This is a guest post from Michael Ghobrial – a loyal FrAnthony.com follower who has guest posted on my blog before.  Michael is also a fellow blogger from “across the pond (that’s London, UK).  You can follow him on his blog and on Facebook as well.  And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.

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I woke up this morning with a really heavy heart, overwhelmed by a lot of things. I could feel my Spirit longing to nourish himself with the word of God and I knew I just needed to vent out so much emotion to Jesus. I felt like a balloon about to pop!

Fortunately my friend the Holy Spirit pushed me to pop in His presence and not on my own, otherwise I would have sunk in a deep cycle of negativity and self-pity. Nothing feels better or more intimate than pouring your heart out to your God, raw emotions and all. After a few seconds of silence I begged the Holy Spirit to speak loudly to me, to hush all the noise in my head, and I opened my Bible.

“He [Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”  (Luke 4:16-21)

This was Jesus’ response to my wounds, and I needed those exact words.

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Where are you God?  How come you’re not answering me God?  Why are leaving me like this God?  I just can’t take it any more!” 

alone

We’ve all been there and if we’re honest, the majority of our experience in prayer centers around God’s absence more than His Presence.  Yes there are times when we’re overwhelmed by God’s Presence and feel that we’re standing before the Almighty Himself; but if you’ve ever tried to pray consistently and regularly, you know that those times are the exception, not the rule.

In fact, if you’re like most people (including myself), more often than not you’ll finish your time in prayer and not feel anything spectacular or earth-shattering at all.  You’ll wonder if your prayer even went beyond the ceilng.  You know for sure you were talking, but was anyone up there even listening?

It’s not just me is it?

If you’ve never set out to pray consistently, this might sound strange to you; but if you have, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about the feeling of “where are You God?” and “how come You’re not answering my prayers God?”   It’s the feeling of calling a friend, pouring your heart for 10 minutes and then realizing that you got disconnected 9 minutes ago.

I’m talking about feeling God’s ABSENCE more than His PRESENCE when it comes to prayer.

[How’s that for a motivational speech to get you fired up about prayer?  Who’s ready to pray after that intro?  YEAH!]

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What is undeniably the one characteristic where our lives differ the most from that of the early church?  Is it prayer?  Or fasting?  Or witnessing?  NOPE!  Check out these passages from Acts 2 and Acts 4 and see for yourself:

“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.”   Acts 2:42-45 

“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need.”  Acts 4:32-35

The answer is GIVING!  But not giving the way we do it – a “tip” we put in the donation box once every few months.  No way.  The early church was known for its lifestyle of SACRIFICIAL GIVING – where each one “sold their possessions and goods” and laid the proceeds at the feet of the apostles.

Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  But maybe it’s not.  Check out Part 5 in The BodyShop series as we continue to look at what it means to be healthy member of the Body of Christ.  I guarantee you won’t want to miss this one!

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How Long, O Lord?

March 20, 2015 — 18 Comments
This is a guest post from Marina Abdel Malak – a FrAnthony.com favorite when it comes to guest posts.  In her previous posts, Marina spoke about her battle with ANOREXIA NERVOSA and how God helped her fight through it.  Thanks to God, Marina has overcome her illness and therefore has become an inspiration to many people (including me!) via her inspirational blog.  And if you too are interested in guest posting on my blog, please visit my Guest Post guidelines for more info.

Sad little girl

I’ll be honest; the past few weeks have been tough for me. Have you ever had one of those weeks when everything seems dim and nothing seems to go your way?

You’re tired and lacking sleep. You forgot to pay a bill and now have to pay interest. Your friends are angry with you because you don’t have the time to sit and talk with them. Your family is dismayed at your inability to complete daily tasks at home. Your boss and coworkers are making you feel inferior. Your next assignment is due tomorrow and you have no idea how it will get done in time.

You feel exhausted and long to get away from everything…forever. And on top of all that, just when you don’t need to add anything else to your plate, you feel that God isn’t there either!  You’re tired and frustrated and you just want to complain and let out a loud SCREAM!

AHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Hopko (1)For those who don’t know, yesterday we lost one of the great pioneers and teachers of Orthodox Christianity in America, Fr. Thomas Hopko (1939-2015).

Fr. Tom was noted Orthodox priest, theologian, preacher, speaker, and dean emeritus of one of the most prestigious Orthodox theological seminaries.  But the best thing about Fr. Tom was his ability to live deeply and simply at the same time – a balance that all of us should strive to achieve.

Nothing exemplifies that depth and simplicity more than his 55 MAXIMS TO CHRISTIAN LIVING.  

Below are the 55 maxims and I encourage you to read them carefully.  Special thanks to Fr. James Guirguis for first publishing this list on his blog two years ago.

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Yesterday marked the three year anniversary of the departure from this world of a true spiritual giant, His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. I therefore thought it fitting to honor this saintly man with a post I wrote back in 2012, just days after his death, speaking about some of my experiences with the departed Pope and some lessons learned as well. May the Lord accept the prayers of this righteous man on behalf of us all and on behalf of His Beloved Church.

Over the past few days, a lot has been written about the life and legacy of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III.  As is often the case with a righteous man, it isn’t until after his departure from this world that we realize the true greatness of the man that was in our midst.

Unlike so many others, I can’t say I had a lot of personal experiences with His Holiness.  The number of times I had significant interactions with him could be counted on one hand.  However, even though the interactions weren’t many in number, the few that did take place left powerful marks in my life.

“Powerful” is actually the best word I can use to describe him.  He was a powerful man.  Not powerful in a worldly sense, but powerful in a godly authority kind of way.  Just one look from his eyes or just one word from his mouth was always accompanied with the kind of godly authority that I always imagined Moses the Prophet speaking with in the Old Testament.  One minute in his presence and you knew you weren’t talking to an ordinary man, but rather a man who is empowered by the Living God.

I’ll talk about just two of those interactions that I had with our departed Patriarch – the first one and the last one.  Let’s start with the last one and move backwards.

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“God uses COMMUNITY to lead us to MATURITY.”

God’s plan for humanity has always been clear – that we “may GROW UP in all things into Him who is the head—Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).  As any parent, God isn’t content for us to merely be born into His family; He desires that we would grow and reach the point of maturity.  His desire is that we wouldn’t just grow OLD, but that we’d grow UP as well.

How does that maturity happen?  I believe that a major portion of the process takes place in the context of community.  Without community, you’ll never reach the level of spiritual maturity that God desires for you life.

How can I say that?  Check out Part 4 in The BodyShop series as we continue to look at the different markers that make for a healthy member of the Body of Christ.

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