Thursday, November 29, 2012

November 29, 2012

Acts 2:38

Then Peter said to them, Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Encouraging Words...

What a wonderful gift we receive from God when we give our lives to Christ...the Holy Spirit. We are not only saved from death, but we are filled with God Himself through the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

November 28, 2012

Psalm 16:3 (15:3 LXX)

To the saints on His earth,
In them He magnified all His will.

Encouraging Words...

Through the Church, historical and present, God has poured out His will so that the world might know Him. Through the Church, both collective as a body of believers and individually as His saints, God has given His light to be beacons in a dark world.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27, 2012

Psalm 119:133 (118:133 LXX)

Direct my steps according to Your teaching
And let no lawlessness rule over me.

Personal Challenge...

Do I truly desire to be like Christ? To follow in His footsteps? If so, then I must be pursuing Him like nothing else in my life matters. I must be reading His scriptures, learning from the fathers of the faith, spending time with Him in prayer and practicing the traditions of the Church. If my steps are to be directed by Him then I must be near to Him and know Him intimately.

Monday, November 26, 2012

November 26, 2012

1 Timothy 1:5

Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,

Personal Challenge...

The law, the commandments of the old covenant as well as the commandments of Christ are all built around loving God and loving our neighbor. Paul informs me here in this letter to Timothy that I cannot love the way that God wants me to out of the compulsion of the the law for the it is superficial.. I must love from a pure heart, one that is filled by the Holy Spirit and continually being turned over to Him. I must love from a good conscience, one that is continually being cleansed by confession and repentance. I must love from a sincere faith, one that is actively pursuing the likeness of Christ.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November 25, 2012

Matthew 16:24-28

Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.

Assuredly, I say to you, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.

Personal Challenge...

Why is it that I continue to turn my back on what I know to be the truth and my responsibility as a follower of Christ? His expectation is really simple...deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him. The difficulty comes up in the desires that are in my flesh for the things of this world. Is not the reason that we fast from the things of this world so that we can develop the capabilities to give up other things from the world. We do not fast out of legalistic obligation, but as a willing way to build up our spiritual muscles.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

November 24, 2012

Luke 10:19-20

Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.

Encouraging Words...

Through Christ we are given such great power and authority over this temporal realm as well as in the spiritual realm. This, however, is not what we should cherish because that leads to pride, idolatry, and sin. We should cherish the work of Christ, what He has done for us, which leads to humility and righteousness.

Friday, November 23, 2012

November 23, 2012

Galatians 5:22-23

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self- control. Against such there is no law.

Encouraging Words...

I am so thankful that I was able to grow up in a rural farming culture. It was hard work at times but it has given me insights and understanding in the scriptures that are invaluable. A tree does not give off any fruit other than what is imbedded in its genetic structure. This passage is a promise that if I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me then this fruit will be forthcoming in my life. The degree or magnitude of the harvest is dependent upon how I take care of myself (my thoughts, my desires, my actions) but in all cases the Holy Spirit provides my genetic capability for this fruit to be present. How is my garden growing.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

November 22, 2012 (Happy Thanksgiving!)

2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.

Encouraging Words...

God is faithful. When I let that sink in it reminds me just how powerful this is. It is absolute, it is permanent, it is all-inclusive. God is faithful. He will never falter on me, He will never abandon me, He will always do what is best for me in my and on into eternity.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 21, 2012

Luke 18:15-17

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.

Encouraging Words...

The commentary on this passage usually focuses on the way that we should be as we come to children; believing, trusting, obedient. However, this passage also says a lot about how God receives us. I am a father, I have raised children. I am blessed that now I am a grandfather and get to participate in the raising of another generation. God receives us as our Heavenly Father; with open arms, with delight, with great joy and love. He wants no one or no thing to come between us and Him. His arms are wide open for me, His son, His child, and I am blessed to rest peacefully in them.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 20, 2012

Isaiah 26:2-4

Open the gates; let the people enter who keep righteousness and guard the truth, and who lay hold of the truth and keep peace, because they hope forever in You, O Lord, the great and eternal God,

Encouraging Words...

What a wonderful progression we have here. It all starts with our great and eternal God. Jesus, God as man, came to live amongst His creation so that death coud be conquered and so that we would have someone to put our hope into. Through that hope in Christ and our desire to be like Him we can be peacemakers in the world around us. As we do this we can begin to lay hold of the truth that He reveals to us. As we guard this truth, assimilate it into our lives, we become more like Him in our righteousness and enter the gates that He has opened before us.

Monday, November 19, 2012

November 19, 2012

Luke 17, 20-21

Now when He was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, See here! or See there! For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.

Encouraging Words...

The notes in my Orthodox Study Bible say, 'The "kingdom of God" is a spiritual reality present within the Christian believer and within the community of the Church. "Within you" can also be translated "among you" or "in your midst." What a wonderful and refreshing view of eternity and our hope for heaven. The moment that we were baptized into Christ through the Holy Spirit we stepped into the reality and the presence of the kingdom of God. This is not something that we are waiting upon our physical death to be made present, but it is now. With that in my mind (and in my heart) I should be living my life as an eternal being in the kingdom of God, pursuing Him, striving to be like His Son...progressing on my journey of theosis. It is a mystery, but then again, He is God and I am not, who am I to question His ways.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

November 18, 2012

2 Corinthians 8:9

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Encouraging Words...

What a precious gift from give up His Son so that I, a part of His creation, might be reunited to Him in eternity. What a wonderful sacrifice that Jesus was willing to make in order to heal the brokenness caused by sin. If only I can become more like Christ and give up of myself to those in my life...especially my wife, children, grandchildren, other family, and friends.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 17, 2012

Psalm 91:1 (90:1 LXX)

He who dwells in the help of the Most High
Shall lodge in the shelter of the God of heaven.

Encouraging Words...

This chapter in the Psalms describes the intensity of spiritual warfare that we, the Church, are engaged in. In order to stand up in this battle I must dwell under the protective wings of my Lord.

Friday, November 16, 2012

November 16, 2012

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;

Encouraging Words...

As a child of God I am set apart and special in His eyes. If I truly believe this then it is imperative that I live my life in a way that proclaims Him, praises Him, sheds light (His light) on those around me. May God, in His grace, be ever present in my heart and therefore in my actions.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

November 15, 2012

1 Thessalonians 5:14-15

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

Personal Challenge...

I cannot remember how many times I have found myself in the midst of a church family feeling lonely, overlooked, and looking for community. I admit that part of that falls upon me, but part also falls upon the church. I believe one are of deep brokenness in our church here in America is the lack of true community, true fellowship. And I believe a lot of this is due to our individualism and propensity to define the gospel that way that fits our own personal doctrine. One of the things that I sincerely appreciate in the Orthodox church is the focus on community. We believe our salvation is worked out in community. Even our prayers use collective petitions (us, we, our) versus individual ones (I, me, mine). Paul tells us in these verses to live our lives active in our church community...not as consumers, but as investors.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

November 14, 2012

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim

O Lord and Master of my life, do not give to me the spirit of laziness, faintheartedness, lust for power, and idle talk.
But give to me Your servant the spirit of purity, humility, patience, and love.
O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, for blessed are You unto ages of ages.

Encouraging Words...

This powerful prayer which is typically prayed during Lent is a regular part of my daily prayer and scripture routine. I love how it reminds me to depend upon my Lord for everything and to put others around me above myself. This is no simple task and the reason why I need a daily reminder. O God, cleanse me a sinner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November 13, 2012

1 Thessalonians 3:12-13

And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints.

Personal Challenge...

Is my goal, my desire, in life to be determined blameless in holiness when I stand before my God? Then this verse gives the formula for getting there...loving one another. Quite a simple formula yet one that will take everything I can muster to follow every day with everyone in my life.

Monday, November 12, 2012

November 12, 2012

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Personal Challenge...

I am getting so tired of well-meaning people around me acting like doing the "right" things in my Christian life are what make me a better, more godly Christian. Say these prayers at this time, bow this way, go to this "spiritual" place, read more scripture (or worse yet, more books about the scriptures). Jesus did all of the work that could possibly be done to save me from death. I can do nothing to be saved or be more saved. If I am truly following Him with all of my heart, soul, mind and body then I will do things that glorify Him, that build up His body, that encourages and uplifts those around me, I must always be examining my heart to make sure that my motives are His motives and not mine.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

November 11, 2012

Psalm 119:130 (118:130 LXX)

The revelation of Your words gives light,
And it causes children to understand.

Encouraging Words...

Why do we make the Christian life so much more difficult than it really is meant to be? Christ
Himself told us to become like little children in our relationship with Him. Is my heart as innocent as a child's? Is my desire to know my God as deep as a child's? My prayer is to be a true child of God.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November 10, 2012

Psalm 119:11 (118:11 LXX)
I hid Your teachings in my heart
So as not to sin against You.

Personal Challenge...

The Christian life is not one lived in a vacuum or lived according to my ways, but it is a life that is a lived out by pursuing the heart of God, reading His scriptures, listening to His teachers, practicing His traditions. It is a life that is a journey and not just a destination.

Friday, November 9, 2012

November 9, 2012

Psalm 145:18 (144:18 LXX)

The Lord is near to all who call on Him,
To all who call upon Him in truth.

Encouraging Words...

Truth...such a much misaligned word or concept in today's world. How often have I heard in the corporate world the belief of not telling the customer all of the story of what we can actually deliver (i.e. withholding details) is telling the truth, or fudging on what our company can actually do is telling the truth. When did the white lie become so acceptable. Now we are seeing organizations, educational institutions, churches and ministries doing cover ups (financial scandals, sexual improprieties and on and on) in the name of protecting the image of their precious cause and calling it truth. I do not believe that any of this aligns with God's definition of truth. And here in this verse we are reminded that the Lord is near to all who call on Him, but He does give us a caveat...we must call upon Him in truth, His truth not ours. Maybe this is why we are seeing so many exposures of hidden lies in His Church today. If God beginning to clean His house.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

November 8, 2012

Judges 6:12

And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, mighty one of the armies!”

Encouraging Words...

I love how the Lord reveals to us in the scriptures His true heart and well as ours. Here we see Gideon hiding from his enemies so that he can sneak together some wheat for himself and his family. An Angel fo the Lord appears to him and speaks of his true character..."a mighty one of the armies." God knows our heart better than we do. He knows me better than I know myself. Doesn't it make sense that the closer I draw to Him the more the true me will be revealed. I love how the early church fathers state this in my daily prayer for the acceptance of God's will.

     O Lord, I do not know what to ask of You.
     You alone know what are my true needs.
     You love me more than I myself know how to love.
     Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me.
     I do not dare to ask either for a cross or for consolation.
     I can only wait on You. My heart is open to You.
     Visit and help me, for the sake of Your great mercy.
     Strike me and heal me; cast me down and raise me up.
     I worship in silence Your holy will and Your unsearchable ways.
     I offer myself as a sacrifice to You.
     I have no other desire than to fulfill Your will.
     Teach me to pray. Pray You Yourself in me. Amen. 

God is God and I am not.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

November 7, 2012

Luke 12:48b

For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

Personal Challenge...

This verse should be very sobering to anyone who takes on a leadership position in the church. Whether it be Sunday school teacher, choir member, pastor, priest, elder, bishop, committee member, or whatever...once we willingly accept the role of leadership we step into the reality that God will expect more from us. And the higher up in leadership that we go, i.e. the more people that my decisions and actions affect, the more that God will expect of me. I often wonder why it is that so many times one moves up in his/her leadership role the more they forget this truth. My prayer is that I will remember it all the more and become more humble each time that God chooses to give me more responsibility.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November 6, 2012

Psalm 62:8 (61:9 LXX)

Hope in Him, all you congregation of people;
Pour out your hearts before Him;
God is our helper.

Encouraging Words...

As another election spectacle comes to an end this verse reminds me that it is not in governments or political parties or elected officials that I should be putting my hope, but in God alone. His is the only kingdom, the only leadership that I am to put my hope into.

Monday, November 5, 2012

November 5, 2012

Luke 12:29-31

“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you."

Personal Challenge...

I have been blessed to have been able to walk through nearly 47 years with Christ as my Lord. Throughout those years I have had my good times and my bad times, I have walked close to Him and sometimes wandered away from His straight and narrow path. But in all of this I have learned the truth of this passage. God does provide for me...more than even I do myself. God does provide for me...not necessarily what I want but what I need. I have learned to be content with Him and not worry or get upset about what is going on around me or in my life. Thank You, Lord Jesus.

Unfortunately I allowed an event yesterday to really get under my skin and get me very angry. One thing that I cannot stand to see is a leader in the church misuse his position of authority for personal gain and get away with it, or worse yet, be protected by other leaders around him/her. This is a misuse and abuse of the authority provided by God and an affront to the Bride of Christ. For this anger I pray, "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." For this acto by another, one in a leadership position I pray, "Father, my Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." My plea for all involved is, "Lord, have mercy!, Lord, have mercy! Lord,have mercy!"

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November 3, 2012

2 Corinthians 5:1

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Encouraging Words...

Death! One of those inevitable events in life that so many people fear and loathe. This week has been quite a reminder for me of the fragility of life. Earlier this week my priest's father passed away...he was of the generation of my parents, who have had quite a year dealing with physical maladies. Then Laura's cousin passed away...she was of our generation. We went to her funeral today.

The notes in my Orthodox Study Bible have the following comment about this verse:

     "Fear of death is overcome by hope in the resurrection,
     faith in the Holy Trinity (vv. 5, 7), and the love of Christ
     and our union with Him (v. 14). Our earthly house (v. 1)
     is our present mortal body. The building from God, the
     one which is from heaven (v. 2), is the immortal, deified
     body we shall have in heaven (see 1Co 15)."

As these notes go on to explain the glory of our future and the hope that we can have in it I am comforted that i know that Jesus reigns victorious over death.

Friday, November 2, 2012

November 2, 2012

Luke 12:34

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Personal Challenge...

I must constantly be checking the state of my heart. Where my heart gets focused on is where my thoughts, my desires, my actions get targeted at. If the treasure that I truly pursue is the things above then all else will fall into place properly

Thursday, November 1, 2012

November 1, 2012

Colossians 4:2

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving;

Personal Challenge...

Prayer is to be an ever present part of my life. It does not mean that I have to be running to a private place to be in prayer, or in some special position with hands folded. I am to be earnestly and vigilantly pursuing the heart of God, and doing it always with a spirit of thanksgiving. I love how the Jesus prayer, "Lord, Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!", can be prayed under my breath or out loud, with my prayer beads or not, in the middle of a meeting or while riding my motorcycle. A simple prayer, that when prayed enough, becomes embedded in my very essence and brings me closer to Paul's charge to pray without ceasing.