Tuesday, June 25, 2013

June 25, 2013

Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith."

Encouraging Words...

For Paul to go from a position of hunting down Christians for persecution to not being ashamed of the gospel of Christ is an amazing thing, a miracle that only God can accomplish. God loves His creation so much that He will do anything to bring us onto His arms. What a joy it is to know that I am loved that much. Glory be to God!

June 24, 2013

Matthew 18:12-14

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety- nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety- nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Encouraging Words...

Hallelujah! Glory be to God! One of the most wonderful truths that I have come to embrace as I learn more of the Eastern Orthodox way of thinking is that God is love. God is all love and loves all of His creation. He loves us so deeply that He was willing to go into the deepest depths of hell to claim us from the grip of death...forever. Following this truth comes the understanding, and enlightenment, that He is not the God of judgement that Western Christianity makes Him out to be. Yes, the scriptures do talk about judgement, but God will do all of His judgement from His position of love and not mine. It is His will, His desire, that all lost sheep will be saved. Who am I to determine what constitutes what He determines that judgement to be? God is love and if I am truly His child I must do all that I do I love to be obedient to Him. I must also pursue every person as a lost soul, a lost sheep, just as He has, and continues to, pursue us, even if only in prayer for those who are lost.

June 23, 2013

John 7:37-38

On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

Command with a Promise...

If I am thirsty, hot that physical glass of water kind of thirsty, but that dryness in my soul kind of thirsty, then I am told to come to Jesus and drink. Better yet if I am constantly running to the well then the thirst will always be held off. When I do come to Jesus and drink He promises me that I will be filled to the point where His quenching water, the Holy Spirit, will flow out of me abundantly to all around me. What a glorious promise!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

June 22, 2013

Acts 28:30-31

Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

Encouraging Words...

Paul is such an inspiration to me. He was not born into Christianity, he converted from Judaism...a decision, a choice, that created grief for him the remainder of his life. He never complained about his circumstances, even though the majority of his adult life he was persecuted, abused, and imprisoned. He did all things in joy knowing who his Lord was and serving Him with ever breath, every action, to his dying day. This is the way that I desire to live out my life. Glory be to God!

Friday, June 21, 2013

June 21, 2013

John 17:20-21

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Personal Challenge...

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Creator, Redeemer, Lord and Savior, prayed in His final hours for His church and for me as a member of that church. He specifically prayed for unity amongst us so that the world may see Him and believe. How can I love my neighbor if I cannot love my brother and sister in Christ? How can I be in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ if I harbor ill about them in my heart or mind? How can I speak lovingly to them if I speak badly of them when they are not around? I clearly have much to repent of to my Lord in this area. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June 20, 2013

John 16:23-24

And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

Encouraging Words...

In the Orthodox Church we do all of our prayers in the name of "the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." We do this because Jesus taught us to pray in the Father's name because we have direct access to Him, and to pray through the name of Jesus because He is the one who provides that direct access and in the Holy Spirit because He makes intercession for us. How awesome is it to have the entire Godhead available to us for our prayers and petitions. Glory be to God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19, 2013

Matthew 18:20

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

Personal Challenge...

One of the challenges for me is that I grew up in the western way of thinking about Christianity that fostered a very individualized, personal form of following Christ. Even though it is important for me to personally pursue my Lord it is critical that my relationship with Christ and the Father comes through the community of His Church. I cannot do it alone. I need my brothers and sisters in order to grow.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

June 18, 2013

John 16:13

However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

Encouraging Words...

When Jesus ascended into heaven He not only opened the door for us to do the same but He did not leave us alone. He sent the Holy Spirit to reside within us...His Church. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth and brings with His presence that truth, which He is guiding us, His Church, into. Glory be to God!

June 17, 2013

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Encouraging Words...

God, incarnate as man, came into this world so as to redeem me from death. Jesus left us with this promise to give us peace, not worldly peace, but eternal peace. Glory be to God.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

June 16, 2013

John 21:7

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.

Personal Challenge...

John and Peter demonstrate two very critical traits of growing in Christ. Because of John's great love for Jesus He was able to see Him and recognize Him in His spiritual (mystical) form. The lesson here is that if I want to see Jesus, really see Him, then my love for Him must grow deeper and deeper and fully consume me. Peter, even though He did not recognize Jesus, in His spiritual (mystical) form, still plunged forward in His excitement and commitment to His Lord who then revealed Himself to Peter. The lesson here is that I must press on in my journey through life trusting that Jesus will be the Man on the shore that I am running to. Glory be to God.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

June 15, 2013

John 14:12

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father."

Command with a Promise...

Okay...it is time to apply a little western logic to this eastern way of thinking. Jesus has departed to be with His Father in heaven. Check! He promised that if I believe in Him that I will do greater works than He did. Check! He demonstrated this promise through the works of the apostles and throughout the history of the church. Check! I say that I believe in Him. Check! And I do great works that exceed those that He did. NOT!

So what is missing here? Was Jesus wrong? Nope! Then the logical conclusion is that I do not believe in Him! Yet I know that I do believe in Him. How is this possible? I think there are two reasons. First, it is the level or intensity in which I believe in Him. As the father of the demon possessed boy said, "I believe, help me in my unbelief." I need Jesus and the Holy Spirit to increase my belief. Second, and most important, is the mode that I am believing in. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He came as a man, and all of the rest of the Nicene Creed. But here is the issue, I believe all of this on the physical, or temporal plane. I am stuck here on earth. I think what Jesus is commanding me to do is to believe on the spiritual plane, in the mystical realm. That is where He resides, that is where I will be given the power that I need to do these great works that will overflow into the physical realm and to live a sinless life. Wow!! What a light bulb moment! It looks like my journey into godliness and righteousness is just now going to begin. Lord Jesus Christ, I believe, help me in my unbelief!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June 13, 2013

Acts 1:9-11

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven."

Encouraging Words...

Today we celebrated the ascension of Jesus into heaven in the Orthodox Church. The early church fathers taught, and our icons of the ascension show us, that Jesus has not left us for a future return, but He has taken His rightful seat at God's right hand on His throne in Heaven. He reigns from there. The angels remind us that we are not to be living our Christian lives looking in the past longing for what was or looking to the future waiting for what might be, but in the present spreading His good news and love. We do this remembering the past and learning from those who have gone before us, while holding on to the hope of our future reunion with our Lord, but actively living for Him and through Him in the lives that He has blessed us with. Christ is risen! Indeed He is risen.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June 12, 2013

Habakkuk 2:4

"If any man should shrink back, My soul will not be well pleased in him; but the righteous shall live by My faith."

Personal Challenge...

The relationship between faith and works has caused much division and confusion amongst the followers of Christ. And I know that I do not have the wisdom to articulate, better yet understand, the mystery that God has around this. It is critical that I put my belief and faith in Jesus Christ and the work that He has accomplished for this is where my justification comes from. But as this verse says, operating in that faith I should not shrink back from Him whom I have put that faith in. Part of working out that justification in my life is boldly doing the works that He calls me into. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June 11, 2013

Psalm 138:4-6 (137:4-6)

O Lord, let all the kings of the earth give thanks to You,
For they heard all the words of Your mouth;
And let them sing in the ways of the Lord,
For the glory of the Lord is great;
For the Lord is high, and He watches over the lowly things;
But the high things He knows from afar.

Personal Challenge...

Do I really want to draw close to the Lord and to know Him more intimately? Then I must become lowly before Him. for if I become lowly before Him He will watch over me. If I live my life in a high and mighty way He will leave me alone to my on ways. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Monday, June 10, 2013

June 10, 2013

Acts 17:6

But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too."

Personal Challenge...

Am I living my Christian life in such a way that the people around me can accuse me of turning the world upside down? Am I living in my church body in such a way that it is turning the world upside down? Unfortunately I must answer, "No!" to both of these questions. The message of Christ is just as radical, life changing, and world upturning today as it was 2,000 years ago. I must let it turn my world upside down before I can be accused of doing the same to the world around me.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

June 9, 2013

Acts 10:25

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

Personal Challenge...

My desire is that by the grace of God I will respond to persecution as Paul and Silas did. To be praying and singing hymns after being beaten and thrown in prison shows that these men no longer lived in this world. They had been transformed into another world, a world in the presence of God where they could endure the oppression of the temporal life with joy and rejoicing. Glory be to God!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

June 8, 2013

Psalm 139:4-6 (138:4-6 LXX)

For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether,
The last things and the first things;
You fashioned me, and placed Your hands on me.
Your knowledge has become too wondrous for me;
It has become too overwhelming; I am unable to grasp it.

Encouraging Words...

Our God is far too magnificent and wondrous for us to ever truly know Him. As soon as I begin to think that I know my God He lifts another veil and shows me that I have the understanding of an infant. Does this dissuade me from asking to know him? No, to the contrary it drives me to know Him more and more. While this journey to know Him may be assisted by studying the scriptures, teachings of the early church fathers, and other learned believers, but it is also found by doing His work of loving my neighbor, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and taking care of the orphan. All of this is necessary to draw closer to my Lord and therefore to know Him better today than I did yesterday.

Friday, June 7, 2013

June 7, 2013

Psalm 121:1-4 (120:1-4 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...

Praise the Lord for who He is? He is always present and I can always hide under His wings of love and protection. Glory be to God!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

June 6, 2013

Psalm 119:147 (118:147 LXX)

I arose at midnight and cried out;
I hoped in Your words.

Encouraging Words...

No matter what the time of the day; no matter what the conditions of life; I can call out to my God and put my hope in Him. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

June 5, 2013

John 6:14

Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."

Personal Challenge...

Is my Jesus the Prophet of the world or the Prophet of all creation and heavenly things? This passage reminds me that many are believers in Christ because of what they have seen or received in this physical world. He makes me feel good! He has helped me get...! Jesus would often leave those crowds who sought Hm for His physical and worldly things. Belief comes in trusting Him for those things that are not of this world. If I believe this way then the world can take away all that I have, even my life, and my belief will remain strong. Faith must be what rules my life and not my experienceså or desires.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

June 4, 2013

Psalm 118:1-4 (117:1-4 LXX)

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say that He is good,
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say that He is good,
For His mercy endures forever.
Let all who fear the Lord say that He is good,
For His mercy endures forever.

Encouraging Words...

Let the house of David and Laura say that He is good,
For His mercy endures forever.

Monday, June 3, 2013

June 3, 2013

Psalm 101:2 (100:2 LXX)

I will sing and understand in a blameless way;
When will You come to me?
I walked in the innocence of my heart in the midst of my house.

Personal Challenge...

As the psalmist reaches out to his Lord to start his day with a blessing of mercy so do I. My desire is to be reminded to call out to my Lord every day, to sing His praises, and to seek His understanding. I need to desire His coming and to strive to walk in His ways with a heart filled with innocence. This only comes from submitting my all to Him in humility. Help me, oh Lord, to walk in this way.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

June 2, 2013

John 4:13-14

Jesus answered and said to her, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."

Encouraging Words...

Oh, to never thirst again! We are promised here by our Lord that when we receive Him into our loves He will place within us a well that will feed our thirst forever. That well is the Holy Spirit and He dwells within me. Why is it that I still have those dry periods where I thirst? The answer is so simple, I do not spend enough time at the well drinking and taking in that which God has provided. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

June 1, 2013

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

Personal Challenge...

Oh, how easy it is to forget that I have been bought for a very expensive price...the life of my Lord. And because of that I no longer belong to myself. Do I take care of myself in a way that glorifies and honors my owner? The food I eat, the way that I take care of my body, what I let my eyes take in, the words that come out of my mouth, where I let my mind go, what I let my heart hold on to? I know that I have a long way to go to honor my Lord in all of these areas. But I also know that by God's grace He is loving me through this growth and gracing me with His mercy. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.