Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December 31, 2013

Created in His image...


Wisdom of Solomon 8:17-20

When I considered these things within myself
And thought about them in my heart,
That in kinship with wisdom there is immortality,
And in friendship with her there is good pleasure,
And in the labors of her hands there is unfailing wealth,
And in the shared training of her company there is discernment,
And in the fellowship of her words there is good repute—
Thus I searched about that I might take her for myself.
As a child I was good by nature and received a good soul;
And much more, since I was good,
I entered an undefiled body.

Encouraging Words...

Wisdom (Christ as taught by the early church fathers) is to be sought and pursued by all of us. In Wisdom we find immortality, we are given good pleasure and godly wealth, and we receive training and discernment. God gives us so much in Christ. This passage, plus the following verses also reminds us that when God created us and joins our fleshly body with our soul, He gives us a good soul and a good nature, created in His image. It is as we grow up and make sinful choices that our body, our flesh, becomes defiled and corrupted. This is why it is so important for us to continually pursue Wisdom in our days of living.

Monday, December 30, 2013

December 30, 2013

Gathering the fruit of righteousness...


Hosea 10:12

Sow to yourselves in righteousness;
Gather in the fruit of life;
Light for yourselves the light of knowledge;
Seek the Lord till the fruits of righteousness come upon you.

Personal Challenge...

Works...such a virulent subject to talk about in many church circles. Because of the works of Christ we have our claim to eternity. Through His works, and His alone, we are saved from spiritual death. But it is expected of us, that once we are brought into His royal family, to perform good works for Him. We are commanded to feed the hungry, provide shelter for the homeless, clothe the poor, take care of the widows and the orphans, and do so many more acts of charity. But more importantly we are commanded to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, spirit, and body, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. All of this comes down to works. Not works to win God's favor, but works because God has already poured His favor out upon us. What so often gets in our way of doing this is the sin in our lives. I love how this verse shows us actions that we can take to protect ourselves from sin and to build up our ability to live righteous lives. We are to plant seeds of righteousness purposely in our lives, gather in the fruit of life that we have had planted in our lives by the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.), continually light up our lives with the light of knowledge that is found in God's word, the teachings and traditions of our church, and practices of living God-centered lives. If we do all of this (works) while seeking the Lord we will see His fruits of righteousness growing in our lives. Glory be to God!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

December 29, 2013

Love...the ultimate...


1 Corinthians 13:1-8; 13

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Encouraging Words...

I have always read this passage as a charter for how I am to live my life...and rightly so. It is so clear and concise on how I must do everything from the position of love. But today as I was writing this out I began to read this as a definition, or image, of God and how He loves us. Try it, go back and read this from the perspective of a written icon of God and see just how much He loves His creation.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

December 28, 2013

Keys to a blessed life?


Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness 'sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Personal Challenge...

It always amazes me, confounds me, and then convicts me, when I see in the Scriptures how much God's economy is the opposite of our economy. Poor in spirit, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting, being merciful to others, being persecuted and reviled...are not consequences that I want in my life for being part of royalty as a member of God's family. I want to be treated like royalty. And yet this is the way that our Lord lived His life. He gave up everything for His Father and ultimately for me, a part of His creation. Maybe it is time for me to stop expecting to be treated with greater respect, whether it be at work, or in my church, or in my family and start living the kind of life that Jesus calls me to...humble, lowly, submissive, supportive, loving, caring, obedient, thankful, joyful, peaceful, long-suffering, good, faithful, gentle, self-controlled...and the list goes on. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Friday, December 27, 2013

December 27, 2013

Living our lives in relationship.


Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two are better than one
Because they have a good reward for their labor.
For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.
But woe to him who is alone when he falls,
For there is not a second one to help him up!
If two lie down together, both stay warm,
But how can one stay warm alone?
If one is added strength, two will stand before him,
And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Encouraging Words...

Here we are encouraged to be in relationship with others, because it is when we are living our lives alone that we fall and cannot easily get up. The church is one of those significant institutions that our Lord created and encouraged so that as a body of believers we can encourage and support one another. Unfortunately we live in a society that fosters a culture of individuality, which contradicts the charter of the church to draw people together and develop intimate relationships with each other. Maybe it is time that we reclaim this value and begin to build and maintain close friendships and relationships with our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

December 26, 2013

Where should we be seeking Him?


John 5:39-40

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

Personal Challenge...

Have we developed religious practices that have caused us to become modern day pharisees as the Jewish leaders in the day of Christ? We are often taught that all we need to know is found in the written text of the Scriptures and spend our entire lives pouring thorough them, memorizing them, expounding upon them, and beating our enemies up with them...all the while neglecting to seek Christ and His Father everywhere else. Yes, the Scriptures are God's inspired and holy Word given to us. We are commanded to study them and to put them into practice. But He also reveals Himself in His creation, in the living icons of Himself whom we run into every day...our fellow mankind. He is in the traditions of our church and the teachings of the early church fathers and saints that have gone before us. If we open our minds, our eyes, and our hearts, we will see God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in every aspect of existence and will experience eternal life in Him.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

December 25, 2013

The gifts that started with the first Christmas.


John 14:15-17

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."

Encouraging Words...

So much was set in motion on that Christmas day over 2,000 years ago. God himself came to mankind taking on the fullness of man, living amongst us, being like us, and yet exercising His free will as a man choosing not to sin and therefore being acceptable as the final sacrificial lamb of the old covenant. Then on Pentecost, once again God Himself comes as the Holy Spirit to dwell with us and within us, to be our Comforter, our Counselor, and to lead us in God's ways. Thank You God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the gifts that You poured out on mankind, of which I am fortunate to be part...Your love, grace, and mercy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

December 24, 2013

Living in a new covenant.


Ezekiel 37:26-28

I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant, and I will establish My sanctuary in their midst forever. My tabernacle shall be among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them, when My sanctuary is among them forever.

Encouraging Words...

Tomorrow, on Christmas Day, we celebrate the beginning of this new covenant of peace where God promised to establish His sanctuary, His tabernacle, amongst His people. The Incarnation of God as man, Jesus, was born of a virgin, Mary, who bore Him in her own body as a temple of life, the kingdom of God, where we who know Him and follow Him are now citizens through the remainder of eternity. Glory be to god! May we who are of this new kingdom live our lives in a way so as to be beacons to the nations broadcasting His love for mankind.

Monday, December 23, 2013

December 23, 2013

Dwelling in the house of the Lord.


Psalm 27:4 (26:4 LXX)

One thing I ask from the Lord; this I will seek,
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
And behold the delights of the Lord,
And visit His temple.

Personal Challenge...

Oh how much better we have it today compared to what people had in the day of the psalmist. They had to go to the temple to be in God's presence. We, however, have been established as the temple of God and the place that He dwells through the work of Christ. Unfortunately this makes it easy to get complacent and lazy about going to a place to be with God, or even desiring to do so. How often do I desire to be with my Lord in His dwelling place? Not often enough. How much time do I spend going to His place and delighting in Him? Not enough. And I wonder why I get off track or sin or have things go awry in my life. Just because God promised to dwell within me, His living temple, doesn't mean that I am meeting Him there unless I purposely do so and behold the delights of the Lord.

December 22, 2013

Freedom to worship...


Psalm 34:7-11 (33:8-12 LXX)

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp around those who fear Him,
And He will deliver them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who hopes in Him.
Fear the Lord, you His saints,
For there is no want for those who fear Him.
Rich men turned poor and went hungry;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Encouraging Words...

Oh, how blessed we are to have the ability to participate in our practices of faith however we want and whenever we want. So many Christians in our world are so much less fortunate and deal with persecution everyday of their lives. May we remember them in our prayers and thoughts.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

December 21, 2013

Living the life of an exile?


Baruch 2:14-15 LXX

O Lord, hear our prayer and our petition, and for Your own sake deliver us, and grant us mercy before those who have carried us into exile, in order that the whole earth may come to know that You are the Lord our God, for Israel and his descendants are called by Your name.

Personal Challenge...

We, the Church, the followers and children of the living God, have been carried into exile just as the Israelites of old were. How can I say this when I can look around and see all the freedom and wealth that abounds around me? Because as Paul claimed in his letters we are not of this world anymore, we are now of the kingdom of god and living here as ambassadors for Him. So this verse is so very relevant for us today. We, the Church, especially in the developed world, need His deliverance. We need His mercy before those around us who do not know Him so that the whole world may know that He is the Lord our God.

This has become more evident to me this week than any other time in my life. We have had this whole uproar about how a major media network is treating the leader of Duck Dynasty for expressing his spiritual beliefs. I stand on the side of this man who should have the right to stand up for and articulate his belief in God. I laud him for having the guts to do so knowing that the politically correct world would attack him. More power to him. However, where I have become truly convicted about this is how vocal the Christian community has become about this all the while remaining silent about the many more atrocious events that are going on around us throughout the world: millions of babies being murdered for the purpose of free choice and convenience; the many Christians around the world that are being persecuted and killed while everyone looks the other way; the victims of poverty, abuse, natural disasters, and the list goes on that spurn us to write a check, but not roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty helping them; the billions and trillions of dollars being spent on stuff and sports and Hollywood elites while more and more people around the world and in our own neighborhoods go to bed hungry and cold every night. It all brings me to tears.

And as I write this I find myself doing all of this as well and hearing the Holy Spirit remind me that I too have become comfortable in my exile and am taking on the practices of the land in which I am captured. God, forgive me! God, deliver us from this exile! God, grant us mercy before those who have carried us into exile! God, change us so that we might do Your work in a way that will help those around us come to know that You are the Lord our God!

Friday, December 20, 2013

December 20, 2013

Praying for those in leadership...


Baruch 1:11-12 LXX

And pray for the life of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his son Belshazzar, that their days on earth may be like the days of heaven. And the Lord will give us strength and enlighten our eyes, and we will live under the shelter of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and under the shelter of Belshazzar his son, and we will serve them for many days and find mercy in their sight.

Personal Challenge...

The children of God have long been commanded to pray for those in leadership, whether it be a conquering king like Nebuchadnezzar, an elected president like Barack Obama, or our management where we work. How difficult this can oftentimes be, yet nonetheless we have no choice but to follow our Lord and do what we are commanded. This glorifies Him, lifts His name above all others, and through God's power gives us strength and enlightenment. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

December 19, 2013

Blessings poured out upon us.


Wisdom of Sirach 50:22-24 LXX

And now bless the God of all,
Who does great things in every way,
Who exalts our days from our birth
And deals with us according to His mercy.
May He give us gladness of heart,
And may there be peace in our days,
In Israel as in the days of old.
May He entrust with us His mercy,
And let Him redeem us in our days.

Encouraging Words...

Through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ this benediction of old is fulfilled. In Christ our days are exalted, the Father's mercy is poured out upon us, we are given gladness of heart, we see peace in our days, and He redeems us as His own. Glory be to God.

December 15, 2013

Timing is everything.


Wisdom of Sirach 39:33-35 LXX

All the works of the Lord are good,
And He will supply every need in its hour.
No one can say, “This is worse than that,”
For all things will be well pleasing in their time.
So now sing praise with all your heart and voice,
And bless the name of the Lord.

Encouraging Words...

Glory be to God! He knows our needs and provides for them in the hour that is best. It is our "wants" that so often get confused with our "needs", especially in the society full of wealth and entitlements which we live in. As we learn to live our lives in an ascetic way we begin to develop better understanding of what our true needs are and sing praises to our Lord for meeting them.

Friday, December 13, 2013

December 13, 2013

Studying to grow in Christ.


Wisdom of Sirach 39:1-3 LXX

How different is the man who devotes himself
To the study of the law of the Most High.
He will seek out the wisdom of all the ancients
And be occupied with their prophecies.
He will preserve the discourse of notable men
And penetrate the subtleties of parables.
He will seek out the hidden meanings of proverbs
And be engaged in the riddles of parables.

Personal Challenge...

Do I really wan to know God? To know what He wants me to do in my life? Do I really want to understand the depths of His truths? And how to apply them in my life? Then I must spend time devoting myself to the study of His teachings...the scriptures and all that they provide as His written Word, but also the wisdom of the ancients...our church fathers, the saints that have gone before me, have to offer. God's truth and wisdom is found in the collective teaching passed on to us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

December 12, 2013

Standing firm...


Wisdom of Sirach 37:13-15 LXX

Stand firm on the counsel of your heart,
For no one is more faithful to you than it.
For a man's soul sometimes tells him more
Than seven watchmen sitting high on a watchtower.
And in all matters, pray to the Most High
That He may direct your way in truth.

Personal Challenge...

We are guided here to listen to our heart for counsel and guidance. Now before I get jumped on with reminders that our hearts are bad, I would like to suggest that this passage is speaking in the context of having spent much time pursuing the Wisdom of God (which is personified in Christ). As a redeemed child of God my heart of flesh has been replaced with a heart filled with the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit. It is this new heart, a heart guided by the Holy Spirit, focused on serving God by loving Him and my neighbor, encouraged by wise counsel from other godly men and women, that I should stand firm in the counsel of. This still requires prayer and diligence to make sure that I am being obedient to God. My new heart is good because it is the home of my Lord, but it is my will that I must always be guarding so that it follows Christ. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

December 11, 2013

Glorifying God.


Wisdom of Sirach 35:7-10 LXX

Glorify the Lord with your generosity,
And do not reduce the firstfruits of your hands.
In every gift let your face be cheerful,
And sanctify your tithe with gladness.
Give to the Most High as He has given to you,
And give to Him with generosity, according to your windfall.
For the Lord is He who repays,
And He will repay you sevenfold.

Personal Challenge...

The admonitions to glorify our God with our words and our possessions continues with this passage. We do not do these things in order to earn God's favor, but because God's favor has already been poured out upon us through the work of His Son on our behalf. This is also not some prosperity doctrine where we are promised to receive seven times what we give. This note from the Orthodox Study Bible sums this up well:
"If we give our tithe, the Lord has promised to repay us sevenfold. How? Perhaps by making us more wise in the management of our money. Or He may prosper our work so that we have even more to give. Or both! Even better, He always enriches the generous giver with joy and many spiritual blessings."
We must always remember that God's economy is much different than man's and has eternal consequences.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December 10, 2013

Living sacrifices...


Wisdom of Sirach 35:1-3 LXX

The man who keeps the law will abound in offerings;
He who heeds the commandments sacrifices a peace offering.
He who returns a kindness offers fine wheat flour,
And he who does alms sacrifices a praise offering.
To forsake evil is pleasing to the Lord,
And to forsake wrongdoing is atonement.

Personal Challenge...

Even our brothers and sisters of old, before the new covenant ushered in by Christ were encouraged to be living sacrifices for God. Throughout the Old Testament we are directed to live our lives in a way that far exceeds the value of the sacrifices and offerings that were established for God's people. We can do this even today by being obedient to the law articulated by Jesus (love God and others), being kind to those who are in our lives, giving alms (giving above and beyond our tithes and offerings), and fleeing from sin. All of this creates a fragrant offering that is lifted up to God.

Monday, December 9, 2013

December 9, 2013

Blessings indeed!


Wisdom of Sirach 34:15-17 LXX

Blessed is the soul of a man who fears the Lord.
To whom does he look? And who is his support?
The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love Him.
He is a powerful protection and a strong support:
A shelter from the burning heat,
A shelter from the noonday sun,
A guard from stumbling,
And help from a fall.
He raises up the soul
And gives light to the eyes.
He gives healing, life, and blessing.

Encouraging Words...

To have the eyes of our Lord upon us; to have Him as our powerful protection and strong support; a shelter and a guard from stumbling. What more could we ask for? And Hid great love for us does not stop there. Glory be to God!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

December 8, 2013

The Lord is my hope!


Wisdom of Sirach 34:13-14 LXX

The spirit of those who fear the Lord will live,
For their hope is in Him who saves them.
He who fears the Lord will fear nothing,
And he will not be cowardly, for the Lord is his hope.

Encouraging Words...

Who do I have to fear? Nothing in this physical, temporal realm because I love and fear the God of all. In Him and through Him I have life, I have hope, and nothing can ever separate me from Him. Glory be to God!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

December 7, 2013

Being formed in His image.


Wisdom of Sirach 33:13 LXX

And removed from their place.
All His ways are according to His good pleasure.
Like clay in a potter's hand,
Thus men are in the hand of Him who made them,
To render to them according to His judgment.

Encouraging Words...

God is good! God is Love! God is truth! God is righteous! Those of us who follow Christ believe this. Then why do we resist Him as He molds us and makes us into His image? It all comes down to one thing...WILL. We want to exercise our will over His. Complete submission to the will of God, our Creator, is indeed the highest virtue that we can aim for. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Friday, December 6, 2013

December 6, 2013

Working for our Lord.


Wisdom of Sirach 32:23-24 LXX

In every work entrust your soul to the Lord,
For this is the keeping of the commandments.
He who believes in the Law heeds the commandments,
And he who trusts in the Lord will not suffer loss.

Command with a Promise...

God is God and I am not! And since He is God and has given us commandments to follow then who am I to argue or disagree? Jesus made it clear that I am to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, and being; and then to love my neighbor as myself. Then it is clear that I must do this constantly if I am to claim Him as my Lord. I know that I have so far to go to even come close to beginning to do this. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. And the result of this obedience...I will not suffer loss of those things important to God.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

December 5, 2013

Eternal consequences...


Wisdom of Sirach 32:14-17 LXX

The man who fears the Lord will receive instruction,
And those who rise early will find His approval.
He who seeks the Law will be filled with it,
But the hypocrite will be made to stumble by it.
Those who fear the Lord will discover judgment,
And like the light they will kindle righteous deeds.
A sinful man will turn aside correction
And find a rationalization according to his will.

Personal Challenge...

Godliness, righteousness, growing in the image of Christ, all take aggressive, focused work. It all begins with a healthy fear and respect of the Lord and is followed by a life consumed by the pursuit of God and His precepts. These works are not what save us, but are the result of being saved. The rewards have eternal consequences.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

December 3, 2013

Maintaining our joy...


Wisdom of Sirach 30:21-24 LXX

Do not give yourself over to sorrow,
And do not distress yourself deliberately.
Gladness of the heart is the life of man,
And rejoicing by a man lengthens his life.
Love your soul and comfort your heart,
And put sorrow far away from you;
For sorrow has destroyed many,
And there is no profit in it.
Envy and anger will shorten your days,
And worry will bring premature old age.

Personal Challenge...

We have more control over the state of our hearts than our modern culture wants us to believe. We are so often told that it is someone else's fault that we are sorrowful or depressed, or that all we need is the right pill or medication to take it away. Granted, there are certain physical conditions that can only be controlled by medical help, but for the most of us it is a matter of choice. Do we allow sorrow and grief to overcome us and control us? If we do this it becomes a deadly spiral into depression. Or do we fill our hearts and our lives with gladness, rejoicing, love for our soul, and comfort for our heart? Is this not part of the reason why we sing, "Memory Eternal!" in times of great loss and for a period of time after...to give us an opportunity to process our grief and then lift up the loss to our ultimate Comforter? As with everything else in our lives we have a choice to make.

Monday, December 2, 2013

December 2, 2013

The power of forgiveness.


Wisdom of Sirach 28:2-3 LXX

Forgive a wrong done you by your neighbor;
Then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.
Can a man preserve wrath against his neighbor
And still seek healing from the Lord?

Personal Challenge...

It is so easy to hold a grudge, and if we are not careful we begin to develop (and believe) justifications for this. However, we are commanded by or Lord to forgive our trespassers, for only in this do we develop the humility to receive God's forgiveness. It is through our acts of forgiveness that we receive healing, both physical and spiritual. Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

December 1, 2013

Unity...an imperative for all Christians.


Wisdom of Sirach 25:1 LXX

There are three things beautiful to see,
And they are beautiful before the Lord and men:
The harmony of brothers, friendship between neighbors,
And a wife and husband well-adjusted together.

Encouraging Words...

It is clear throughout the scriptures that our Lord desires that we live in unity one with another. These three examples provide enough to cover almost every aspect of our lives. The one that is often overlooked by those who are so keen on following monasticism is the relationship of the husband and the wife. St. John Chrysostom said of this verse: “For there is no relationship between man and man so close as that between man and wife, if they be joined together as they should be... nothing whatever is more precious than to be... loved by a wife and to love her." (taken from the Orthodox Study Bible). My prayer today, and every day, is that I love my wife as Christ loved the church. What a blessing it is to be married to your best friend and sister and Christ. Glory be to God!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 30, 2013

Guarding my mouth...


Wisdom of Sirach 22:27 LXX

Who will set a guard over my mouth,
And a prudent seal over my lips,
That I may not fall because of them,
And that my tongue may not destroy me?

Personal Challenge...

That which comes out of our mouths can either be edifying or destroying. Who determines which one it is? I do? I must be the guard of my mouth and tongue in order to control what I say. This starts by focusing on the purity of my heart and mind, both of which drive the rest of my actions. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Friday, November 29, 2013

November 29, 2013

Flee from sin like it is your worst enemy...


Wisdom of Sirach 21:1-3 LXX

My son, have you sinned?
No longer add to them, but pray about your former sins.
Flee from sin as you would from the presence of a snake,
For if you approach it, it will bite you;
Its teeth are like lion's teeth, destroying the souls of men.
All lawlessness is like a two- edged sword,
For there is no healing from its wound.

Personal Challenge...

Sin, whether it be by action or inaction, in thought or in deed, is something that besets all of us in this fallen world. In Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, by the grace of the Father, we can flee from sin. If we commit sin we can confess it, repent of it and flee from it, but we must still strive to be humble before our Lord. As we become more humble before Him we become more aware of our sins and of the temptations to sin and can run to our Lord quicker for forgiveness and strength. In Him we can become sinless.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

November 28, 2013

Wisdom in silence...


Wisdom of Sirach 20:5-7 LXX

There is a man who is silent but is found to be wise,
And there is a man who is hateful because he talks too much.
There is a man who is silent because he has no answer,
And there is a man who is silent because he knows when to speak.
A wise man will keep silent until it is the right time to speak,
But an arrogant and undiscerning man will speak out of turn.

Personal Challenge...

There is wisdom in being silent. From the Orthodox Study Bible: The church fathers insist that the most difficult discipline for most of us is learning to keep silent. "Now what ought we to learn before everything else, but to be silent, that we may be able to speak? Lest my voice should condemn me, before that of another acquit me, it is written: 'By thy words thou shalt be condemned'" (Ambrose of Milan). Glory be to God...which is often better done by keeping silent.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

November 27, 2013

Living in the hands of the Potter.


Wisdom of Sirach 18:18-20 LXX

Before you speak, learn,
And before you get sick, take care of your health.
Before you make a judgment, examine yourself closely,
And in the hour of visitation you will find atonement.
Before you become sick, humble yourself;
And at the time of sinning, prove your conversion.

Personal Challenge...

Once again we are reminded that the life of a Christian is an active life. A life pursuing truth and righteousness. A life of sacrifice and putting oneself second to others. A life of humility and repentance. We are not to sit on our event of salvation but to work out our salvation every moment of our lives and all for Gods glory. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November 26, 2013

The Glory of God.


Wisdom of Sirach 18:4-6 LXX

Who will measure His majestic power with a number,
And who will add to this measure
While describing His mercies?
There is no one who can add or subtract,
And there is no who can search out the wonders of the Lord.
When a man completes his search, then he starts over;
And when he stops, he will still be perplexed.

Encouraging Words...

We cannot contain the magnitude and glory of God. We cannot create a doctrine or a dogma that captures Him and defines who He is or what He does. He is greater than all of the collected writings and teachings of religious scholars. And yet He is our Lord and we are His children!

Monday, November 25, 2013

November 24, 2013

Created in the image of God.


Wisdom of Sirach 17:5-8 LXX

He gave mankind the ability to deliberate,
And a tongue, eyes and ears, and a heart to think with.
He filled them with the skill of comprehension
And showed them good and evil.
He set His eye upon their hearts
To show them the majesty of His works.
They will praise His holy name
So as to fully describe the majesty of His works.

Encouraging Words...

God created each and everyone of us in His image. In doing that He gave us the ability to think and process a situation so that we could ultimately choose between right and wrong. And He did not stop there, He placed within our hearts His eyes, the ability to see His majestic works. What are we to do with all of this? Praise His holy name! Choose to do good and not evil! Magnify His majesty! Glory be to God!

November 25, 2013

Glory be to God!


Wisdom of Sirach 17:24-25 LXX

How great the mercy of the Lord is,
And His atonement for those who turn to Him.
For all things are not possible for man,
Because a son of man is not immortal.

Encouraging Words...

No matter how we look at life, or how much technology we create, or wealth that we amass, we are still mortal and finite. God, however, is immortal and full of mercy and atonement. All things are possible for Him. Glory be to God!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

November 23, 2013

The pursuit of wisdom...


Wisdom of Sirach 14:20-22 LXX

Blessed is the man who practices wisdom
And discourses with insight.
Whoever ponders the ways of wisdom in his heart
Will also reflect on her secrets.
Pursue wisdom like a tracker
And lie in wait on her paths.

Encouraging Words...

Wisdom, true godly wisdom, is attainable. It does not just come from being learned, but also requires that we practice it, ponder on it, reflect on it, and pursue it. It makes so much sense that the early church fathers saw the wisdom of the old testament as christological text, for wisdom, divine wisdom, is embodied in Christ. I love the metaphor of pursuing wisdom like a tracker. Having done this, it requires patience, focus, stealth, discernment, and determination. Isn't tis what we should be doing to become like Christ...pursuing Him like a tracker pursuing his prey.

Friday, November 22, 2013

November 22, 2013

Doing good is expected of us.


Wisdom of Sirach 14:12-14 LXX

Remember that death does not delay,
And the covenant of Hades has not been shown to you.
Before you die, do good to a friend,
And reach out and give to him based on your ability.
Do not let a day go by without doing something good,
And do not let any of your desire for doing good escape you.

Personal Challenge...

Sometimes I think that the hardest part of being a follower of Christ is recognizing that I am the biggest impediment that I have in the journey. I must constantly remind myself that everything does not revolve around me. Actually, nothing really revolves around me. This is why Christ admonishes us to die to self if we are to live for Him. Part of this process is doing good to others, not just when it is convenient, but all the time, every day. When I am focused on doing good to others I am looking at them and not at myself. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November 21, 2013

Putting others first.


Wisdom of Sirach 11:7-8 LXX

Do not find fault before you examine a situation.
First, understand it, and then make your judgment.
Do not answer before you have listened,
And do not interrupt someone while he is talking.

Personal Challenge...

If I am learning anything on my journey toward theosis it is that I spend far too much time inserting "me" into a situation or conversation. This verse strikes home so very closely because I often do what is warned against here...finding fault too quickly, making a judgment without fully understanding the situation, answering before I listen, and interrupting while someone is talking. If you are reading this then I am sure that I have done one or more of these to you...please forgive me! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

November 20, 2013

Principles of management...


Wisdom of Sirach 7:20-21 LXX

Do not mistreat a servant who does his work in truth
Nor a hired worker who devotes himself to you.
Let your soul love an intelligent servant;
Do not deprive him of his freedom.

Personal Challenge...

As employers, or managers of people for our employers, we have an obligation to take care of our employees and those who report to us. Sometimes it seems like our places of work have become places of indentured servitude. If we profess to be followers of Christ then we must cherish those who work for us and those whom we work with as brothers and sisters created in the image of God. What a different environment our workplaces would be if we all lived out our professed Christian believes in the way that they were meant to be lived. Lord, may this begin with me.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

November 19, 2013

We have a choice.


Wisdom of Sirach 7:1-3 LXX

Do no evil things,
And evil will never overtake you.
Stay away from wrongdoing,
And it will turn away from you.
My son, do not sow on the furrows of wrongdoing,
And you will not reap the same things sevenfold.

Personal Challenge...

God created me with free will, the ability to choose between good and evil, sin and righteousness. I cannot blame my sin on anything other than my choice, even though I live in a fallen and broken world. Through God's grace He has not only provided a way to have my sins forgiven (Jesus), but He has also provided a Helper to me so that I can choose not to sin any more (Holy Spirit). But once again, I must choose to submit to His guidance and be obedient. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Monday, November 18, 2013

November 18, 2013

Tending the crop of Wisdom...


Wisdom of Sirach 6:18-19 LXX

My son, from your youth up, choose instruction,
And you will find wisdom also into old age.
Come to her as one who plows and sows,
And wait expectantly for her good fruits;
For in her work you will labor a little while,
Then you will quickly eat of her fruit.

Encouraging Words...

I am so thankful that I grew up in a farming culture and as a youth had to work in the family garden as well as summer jobs in the orchards. I hated it when I was young, but as an adult I can look back and see the lessons that it taught me. One is that you must work hard preparing the soil, planting the seeds, pulling the weeds, watering and nurturing the crops in order to receive the fruit of your labor. And that fruit is so much sweeter than something bought at a store or given to you by someone else. It is the same with the pursuit of Wisdom (that which is embodied in Christ). Anything gained easily and without sacrifice quickly looses its flavor, but that which you work for, pursue, and even fight for is so much more valuable. Glory be to God!

November 17, 2013

Best friends...a life long investment and journey.


Wisdom of Sirach 6:14-17 LXX

A faithful friend is a strong shelter,
And he who finds one finds a treasure.
There is nothing that can take the place of a faithful friend,
And there is no way to measure his worth.
A faithful friend is a medicine of life,
And those who fear the Lord will find him.
He who fears the Lord guides his friendship rightly,
Because as he is, so also is his neighbor.

Personal Challenge...

After sixty years of life this has been one of my most sought after and elusive goals...to find a true, faithful friend, a brother in Christ that I can sharpen and be sharpened by. I can count on one hand the times that I thought I had a friend like this just to loose them to a move or a life change. But there is a promise in this passage. If I fear the Lord, and live my life as a faithful friend to all He will bring that brother into my life.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

November 16, 2013

The art of listening.


Wisdom of Sirach 5:10-11 LXX

Be established in your understanding
And let your word be consistent.
Be quick to listen
And give your answer with patience.

Personal Challenge...

What can be added to this admonition of wisdom? Nothing except a plea to our Lord to use His Holy Spirit in our lives to follow this advice. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Friday, November 15, 2013

November 15, 2013

Humility through greatness.


Wisdom of Sirach 3:18-19 LXX

The greater you are, the more humble you must be,
And you will find grace before the Lord;
Because great is the power of the Lord,
And He is honored by the humble.

Personal Challenge...

Once again the laws that govern God's kingdom conflict with the law's of our culture. As we become greater in this world, whether it be through financial or material gain, or promotions at work, or recognition in our church or communities, the tendency is to become puffed up and expectant of respect. Our society drives this. But in God's economy the expectation is that the more we are elevated in this world the more humble we must become for His glory and His kingdom. Our humility is not for those around us as much as it is for Him. As we honor Him with our humility we also become an encouragement and a beacon of His love and grace to those around us.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

November 14, 2013

Patience...



Wisdom of Sirach 1:20-21 LXX

A patient man will hold fast until the proper time,
Then afterwards gladness shall burst forth for him.
He shall conceal his words until the proper time,
And the lips of many will tell of his understanding.

Personal Challenge...

What a wonderful book filled with pearls of wisdom. It is a shame that this book is not included in the Western Bible. Patience not only means waiting for something that we want or desire, but it more importantly means waiting for the proper time, whether that means speaking into a situation or getting involved. Through patience we can receive gladness. Through waiting patiently before we open our mouths we will be seen as wise and full of understanding. This is so contrary to the modern way of thinking, which is to always be engaged in the conversation and trying to control it. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.