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Armenian Pastor

A Christian Witness Since 301 A.D.

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.

 

Top Ten Christian Pickup Lines That Will Make You an Atheist

1) Baby, you’re just like water …Except Jesus turned you into FINE.

2) Now I know why Solomon had 700 wives… He never met you!

3) So last night, I was reading the book of Numbers, and I realized I don’t have yours!

4)  Me + You = Song of Songs: the remix

5)  Is this seat saved? Because I am.

6 ) Jesus says, “give drink to those who are thirsty, and feed the hungry” so how about dinner tonight?

7) I just want you to know, I’m praying for you… No, I’m praying “FOR” you.

8) Hey girl, are you related to Abraham’s nephew? Because I like you A LOT.

9) My parents are home, wanna come over?

10) Is it a sin that you stole my heart?

Meditate on Love

“Do everything in love.” –1 Corinthians 16:8b

It is our God-given responsibility to doing everything in love. Not only some things, not only a couple of things, but all things! Loving others isn’t an option, it is a command. We must give without expecting anything in return. Whether it is to love God, our neighbors, our friends, or even our enemies, we must always choose to love. It is our sacred duty.

However, the word ‘love’ has turned into a cliché. When one hears the word ‘love’ one often thinks of a fleeting feeling. Our culture has reduced love to three-minute pop songs and ninety-minute romantic comedies rather than the foundational truth of the universe. God is Love and our definition of love should come from knowing who God is (1 John 4:7-21). Emotions are good, but love is not only a feeling, it is continual action that demands our mind, body, emotions, and strength (Matthew 22:36-40).

Pride, which is the antithesis of love, was destroying the early church in Corinth. The Apostle Paul wrote the letter of first Corinthians to remind believers that love is the most important thing and that love will build the church. The climax of the letter is Paul’s great love hymn (1 Corinthians 13). It is a song that answers the question: what is love? In the verses, Paul tells us that love is patient, kind, and rejoices with what is true. He reminds us that love isn’t envious, rude, or arrogant; love never delights in injustice. He tells us that love can endure all things and in the end love will be victorious.

The Good News is that Jesus Christ reveals love to us. When we look to Jesus and understand what Christ has accomplished, love becomes more than an abstraction. Christ is love personified. He is patient and kind. He rejoices with what is right. Jesus isn’t envious, rude, or arrogant. Jesus Christ is the one who has endured all things for our sake. Christ said “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Jesus laid down his life for us. Through His sacrificial love, Jesus achieved victory over sin and death. Like love, Jesus Christ’s reign will have no end.

It is essential for us to meditate on love, especially when we do not feel loved or do not feel like loving others. As an exercise, I urge you the reader to write your own love meditation answering the question what is love? Using Jesus as your example, meditate and write out what love is. In addition, read 1 Corinthians 13 and do your best to memorize the chapter. The passage is not just meant to be read at weddings, but is a reminder of the loving lifestyle that we are all meant to live.

Pascal’s Night of Fire

On November 23, 1654,  Blaise Pascal  encountered God in a vision. He wrote this prayer to remember the moment and carried it with him wherever he went by sewing it into the liner of his coat:

Fire

‘God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,’ not of philosophers and scholars.
Certainty, certainty, heartfelt, joy, peace.
God of Jesus Christ.
God of Jesus Christ.
My God and your God.
‘Your God shall be my God.’
The world forgotten, and everything except God.
He can only be found by the ways taught in the Gospels.
Greatness of the human soul.
‘O righteous Father, the world had not known you, but I have known you.’
Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.
I have cut myself off from him.
They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters.
‘My God will you forsake me?’
Let me not be cut off from him for ever!
And this is life eternal, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’
Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ.
I have cut myself off from him, shunned him, denied him, crucified him.
Let me never be cut off from him!
He can only be kept by the ways taught in the Gospel.
Sweet and total renunciation.
Total submission to Jesus Christ and my director.
Everlasting joy in return for one day’s effort on earth.
I will not forget your word. Amen.

What Does The Bible Say About Celibacy?

I am single and an ordained minister of the Armenian Evangelical Church. A common question I get asked is whether or not I can get married. The answer is yes! I can marry! Date me ladies! (Great job showing off your confidence Haigo!) However, not every church denomination allows for their clergy to marry.

To clear up the confusion, here is a breakdown of the rules each major Christian tradition has concerning whether or not their clergy can get married:

Roman Catholic Church: Celibate Clergy Only

If you want to become a priest you are not allowed to get married before or after your ordination. Rare exceptions have been made but the norm is celibacy.

Eastern Orthodox and Apostolic Churches: Both Celibate and Married Clergy

You can get ordained if you are married. But cannot get married if you are already ordained. Celibate priests are the only ones allowed to climb the hierarchy of leadership.  

Protestants (Anglican, Evangelical, Pentecostal):  No Restrictions

Clergy can get married before or after ordination, they also have the freedom to choose to be celibate.

Being single and wanting to marry is not celibacy, that just means you haven’t found someone yet or have no game. Did I mention I’m single?

So, what does the Bible say about clergy having to be celibate?

The answer is: if you want to get married go for it, if not that is okay too.

Most of the apostles were married and the single apostles had the freedom to get married if they desired. The Apostle Paul, who was single, says in his letter to the church in Corinth, “Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?  Cephas is the Aramaic way of saying Peter, the leader of the twelve disciples. In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus Christ heals Peter’s mother-in-law of an illness when they visited her home after coming from the synagogue.  

The rules for required celibacy for priesthood developed later within church history. For a quick timeline click here

What are your thoughts about Celibacy? What are the pros and cons for being single? What are the pros and cons for getting married? Should clergy be celibate? Comment below. Subscribe. 

The Kerrs and The Armenians

Steve Kerr just coached the Golden State Warriors to the best season in NBA history. He surpassed his own record when he played shooting guard on Michael Jordan’s 1994-95 Chicago Bulls. Kerr holds the record for best three-point field goal percentage in league history. He is a six-time NBA champion (five as a player and one as a coach) and is looking to capture his seventh this season. But Steve Kerr’s accomplishments on the basketball court pale in comparison to his grandfather’s humanitarian achievements.

Steve Kerr’s grandfather Stanley Kerr worked for the American Near East Relief (now Near East Foundation), which organized the world’s first large-scale, modern humanitarian project in response to the Armenian Genocide. After the end of World War I, Stanley Kerr was given the task of relocating Armenian Genocide survivors to MarashWhile working in the Near East, Kerr met fellow relief worker Elsa Reckman, who would become his wife. Elsa also taught math at the Marash Women’s College. My grandmother Anna (Kalpakian) Kherlopian was from Marash and knew the Kerrs personally.

After the Great War, French forces were in control of Marash. However, war broke out again in the winter of 1920 and the French army abandoned the area. This left the remaining Armenians to face massacre once again. Churches and schools were burned to the ground with innocent civilians inside. An ancient civilization was completely uprooted.

Stanley Kerr wrote about what he witnessed in The Lions of Marash. His book also incorporates a collection of other eyewitness accounts from missionaries, clergy, doctors, and officials. He concluded his memoir with these words: “Of the eighty-six thousand living in the district of Marash in 1914, only twelve thousand were known to have survived …. The ancient city of Marash, with a history extending far into the dim past beyond the Hittite period and once largely populated by the Armenians, had finally become purely Turkish.”

Stanley Kerr left Marash in 1922 with a group of Armenian orphans to go to Nahr Ibrahim, Lebanon. He was in charge of an Armenian orphanage there with his wife Elsa before it closed. In 1925, Stanley earned a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and became the chairman of the Department of Biochemistry at the American University of Beirut.

Stanley Kerr’s son, Malcolm Kerr, followed in his father’s footsteps and became an academic. He later went on to become the president of the American University of Beirut. Tragically, on January 18th 1984, Malcolm was assassinated in the midst of the Lebanese Civil War. Steve Kerr was a freshman playing ball for the University of Arizona when he heard of his father’s murder.

When reading about the extreme atrocities and massive loss of life in the genocide, it is easy to lose hope in humanity. However, focusing on the people who offered precious help in that circumstance will enable us to see the goodness of humankind. The Kerr family is one of those lights within the dark chapters of Armenian history. They exemplified moral courage by their willingness to leave the comfort of America to educate and serve widows and orphans in a distant land. For us today, the question becomes whether we have a duty not only to celebrate their legacy but also to emulate it.

 

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American Board of Missions and Near East Relief personnel in Marash in 1920. Left to Right: Rev. James K. Lyman, Ellen Blakely, Kate Ainslie, Evelyn Trostle, Paul Snyder, Bessie Hardy, Stanley E. Kerr, Mrs. Marion Wilson, and Dr. Marion Wilson

Raise Three Fingers for Your Faith!

Jensine Oerts Peters was a Danish missionary who spent her life serving the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire. Below is her account of the martyrdom of the men from Malatya, during the Hamidian Massacres in 1896.

“Forty-six men were lined up against the wall, their tormentors, armed to the teeth, facing them. They were given the alternative of raising one finger, signifying one God and Mohammed, His one prophet, to save their lives. Not a hand stirred as they stood facing death. Then they were asked to raise three fingers for their faith in the triune God, which would mean death. This time the hands came up with the three fingers. This done, they were led to the waiting block, and in less than thirty minutes all were decapitated, their bodies heaped up in a corner of the courtyard, and their spirits were in the presence of the Lord forever safe from their enemies.”

Jensine’s memoir about her work with the Armenians can be found online right here: Tests and Triumphs of Armenians in Turkey and Macedonia. 

Did Jesus Sing?

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. -Mark 14:26

Jesus sang a hymn with his disciples at the Last Supper. It was the last thing he did with them. I wonder what kind of hymn it was …

Was it considered contemporary or traditional? Was it sung in Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek? Was it done acapella and did Peter ‘The Rock’ Son of Jonah have a solo? Or was there instrumentation? Maybe James and John are called the ‘Sons of Thunder’ because they can play a mean harp. (“Sons of Thunder” is the name of an 80s Christian rock band. I Googled it; check it out, actually, please don’t.)

Because the song was after a Passover meal, it was most likely one of these Psalms: 113-118. If I were to pick one, I would go with Psalm 118, which is often quoted in the New Testament. Plus, it is a victory song speaking about the day when God becomes our salvation:

“The Lord is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. There are glad songs of victory in the tents of the righteous… The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.”  ––Psalm 118:14, 22

The truth is no one knows for sure what was sung that night, but I am certain the disciples sang that song again and again and when they did, it reminded them of their friend Jesus and what he did for them on the night of his betrayal.

I love the Armenian instrument of the duduk because of its range of emotion. It can produce the saddest noise imaginable(The Passion of the Christ and Gladiator) but it can also get people celebrating on the dance floor. I imagine the hymn the disciples sang with Jesus probably had the emotional range of a duduk, where it started on the low note of Good Friday but ended with the high note of Easter.

The hymn sung at the Last Supper was the first of many hymns that would remind disciples throughout history of Jesus’ victory over the grave. Thousands of songs have been written in various periods and languages since that night, praising Jesus Christ for his sacrificial love and the salvation he brings.

Church, let us sing and be grateful for our Singing savior!

Spiritual But Not Religious?

 

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”—James 1:27

Half of the people my age have a negative impression of religion. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, only 55 percent of millennials (ages 18-34) think that religious organizations have a positive effect in the United States. This is down from 73 percent in 2010. I believe that this decline is due to the church’s failure to live out its calling among the general public. I also blame the trendy phrase, “I am spiritual but not religious.” The church in America needs to reclaim a Christian understanding of the words “religion” and “spirituality.”

Young evangelical Christians often say they are spiritual but not religious to emphasize their personal relationship with Jesus Christ over rules and commandments. I have also heard it from my friends who acknowledge a spiritual nature to their existence while rejecting the dogmas of major religions. I am for religion so long as it is the one based on Jesus Christ. I am all for spirituality so long as it is Holy Spirit filled.

Calling someone religious may be a nice way of saying that person is a bit weird, boring, or judgmental. When we think of “religious” people, we may imagine people like the Pharisees and Sadducees, whom Jesus decried for being hypocritical and legalistic. Pharisaical behavior is what the Christian religion is called to condemn—not exhibit. For, Christianity is about loving others as Jesus Christ loves us. In its pure form, it is taking care of those in society who cannot give you anything in return.

Simply because something is spiritual doesn’t automatically make it a good thing. In fact, there are a lot of spiritual things that go against God. However, where the Holy Spirit is at work, God is present. Peace, love, joy, and kindness are the results of the work of the Holy Ghost (Galatians 5:22-23). The Holy Spirit unlocks the mystery of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and enables us to cry out to God as our Abba, Father (Romans 8:15). We cannot be Christian apart from the spirituality that is gifted to us by the Holy Spirit.

Let us call ourselves religious so long as it is based on Jesus Christ. Let us call ourselves spiritual so long as it grounded in the Holy Spirit. This is the type of religion and spirituality for which humanity is created.

Magi Vs Priests

Before Vartan the Brave made his epic stand against the Persian forces in the Battle of Avarair, there was a clash between the clergy. Before the Armenian warriors took on the war elephants by the banks of the Dughmood River, there was a war raging over the souls of the people. It was a battle between Christianity and Zoroastrianism, a fight between priests and magi.

The year was 451 C.E., and the Sassanid Persian King Hazegerd II felt politically threatened by the Christian identity of the Armenians under his rule. He made a decree that they renounce their Christianity and accept Zoroastrianism. The Armenians refused. In the writings of Yeghisheh, who chronicles the events of Vartan, two letters are preserved. One is from the magi of Zoroastrianism, which indicates what the magi found wrong with Christianity and why they insisted Armenians relinquish their faith. The other letter is a response from the Armenian bishops, defending belief in Jesus Christ.

The first grievance the magi had against Christianity concerned its view on creation. An ancient religion, Zoroastrianism maintains that two forces were at work in the creation of the world. These forces—a deity of light and a deity of darkness—are said to be in continual battle with one another. The opposite sides call to mind a backgammon game—only the world happens to be their board.

The Armenian priests responded to the first complaint by saying that they believed in one God who made all things good. He who created the world ex nihilo – out of nothing – is Himself outside of space and time. “God has not received a beginning from anyone else, but He is eternal through himself. He is not bound by space, for He himself is space. He is not confined within any time, for all time has its existence from Him.” God is the Creator who is control of His creation, and that creation is affirmed as good.

The second criticism that the Persian magi had regarded the Armenian lifestyle. Their complaint reads: “Do not believe your clergy when they say it is very sinful to accumulate wealth; they respect misery and denounce success. They ridicule the name of fate and mock fame severely. They love plainness of apparel and respect the dishonorable more than the honorable.” The way of life the Persians mocked was the life of Christ. Jesus reveals to us that humility is a virtue, that we should take care of the poor, and that we should serve others rather than be served. 

Thirdly, the magi opposed belief in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They had difficulty accepting central tenets of the faith such as the Virgin Mary, the shameful death of Jesus, and Jesus’ resurrection. The Armenian clergy knew that Jesus was the risen Lord whether or not others believed it to be true. They had encountered the Holy Spirit; their only rebuttal was their willingness to be martyrs. Thus, they concluded their letter: “From this faith no one can shake us, neither angels nor men; neither sword, nor fire, nor water, nor any, nor all other horrid tortures. All our goods and possessions are in your hands, our bodies are before you; dispose of them as you will. If you leave us to our belief, we will, here on earth, choose no other master in your place, and in heaven choose no other God in place of Jesus Christ, for there is no other God. But should you require anything beyond this great testimony, here we are; our bodies are in your hands; do with them as you please. Tortures from you, submission from us; the swords is yours, the neck ours. We are no better than our forefathers, who, for the sake of this faith, surrendered their goods, their possessions, and their bodies. Were we even immortal, it would become us to die for the love of Christ; He himself is immortal and so loved us that He took death on Himself, that we, by His death, might be freed from eternal death.”

Let us be encouraged by the faith of our ancestors by living the same faith out today. Let us praise our Creator rather than the creation. Let us live like Christ rather than live for money, sex and/or power. Let us be empowered by the Holy Spirit to scorn any earthly shame that comes from believing the Gospel, for it is the power of life over death.

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