shame, but wants to cover us with His grace.

 Guilt

Guilt is feeling remorse over a past misdeed. Whenever we do something we should not have done and whenever we fail to do something we should have done, we become scarred with guilt. The reality is we are all guilty of sin. To believe otherwise is to lie to ourselves. As a pastor, my intention is not to impose guilt on people, but to help people realize the guilt that has already stained their souls.

What are we doing with our guilt? Are we hiding our sin from God or acknowledging what God already knows about us? Are we confessing our sin or pretending that it does not exist?

The Good News is that Jesus Christ is our guilt offering. In Jesus Christ, there is forgiveness! Our past is redeemed, our future is secured! We do not need to live in guilt but can live in the freedom that Jesus Christ brings to all who trust in Him. Jesus Christ is our savior, our redeemer, and friend, who washes away our guilt.

Shame

Shame is the painful feeling of humiliation in the present; it means that you are not happy with who you are or how you are perceived by others. Shame can come from evils by which we were victimized. It can also be caused by something evil we have done ourselves. While it comes in many forms and sources, shame indicates that we are not comfortable in our own skin.

The question is what are we doing with shame? Are we hiding our own nakedness before God or are we asking God to cover us with His righteousness?

The Good News is that the Holy Spirit is with us and gives us our true identity. Because of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, we have access to God the Holy Spirit. All we need to do is pray and ask God our Heavenly Father for the Holy Spirit’s help. The Holy Spirit is our guide who can give us peace, joy, love, and self-control. The Holy Spirit can make us comfortable in our own skin and transform us into who we are meant to be.

Fear

Fear is feeling dread about the future. We get overwhelmed with a future outcome that may or may not happen. Fear can prevent us from doing the right thing. When we become afraid, we can enter into flight mode and run away from our problems, or we can enter into fight mode, and overreact, doing something irrational. Sometimes fear can produce a third reaction, the freeze mode, in which we are paralyzed. Fear holds us hostage and makes us anxious.

What are we doing with our fears? When fear creeps up, do we enter into fight, flight, or freeze mode? Or do we enter into faith mode, trusting that God will be with us to help us overcome our fears?

The Good News is we have a loving Heavenly Father who reminds His children to not be afraid. In fact, “fear not” is the number one command throughout the entire Bible. It is a command that is almost always followed by a sentiment of “I am with you.” Even when confronted with death itself, we have no reasons to fear. As our Risen King says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Take heart, church! Fear not! God loves you!

Guilt, shame, and fear are enemies opposed to the love of God. Instead of hiding our guilt, shame, and fears from God, we need to process them and renounce them. We need to hand them over to God. We need to be honest with our Heavenly Father rather than hide from Him. We need to run towards Jesus Christ rather than run away from Him. We need to trust the Holy Spirit rather than doubt the unchanging love He shares with all his children.

 

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