Sunday, March 31, 2013

March 31, 2013

Mark 2:5

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you."

Personal Challenge...

Do I live my life in such a way that those around me see my faith in Jesus? Do I have people in my life whose faith like this is visible as well? Isn't this the value of living in a Christ-centered community, surrounding ourselves with people living by faith? Life is not a journey that is to be lived alone. This journey is filled with family, friends, and neighbors who provide many opportunities for me to exercise my faith on. Glory be to God.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

March 30. 2013

John 5:30

I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.

Encouraging Words...

Once again Jesus shows us by example that we can choose to submit our will to the will of the Father and not sin. He also shows the value of living and acting in community.

Friday, March 29, 2013

March 29, 2013

Psalm 97:10 (96:10 LXX)
You who love the Lord, hate evil;
The Lord keeps the souls of His saints;
He shall deliver them from the hand of sinners.

Personal Challenge...

Loving the Lord and loving evil cannot be done at the same time. If I am truly growing in my relationship with Him then the harder it should become to fit into the world. I am still called to love my neighbor, but it is okay to not love the neighborhood. Besides, am I not als commanded to point my neighbor to Christ so that he too can be freed from death? That is a difficult thing to do at times, but the Lord promises to deliver me through it.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

March 28, 2013

Genesis 5:2-3

He made them male and female, and blessed them; and the day He made them He called his name Adam. Now Adam lived two hundred and thirty years, and begot a son according to his form and image, and named him Seth.

Encouraging Words...

What a great passage to see into the minds of our early church fathers and how they read and interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures that they had to work with. Their interpretation of this passage was that it was an illustration of the Holy Trininy. Adam was not begotten, but Seth, His son, was begotten of him. Adam was unbegotten as the Father is. Eve was neither begotten nor unbegotten, but proceeded from Adam. This is an image, to a certain extent, of the relationship of the members of the Holy Trinity. There are three distinct and unique properties -- distinguishing each of the individual persons, yet all three still possessing the same nature (taken from the notes of the Orthodox Study Bible). What an awesome way to read the scriptures.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

March 27, 2013

Genesis 4:25

Again Adam knew his wife Eve, and she conceived and bore a son, and he named him Seth, saying, "God has appointed another seed for me instead of Abel, whom Cain killed."

Encouraging Words...

Once again we see the redemptive and restorative work of our God. Through Seth we see the restoration of the lineage of mankind so that some day the Christ, the Messiah, would be born. Abel's loss is redeemed through the birth of Seth. Is this not the image of the coming Christ.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 26, 2013

Proverbs 5:1-2

My son, hold fast to wisdom
And incline your ear to my words,
That you may guard good thinking;
And I command you with the perception of my lips.

Command with a Promise...

Here I am commanded to hold fast to Wisdom (a typification of Christ) and listen to His words. By doing this my thinking will be guarded and good. As I continued to read today of Cain this passage helps me to understand how to be able to avoid sin. Cain was admonished by God that he had a wrong heart. He could have repented and held fast to Wisdom. But he chose to dwell on his own thoughts and feelings which lead to more separation from God, more sin, and ultimately the murder of his brother. It is a slippery slope, but one we can avoid.

Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25, 2013

Genesis 4:7

"Did you not sin, even though you brought it rightly, but did not divide it rightly? Be still; his recourse shall be to you; and you shall rule over him."

Personal Challenge...

I have always thought, deep down in my heart, that Cain got a raw deal in this part of Genesis. He gave of the first fruit of his labor just like Abel did. So why wasn't his offering accepted? A little deeper digging shows that God loved Cain just as much as He did Abel. He praised Cain for bringing his gift rightly. But He did question the motive of Cain's heart (did not divide it rightly). It was not that his offering was bad, but his heart was. God told him to be still, to control his emotions, and to repent and then he would be right with God. God even told him that his younger brother would be subject to him. But that was not good enough and through his choice he chose to sin even more. How often does God point out to me my sinful heart and yet I refuse to listen to Him? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 24, 2013

John 20:29

Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

Encouraging Words...

If I am learning to do anything as I dive deeper into my Eastern Orthodox understanding it is to view things, life, the world, my faith through different eyes. We have become so much like our good friend here, Doubting Thomas. We live in the "Age of Reason" where we must look at everything through the eyes of logic and if we cannot prove something it does not exist. Everything we do or think runs through this filter. People in the time of Christ did not have this filter. It was easier to accept miracles and other supernatural events because they knew that there was a greater realm surrounding us that we could not touch, see, hear, or smell. Eastern Orthodoxy still views God and His creation this way. And I am so blessed to be one who has not seen and yet has believed.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

March 23, 2103

Mark 2:27-28

And He said to them, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath."

Encouraging Words...

Why did Jesus, the Son of God, a member of the Holy Trinity, come to earth as a human being and to later be put to death on the cross as an innocent, sinless man? To pay the price for our sins and unrighteousness? Not so much so. The early church fathers taught that Jesus came to defeat death. The death that entered into God's perfect creation through the free will choice of Adam and Ever to defy God. Yes there is so much more to this, but Jesus came, died, and was resurrected to release the grip that death had on His creation. He set everything back to the way that it was meant to be. This verse gives a little peek into that. Jesus tells us that even the Sabbath day of rest was created for man to enjoy, not for it to be a burden on us. He even set this back on its proper course. Praise be to God for the work that He has done.

Friday, March 22, 2013

March 22, 2013

Genesis 3:8

Then they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden that afternoon, and Adam and his wife hid themselves within the tree in the middle of the garden from the presence of the Lord God.

Personal Challenge...

For all the times that I have read this passage I never got the essence of this verse. Here Adam and Eve have broken the only rule that God gave them. They have sinned. And when God comes to hang out with them like He has so many times before, where do they hide? Right there in the middle of the very tree that they were not supposed to eat from. How many times have I tried to hide from God in the middle of the very sin that I am running away from God for? As if God cannot see me there. Whether it be the sin of pride, lust for the things of the world, idolatry, or whatever. What I really need to be doing is running away from that place of false protection and to my Lord God with repentance and seeking forgiveness. Lord Jesus Chist, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

March 21, 2013

Proverbs 3:11-12

My son, do not despise the instruction of the Lord,
Neither grow weary under His reproof.
For whom the Lord loves He instructs,
And chastises every son He receives.

Encouraging Words...

Parenting! It is such a blessed opportunity in life and yet one filled with challenges and heartaches. I can remember those times that I had to discipline and reprove my children and would often be in silent tears after doing so. This is just a small glimmer of the heart of God. He loves me as His own child and in that love He too disciplines, reproves, and instructs me. My role in this is to be obedient, to not despise this instruction, and to cherish the love that He has for me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

March 20, 2013

Psalm 120:1-4 (121:1-4 LXX)
I lifted my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Let not your foot be moved;
Neither let Him who keeps you slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

Encouraging Words...

God is good and according to Genesis He created us in His image. According to our early church fathers this means that we too are good. By the very nature of God, our nature is good. It is my choices, the exercising of my free will that I sin and become separated from God. Through that same free will I can choose to not sin and remain close to Him. And to ensure this He has sent His Helper to be there with me in those choices.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

March 19, 2013

Proverbs 1:20-21a
Wisdom sings in the streets;
She moves boldly in the squares.
She preaches on high city walls
And sits at the gates of lords.

Encouraging Words...

The early church fathers taught that Christ was the Wisdom of God personified. Here the psalmist informs us that Wisdom, God's Wisdom, is everywhere to be found, it is ever present. However, as we read on we are told that we must humbly hold on to righteousness in order to receive this Wisdom.

Monday, March 18, 2013

March 18, 2013

Genesis 1:5b, 8b, 13, 19, 23, 31b

...and there was evening and morning, one day.

Encouraging Words...

Today is the first full day of Lent and where do the scripture readings take us? Back to our beginnings. In Genesis, the beginning of creation...our existence. In Proverbs, the beginning of our journey into wisdom. In Isaiah, the beginning of a prophetic representation of our redeeming salvation through the coming of our King. Yesterday I was listening to a story on NPR talking about where scientists have still not figured out why we sleep. There are no real answers according to them. A lot of guesses, but no answers. And here in Genesis we see that after every phase of creation process God saw that it was good..."and there was evening and morning, one day." We sleep because God made His creation so that it would rest. But that is not good enough for the scientists. It is not good enough to put our trust, my trust, in God and accept that He knows more and that there is this great mystery around me. One that I do not have to understand, because understanding it doesn't make it any different, but one that exercises my faith. A faith that grows as I trust my God more and more.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March 17, 2013

Matthew 6:14-15

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

Personal Challenge...

Today we celebrated "Forgiveness Sunday" at our church. In the Orthodox Church this has been done for hundreds or years. We take the opportunity to walk up to each person at the service and ask for their forgiveness of anything that we might have done to them throughout the year. And their response is, "May God forgive us all." It is both humbling and freeing at the same time. Tomorrow we start our season of Lent (yes, our calendar is different than the western one) and this is a wonderful way to begin this season...seeking and offering forgiveness. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

March 16, 2013

Psalm 91:14-16 (90:14-16)

"For he hoped in Me, and I will deliver him;
I will shelter him, because he knew My name.
He shall call upon Me, and I will hear him;
I am with him in affliction,
And I will deliver and glorify him.
With length of days I will satisfy him,
And show him My salvation."

Encouraging Words...

I am never alone in my struggles through life. My God, my Hope, my Shelter, my Salvation, is ever present in my life and I can rest in His arms.

March 15, 2013

Zechariah 8:7-8

Thus says the Lord Almighty: 'Behold, I shall deliver My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west. I shall bring them in and settle them in the midst of Jerusalem. They shall be to Me a people and I will be to them a God in truth and in righteousness.'

Encouraging Words...

Christ is typified here as the One who will bring the people of Go's creation back into His holy presence. We have been scattered and separated from His presence and now because of the work of Christ and the love of the Father, we are being brought back into His city of Jerusalem.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

March 14, 2013

Luke 23:34

Then Jesus said, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.

Encouraging Words...

Once again I am reminded how much of an example Jesus was for me. He has been reviled, treated with contempt, and persecuted even though He had done no wrong. And yet He still asked His Father to forgive the persecutors. Am I to do any less? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

March 13, 2013

Joel 2:17-18

Between the porch and the altar, the priests of the altar, ministering to the Lord, will each be weeping and will say, O Lord, spare Your people; do not give Your inheritance to reproach, that the Gentiles should rule over them, lest they should say among the Gentiles, Where is their God? But the Lord was zealous for His land and spared His people.

Encouraging Words...

Joel prophecies that Jesus, our great High Priest will stand between the alter, where sacrifices are given for our sins, and the porch, where we all stand seeking the love and forgiveness of the Lord. There He will represent us before God. Jesus will petition for us to be spared and to be brought into the kingdom of God. And through Him and His work we will be spared and receive the grace fo God poured out upon us.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March 10, 2013

1 Corinthians 8:8

But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse.

Encouraging words...

Today we observed Meatfare Sunday in the Orthodox Church. We are one week from the beginning of Great Lent and starting today we started limiting meat in our diet as we begin our preparation for the observance of the Lenten season. We do not enter into Lent because it is some legalistic rubric that we must follow in order to obtain favor with God. In our church and throughout the history of the Christian church Easter has been the high point of the calendar year. We celebrate all that Christ did for His creation and mankind every year at Easter. It is our most holy celebration and feast. "Lent is a spiritual journey and its destination is Easter, 'the Feast of Feasts.'" (taken from Great Lent, Journey to Pascha, by Alexander Schmemann). By progressing into Lent we begin that journey of unloading our worldly desires and taking up that work of Christ. It is a period of reflection, growth and hopefulness.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

March 9, 2013

1 John 2:17

And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

Encouraging Words...

No matter what happens to this world, no matter what happens to me as a sojourner in this God abides forever and if I strive to do His will then I will abide in Him forever. Praise be unto God.

Friday, March 8, 2013

March 8, 2013

2 John 1:6

This is love, that we walk according to His commandments. This is the commandment, that as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.

Encouraging Words...

It seems so easy to build a whole set of rules around what it takes to live a righteous, Christian life. But it all keeps coming back to one basic commandment that can be summed up in one word...LOVE!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

March 7, 2013

1 John 14:20

If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?

Personal Challenge...

I can sure tell that we are heading into the season of Great Lent. It seems like every one of my daily readings points out another area in my life where I must go to my Father and confess another sinful state of my heart. It is easy to love a stranger, someone on the mission field, someone out there, but what about those whom God has placed in my life that I am around every day. Is it a coworker, someone at church, a family member, a clerk where I shop that just drives me crazy? That is the one that I must love. It is through them that I can learn to love God. Lord have mercy.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March 6, 2013

Mark 14:72

A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, "Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And when he thought about it, he wept.

Personal Challenge...

Oh how much of my own life can I recognize in this verse about Peter. How many times have I denied Christ...that unkind word spoken to another, that impure thought, that unbridled desire, and the list goes on and on. All of these are choices to feed my own pride or desire. All of these are denials of Christ. The real question is what do I do after these denials. Do I do like Peter Do I think about them and weep? Lord have mercy!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

March 5, 2013

Mark 14:10

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.

Personal Challenge...

The early church fathers (1st century) taught that Judas chose to betray Jesus on his own initiative. It could have been greed, or jealousy, or a desire to force Christ to step up as the King. The bottom line though was that he did this by his own free will. How often do I betray my Lord through my own free will? One of the things that I like about the Orthodox Church is that much, if not most, of what we do has a reason and a purpose. The early church fathers established our tradition of practicing fasting on Wednesday because that would have been the day of the week that Judas betrayed Jesus. So we fast on that day to remind us that we too, like Judas, betray our Lord and need to seek His forgiveness.

Monday, March 4, 2013

March 4, 2013

1 John 3:1

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

Encouraging Words...

It is no surprise that I find it hard fitting into the world. I can go to work, go to parties and events, just about anywhere outside of the church and I find that I don't fit in. This verse reminds me why this is so. If I am truly trying to live my life like Christ would thenI will not fit into the world. However, this does not mean that I remove myself from the world for this is where God wants me to shine His light. A dichotomy indeed, but a calling nonetheless.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

March 3, 2013

Luke 15:31-32

"And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.'"

Personal Challenge...

I find myself wondering when I read this passage if I am not more like the elder son. Do I hold others in contempt when they have spent their life away from the Lord and now come running to Him and receive such a warm welcome. I should be rejoicing as the Father does. I must remember that He once threw a party for me because I came home to Him as well.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

March 2, 2013

Luke 21:1-4

And he looked up, and saw the rich men that were casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, "Of a truth I say unto you, This poor widow cast in more than they all: for all these did of their superfluity cast in unto the gifts; but she of her want did cast in all the living that she had."

Personal Challenge...

Ouch!! What an indictment this is to the true nature of my heart. I feel good when I give to my church or other ministries, but is that enough? First of all...feeling good about it is the sin of pride. I feel good that I go to church regularly and do Bible studies...but then again there is the pride. This widow was pointed out to me by my Lord to remind me that giving my tithe is not enough. If I truly love Him, if I am truly following in His footsteps, if I am truly becoming like Him, then wouldn't I be giving Him my all even until it hurts? Where is my heart? Where are my actions? What words come out of my mouth? What desires drive my choices? He is my I say. He gave up everything for us. Am I willing to do the same for Him and my neighbor? He stepped out of eternity to live in our time and space. Am I willing to give my time for Him? If I apply the formulaic tithe of 10% of time that would mean giving Him 2.4 hours a day for Him. Ouch!! I have a long way to go to be like this widow. Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy!

Friday, March 1, 2013

March 1, 2013

1 John 2:17

And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

Personal Challenge...

Sometimes it is so difficult to keep focused on the fact that I am no longer of this world. My citizenship is in the kingdom of God. I am an emissary here representing my God. It is so easy to forget this and to get caught up in the trappings of the world. This is part of why we fast and pray and give to those in that we can remember where our true home is. I actually look forward to the Lent season coming up. It is a time to concentrate my focus on my Lord and King and not myself.