Thursday, February 28, 2013

February 27 & 28, 2013

Proverbs 10:31 (10:32 LXX)

The mouth of a righteous man distills wisdom,
But the tongue of an unrighteous man utterly destroys.

Personal Challenge...

There He goes me a verse in my daily reading that cuts to the core of my heart and attitude and reminds me of how I should truly be living. And my response..Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Encouraging Words...

What a great verse to follow after yesterday's one. God will remind me in many ways the true nature of my heart. It is my choice as to whether or I act o that revelation and confess and repent. He will do the rest.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

February 26, 2013

Psalm 119:77 (118:77 LXX)

Let Your compassions come to me, and I shall live;
For Your law is my meditation.

Encouraging Words...

My Lord, my God, my King is compassionate and merciful. I am so blessed to be a recipient of His outpouring of love.

Monday, February 25, 2013

February 25, 2013

Psalm 89:47-48 (88:48-49 LXX)

Let my substance be remembered, as to what sort it is,
For did You create all the sons of men in vain?What kind of man is there who will live and not see death?
Will he deliver his soul from the hand of Hades?

Personal Challenge...

No matter what I do, how much money I make, how many toys I accumulate, how much I get promoted at work or get known in my community or church, I will still physically die some day. The real question here, the real goal to pursue, is whether or not my substance will be remembered as a good and godly man who loved his God and his neighbor. Will I be remembered as a man who loved and took care of his wife, children, and grandchildren? Will I be remembered as a man who could be trusted to keep his word and whose word was filled with truth. Will I be remembered as a man that projected the image of Christ? A sobering thought and a worthwhile goal to pursue.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 24, 2013

Luke 24:32

And they said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?"

Encouraging Words...

Do the Scriptures burn within my heart? Does God speak to me and open His Scriptures to me? Through the work of my Lord and Savior and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit I can step into the presence of my living God and be in communion with Him. Isn't this the purpose of our liturgy and worship every time we do it? Isn't this the purpose of reading the Scripture and practicing the traditions of our church? None of this is dull or lifeless if my heart, mind, and soul are yearning to be in God's presence.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23, 2013

Titus 3:4-7

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Encouraging Words...

I have become an heir in the family and kingdom of God through His kindness and love. This was not because of anything that I have done or prayer that I have breathed, but through the work of Jesus Christ and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit upon me. Jesus saved me from eternal death and when I was baptized in Him and chrismated for Him I entered into the eschatological community of the Church. This baptism and chrismation are the beginning, the rite of passage toward a progressive life of renewal in Christ (Orthodox Study Bible notes). My journey into the eternal family of God did not end when I came to know just got started.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

February 21, 2013

1 Peter 5:5

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for

     "God resists the proud,
      But gives grace to the

Command with a Promise...

There is that "h" word again...humble. And once again it is coupled with that "s" word...submit. They always seem to go hand-in-hand. And this time I am told that if I submit and be humble, both choices of my will, then God will give me grace. Sounds like it is worth it to me!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

February 20, 2013

1 Peter 4:10-11

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Personal Challenge...

The scripture is clear that each of us who have been baptized and chrismated into the body of Christ have received one or more gifts from the Holy Spirit. These gifts are for the building up of the Church and the edification of our Lord. We are also commanded to be diligent in using these gifts at our full potential, not with a lackadaisical, laissez-faire attitude. We should always be striving to serve our Lord better today than yesterday knowing that we can do even better tomorrow. It is wrong to apply these gifts more in the world than in our service to the King.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

February 19, 2013

Mark 12:27

He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.

Encouraging Words...

Part of my journey to Eastern Orthodoxy has included the unloading of beliefs that I had been taught throughout my Christian life. One of these was the teaching that icons and saints were idols and that people prayed to them and worshiped them. That is not how it works in the Orthodox church. We embrace this passage and believe that those saints who have departed this earth, those who have lived their lives in Christ, are not gone but resting in the presence of Christ. They can hear our petitions and see what is going on in our is a mystery. We venerate them to show our respect for them and the lives that they have lived. We petition them and ask them to represent us to Christ since they are in His presence. Only God can answer our prayers. Only God deserves our worship. The icons that we have amongst us provide us with windows into the lives of these saints and the Church that, through the mysteries of our God and His ability to transcend time, we too can be drawn through these windows and partake in these events. It is indeed a mystery and one that the early church fathers deliberated and professed to be right and true.

Monday, February 18, 2013

February 18, 2013

1 Peter 3:7

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Command with a Promise...

What a delicate balance living a life for Christ is. It is so easy to get caught up in one's pursuit of spirituality and righteousness and forget that we also have a responsibility to our spouse and family. I think this can be especially challenging for us guys who are asked to be leaders in our church communities. This passage is another one of God's commands with a promise. We are commanded to live with our wives with understanding...understanding of their needs, their desires, the development of their theosis. We are also commanded to treat them as our joint heirs of the grace of life that God pours out upon us. And what is the promise for being obedient in this unhindered unhindered relationship with our Lord. And my response to this is, "Lord Jesus Christ, Sone of God, have mercy on me a sinner!" for there is so much more that I can do to love my wife the way that Christ loved the Church, His bride.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

February 15, 16, 17, 2013

February 15, 2013
Psalm 92:15 (91:16 LXX)

So as to proclaim, The Lord my God is upright,
And there is no wrongdoing in Him.

Encouraging Words...

My Lord, my God, You are all truth, all righteous, and I fall down before You unworthy of Your love. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

February 16, 2013
Luke 17:10

So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.

Personal Challenge...

No matter what I do for my Lord; give my tithes and offerings; go on a mission trip; whatever, these are expected of me. I am commanded to serve Him and give back to Him, whatever is already is His. This again is another definition of to God that which is already His and serving Him and not expecting anything in return...especially recognition from others. I owe Him everything, He owes me nothing.

February 17, 2013
1 Timothy 4:12

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Personal Challenge...

Paul's charge to Timothy as a young leader in the church can apply to all of us. We are to live our lives in a way that truly glorifies and magnifies our Lord. We are to be beacons of light in a dark world and examples of Christ amongst our brothers and sisters.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

February 14, 2013

James 4:17

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Personal Challenge...

Lord, have mercy. It is so easy to focus on the sins that we have committed and ask for forgiveness. What about those sins of omission? Not helping that person in need. Not saying something nice to someone, or about them, especially when I do not like them. Not putting others before myself. Not submitting to my Lord. If I take a serious look into my heart I can find more things that I know are good and right to do, and that I have not or do not do, than of the things that I have done wrong. This is a sobering realization.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

February 13, 2013

James 4:1-7

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously"?

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

     "God resists the proud,
       But gives grace to the humble."

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Personal Challenge...

What can be added to these inspired words? Nothing. I must constantly be examining the state of my heart and my motives, submitting to God in humility if I want to see Him active in my life and answering my prayers. When I live my life this way I will be able to be in the world, shining His light, but not of the world, pursuing the pleasures of the world.

I like how Maximos the Confessor puts it:

"The rewards for the toils of virtue are dispassion and spiritual knowledge. For these are the mediators of the kingdom of heaven, just as passions and ignorance are the mediators of eternal punishment. It is because of this that he who seeks these rewards for the sake of human glory and not for their intrinsic goodness is rebuked by the words of Scripture: 'You ask, and do not receive, because you ask wrongly'"

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February 12, 2013

Psalm 84:11 (83:11 LXX)

For one day in Your courts is better than a thousand;
I chose to be an outcast in the house of my God,
Rather than to dwell in the tents of sinners.

Encouraging Words...

Have you ever had the opportunity to feel the presence of our living God surround you? Yes, it is possible. Christ became man so that He could walk amongst us and destroy the barrier between us and God. When He returned to heaven He gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and to be our Helper. It is a mystery, but we now have the privilege and the opportunity to be in the court of our Lord. Praise be to God!

Monday, February 11, 2013

February 11, 2013

James 2:14-17

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Personal Challenge...

I am continually amazed at how many people whom I know claim to be followers of Christ and have their lives wrapped up in the pursuit of godliness, or righteousness, through trying to improve their faith through the acquisition of knowledge. There is nothing wrong with the study of scriptures or of writings of those who have gone before us, but the development of our theosis comes through the living of our lives for Christ, doing His work for others. This does not mean going to retreats or conferences or monasteries, although in and of themselves these are not bad, it means going out and helping our neighbor by the application of God's love. This does not mean writing checks or giving to a Christian cause so that someone else can go, although in and of themselves this is not bad either, but it still means that we must be active in our faith, doing God's work in the world around us, otherwise we may be caught being told that our faith was dead because we did not apply it with works. Theosis is not something that I can pursue or is what I become as I live out a Christ-centered life in community with others for Christ (process) through prayer, fasting and giving while constantly moving toward a likeness of Christ (goal).

Sunday, February 10, 2013

February 10, 2013

Psalm 61:1-4 (60:2-5 LXX)

Hear my supplication, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I cried out to You
When my heart was discouraged;
You lifted me high on a rock.
You guided me, for You became my hope,
A tower of strength from the face of the enemy.
I will dwell in Your tabernacle unto the ages;
I will be covered with the shelter of Your wings.

Encouraging Words...

What is it that we put our hope and trust in? Our job? Our retirement plan, stocks, bonds, or savings accounts? Our possessions? Our own knowledge, skills, or talents? All of these are but dust. It is our Lord, our God, that we find a strong tower to hide in so that the enemy is turned away.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February 9, 2013

Psalm 57:1-3 (56:2-4 LXX)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will hope,
Until lawlessness shall pass away.
I will cry out to God most High;
My God who is my benefactor.
He sent from heaven and saved me;
He gave over to disgrace those who trample me down. (Pause)
God sent out His mercy and His truth,

Encouraging Words...

It is important for me to walk through life remembering that there is always a picture behind the picture. I may be confined in this temporal realm due to my physical being, but that does not negate the fact that we are surrounded by the spiritual realm. It is in this realm where I can meet God and know His presence. It is a mystery, but one that I can partake in.

Friday, February 8, 2013

February 8, 2013

James 1:26-27

If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Personal Challenge...

Here are three examples of the relationship between faith and works: mastery over speech...our tongue, ministry to the needy, and moral purity in thought and deed. (Taken from the notes of the Orthodox Study Bible.) Has my involvement in my church boiled down to seeking to be entertained on Sunday mornings, or putting on great religious roles of righteousness on Sunday while treating my coworkers or family like dirt the rest of the week, or... If so, then my heart has been deceived and my religion is empty and defiled. It is my duty to my Lord to live my life in a way so as to imitate Him with the pursuit of becoming like Him. Maybe it is time that all of us who profess the name of Jesus to look at our lives and get our acts together...for our Lord and for our neighbor.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

February 6 & 7, 2013

James 1:12-15

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full- grown, brings forth death.

Encouraging Words...

So much for the claim that I sin because Adam sinned first. What an excuse this has become. I fall to temptation because I allow myself to do so. It is not God, nor my circumstances, nor something that I inherited that causes me to sin, but it is my choice. If I can choose to sin then by the grace of God I can choose to not sin.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

February 5, 2013

Hebrews 13:17

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Personal Challenge...

There is that word again...SUBMIT! Why is it that in today's church we find it acceptable to second guess our pastors, priests and/or leaders and try to force them to do things our way? Aren't they the ones that have answered God's call to be our shepherd? Aren't they the ones that have sacrificed their lives for each of us? Isn't God commanding us to be submissive to them and let them lead us with joy and not grief? God have mercy on your Church.

Monday, February 4, 2013

February 4, 2013

Hebrews 11:17-19

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, In Isaac your seed shall be called, concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

Encouraging Words...

One of my quests as a new convert to Eastern Orthodoxy is to understand and embrace the eastern way of thinking. Thinking like the people in Christ's time, even Christ Himself, thought and viewed life as well as their God. Thinking like we did before the age of enlightenment and logical reasoning. Why is this important? Because the Church was founded with this mindset. Jesus, Paul, Peter, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and all of the early church fathers operated and taught from this mindset.

As I begin to acquire this mindset myself the teachings and readings in the scriptures leap off of the pages in a whole new and vibrant way. We, the Eastern Orthodox, believe that the Old Testament exists to typify (foreshadow, point to, etc.) Christ and chapter 11 of Hebrews shows this by how the writer points out all of the faith heros of the Old Testament did things that typified the King that would be coming some day. The writer of Hebrews was looking back and documenting how the text of their day was pointing forward to Jesus, His life, and His works. Praise God that He can give us new eyes to see when we ask for them.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February 3, 2013

Colossians 3:12-16

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Command with a Promise...

This is one of those passages that needs to be read through slowly and contemplatively...over and over. Buried in here are some wonderful promises from God...having His peace in our hearts, having the living word of Christ dwelling within us in all wisdom, and singing with grace in our hearts. What wonderful promises of what God will pour into our lives if we will follow His commands. The beginning and the end of this passage gives us our commands that we must follow in order to receive these promises. What a different world we would live in if all of us (yes, this includes me) would live this way. Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

February 2, 2013

Isaiah 6:8-10

I also heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people? Then I said, Behold, here am I, send me. So He said, Go, and tell this people, You shall hear indeed, but not understand; and you shall see indeed, but not perceive. For the heart of this people has become insensitive, and their ears hear with difficulty. They have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return, and I should heal them.

Encouraging Words...

Once again I am surprised at what the Word of God speaks to me as I read it through different eyes, a different filter. This passage points out that we sin by choice, not by nature, volitionally stopping our ears and closing our eyes. We cannot go on blaming this on Adam and Eve. Yes, they did commit the first sin, but they did not curse us with a sin nature, but with the curse of sin, which is death. It is my choice to sin or not sin. It is Christ who has defeated the curse of sin...death, and demonstrated for us that a human can say, "No!" to sin.

Friday, February 1, 2013

February 1, 2013

Hebrews 11:8

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Personal Challenge...

I love Hebrews and the "Hall of Fame" that shares all of the "by faith" accounts. I believe that our modern Christian faith has become diluted because we have created so many concrete things that we now put our faith in. Whether these things are our institutions, or our denominations, or our doctrines, or dogmas, or whatever it is not these that we are to put our faith in. Our faith is to be in God, our Provider. Even our early fathers who walked with Christ, learned from Him, and laid the foundational bricks of the Church had to put their faith in the unseen and unknown. Jesus was gone. They put their faith in that unknown place that God was calling them to...just like Abraham. Should I be any different?