Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
LET US GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD
I give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart. Psalm 9:1
For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God. Romans 2: 28-29
Good morning Prayer Team!
There is a difference between giving out of gratitude and giving out of obligation. When we give out of obligation, we never really give with joy. And I’m not talking only about giving money. When we give time and attention to something and we only do so out of obligation, there is no joy in that.
In order to rectify the disorder and chaos that resulted from the Fall of mankind, God gave His people rules to follow in order to maintain good order. The Jews were God’s chosen people. And to be a Jew, each male needed to be circumcised, and each person needed to follow laws and commandments. The problem was that these rules became ends unto themselves. People “loved” the rules and stopped loving each other. People criticized others for not following the rules to the “nth” degree. The “temple elite”—the Pharisees and other ruling classes—oppressed temple-goers and in some cases, even took advantage of people’s lack of understanding of the law to penalize them in ways that hurt financially. (This is why Jesus turned over the tables in the temple, because it had become a place of commerce instead of a place of worship.)
This is why St. Paul writes in his Epistle to the Romans that one is a Jew, and today a Christian, based not on what is outside, but what he holds in his own heart. Anyone can come to church on a Sunday and act unchristian the rest of the week. Anyone can wear a cross around his or her neck while doing all manner of unchristian things.
This is why we talk about a grateful heart and not a grateful wallet or a grateful career. A grateful heart might manifest itself into a generous spirit or a noble career, but it starts with the grateful heart.
There are so many things in life that we cannot change. I can’t change that traffic is heavy every morning on the way to work as an example. But I can change how I react to the traffic. I can’t change certain people who don’t get along with me. But I can change how I react to them.
And there are many things in life that we can change. We CAN control what we eat and whether or not we exercise. We CAN control how often we pray and worship. And we CAN control how we react in all circumstances, even though we don’t control the circumstances themselves.
At the center of how we approach each challenge is our heart. A heart that is grateful seeks to glorify God in all circumstances. This is what it means when read about putting away the old man and living for Christ. It means putting away the very human desire for power, greed and retribution when wronged, and instead living in Christ by seeking love as the first recourse in any situation, and cultivating the grateful heart that puts love, and therefore Christ, above all.
Lord, guard my heart today. Give me a grateful heart. Allow my heart to meditate on what is good and right and noble and true. Amen.
Guard your heart today!
Photo Credit: Project Inspired
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