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”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS: WHERE DO YOU STAND?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. Luke 10:27
I love Thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in Whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:1-2
Good morning Prayer Team!
Before I offer a reflection on how to love God, I want to ask for prayers for someone who loves God very much, someone who I deeply respect and admire, someone I am privileged to call a friend, and someone who can use your prayers. Her name is Presbytera Jenny. She has been bravely fighting cancer for the past 18 months. Her cancer has come back and she is undergoing treatment far from home, far from family. Please remember Presbytera Jenny, her husband, Father Thomas, and their daughter, Marina, in your prayers. Presbytera Jenny is part of our prayer team. Let’s let our team step up and pray for our team-mate!
The two great commandments call on us to love God and love our neighbor. In the last reflection we spoke about love and what love means. Today we will talk about how to love God, and then the following three reflections will offer practical advice on how to making loving God part of your everyday life.
The Psalm verses above describe God as a source of strength, a rock, a fortress, a deliverer, a refuge, a shield, a stronghold. It is easy to express love for God if God is all of these things to you. Is He all of these things to you?
Complete this thought: I love Thee, O Lord my _________________________
Write down as many things as you can about what God means to you and to your life. Love is the pinnacle of any relationship, because love is the willingness to empty oneself for the benefit of another. So loving God is the pinnacle of the relationship with God because when we love God, we desire to empty ourselves and give to Him. When we love God, we desire to focus our lives on living for Him.
There is a set of evaluation questions which many people use before they receive the sacrament of confession. The questions are based on the Ten Commandments. The First Commandment which God gave to Moses in Exodus 20:2-3 says “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.” On the evaluation page, there are several questions that I pose to you as well:
Has God been the source, center and hope of my life? (Write down what is at the center of your life)
Have I put myself, others or things before God? (Write down your list of priority and see where God falls on that list)
Have I failed to trust in God’s existence, love and mercy?
Have I failed to pray to God, to worship Him and to thank Him for His blessings?
Have I tried to serve God and keep His commandments faithfully?
Have I murmured or complained against God in adversity?
Have I praised and glorified God through my words and deeds?
If God is the source, center and hope of our lives, then we will be following all the commandments. Failure to keep Him at the center is the root cause of all sin. And sin, simply put, is failure to love.
So how are we supposed to love God? We are supposed to love Him constantly, in all that we do. Superimpose the face of Christ over every person you meet and show the love to them that you would show if Christ Himself was standing before you, because He is, in the face of whoever you meet. Prayer, worship and learning are three ways to grow in our love for God. So tune in next time for practical ways to improve each of them.
Again, we are praying for mercy, life, peace, health, salvation, strength, courage, stamina and joy for your handmaiden Jenny, Presbytera, who is ill, and for her husband, Fr. Thomas and their daughter Marina. Give them strength in every trial, and restore her to perfect health as it pleases You. For You are the healer and physician of our souls and bodies and to You we give glory, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Put God first today!
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