Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July 31, 2013

Hosea 6:3

Let us know, let us pursue
That we might know the Lord.
We shall find Him ready as the daybreak,
And He will come to us
As the early and latter rain to the earth.

Encouraging Words...

Our Lord need not be a stranger in our lives. Just as the Genesis account of the beginnings of mankind shows that God walked in the garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and even called out to them after they sinned, God is ready to walk through life with us today. He is standing ready for us to come to Him. He is always coming to us in the midst of our trials and tribulations. He is dependable even when we are not. Glory be to God.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

July 30, 2013

Psalm 118:24 (117:24 LXX)

This is the day the Lord made;
Let us greatly rejoice, and be glad therein.

Encouraging Words...

Every day that I am able to get up, breath, and move around is truly a blessing. I seldom, if ever, go through a day where the hunger pains gnaw at my belly...and yet millions do this every day of their lives. I always wake up with a roof over my head, clean clothes to wear for the day, a job to go to, and loved ones that encourage me through life. So many people have none of this. So yes, these are encouraging words and I do have so much to be thankful for because my Lord, my Salvation, my Comforter, my Friend has made this day and given it to me. The real question is what will I do with this precious gift? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Monday, July 29, 2013

July 29, 2013

Psalm 94:19 (93:19 LXX)

O Lord, according to the abundance of grief in my heart,
Your encouragements consoled my soul.

Encouraging Words...

We cannot grieve more than God can encourage and console us. I know that when we are in the midst of our grief that we may not be able to see God's encouragement, but nonetheless it is there and in abundance. Jesus had to die and go into the deepest depths of hell in order to break the bondage that death held on us. He set us free. And He goes into the depths of our despair with us to break its hold on us and to set us free. Glory be to God!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

July 28, 2013

Psalm 27:1 (26:1 LXX)

The Lord is my light and my savior; whom shall I fear?

The Lord is the defender of my life; whom shall I dread?

Encouraging Words...

When you have the Almighty God, the Creator of all, as your Lord, your Light, your salvation, your defender...and you truly believe this, then who or what can ever cause you fear or dread? Nothing! No one!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

July 27, 2013

Romans 8:14-15

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

Encouraging Words...

I have heard it said that the term, "Abba, Father!" would be equivalent to a little child calling out, "Daddy! Daddy!" Through the Holy Spirit I can run to my Daddy and cuddle in His loving arms because I am His son. Glory be to God!

Friday, July 26, 2013

July 26, 2013

Psalm 18:1-3 (17:2-4 LXX)

I will love You, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my foundation, my refuge, my deliverer;
My God is my helper, on Him I will hope,
My champion, the horn of my salvation, and my protector.
I will call upon the Lord and praise Him,
And I shall be saved from my enemies.

Encouraging Words...

Oh how I desire to have a relationship with my God as intimate as the psalmist did. He is my all, my provider, my friend and on Him I can put all of my trust and hope. Glory be to God!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

July 25, 2013

Psalm 10:17-18 (9:38-39 LXX)

The Lord hears the desire of the poor;
Your ear heeds the readiness of their heart,
To judge the orphan and the humble,
That man may no longer increase his great boasting upon the earth.

Personal Challenge...

Our Lord cares deeply for the poor, the orphan, the widow, and the downcast. He understands their pain because He grieves with them in their condition. I too must care deeply for those in need around me and humble myself before them and my God, because circumstances could turn at any time and I could be joining the ranks of those in need. Once again, a company that I work for has made the decision to let go of a significant number of their staff (over 450 in this case) and now these people, people with families, with bills to pay, with hopes and dreams, are in that state of uncertainty in their lives. For them I lift up the prayer, "Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!" For me I ask that I be constantly reminded by my Lord to be loving and caring, humble and respectful toward those whom He has placed in my life, and to be only dependent upon Him.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 24, 2013

Romans 15:13

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Encouraging Words...

We have such a great host of believers who have gone before us and who have prayed for us. Here Paul lifts up the Romans, but his prayer still reaches out for us today as well. And since I believe in the resurrection of the dead, I also believe that Paul and all of those saints of the past are still issuing these petitions on our behalf today.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

July 23, 2013

Romans 12:14-19

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.

Command(s) with a Promise...

Wow! Another one of those awesome nuggets of gold discovered. Throughout this passage is command after command...bless my persecutors and cursers, rejoice and weep with those who do the same, be of the same mind as others and be humble while doing it, do not be wise of my own accord, and on and on. But then there is the prize, the promise, "If it is possible..." and "do not avenge myself", because if I do the commands as much as is possible and do so humbly, then God will give out the chastisement needed to those who deserve it. This is still a very personally challenging way to live, but what a powerful promise and such a gift of freedom..."If it is possible..." Glory be to God!

Monday, July 22, 2013

July 22, 2013

Romans 12:4-5

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

Personal Challenge...

One body...multiple functions! We often hear teaching on this passage focused on the application of our spiritual gifts. Couldn't it also be focusing on the greater body of Christ and reminding us that other true and right practicers of the Christian faith, those different from where we practice our faith every Sunday, but still grounded in the fundamental truths of Christianity, are also included in the body of Christ. Maybe this passage is reminding us to be in unity with our other brothers and sisters in Christ so that His body, His church, can function fully and completely. All truth is God'/s truth and He is more involved in the redemption of the world than I can ever comprehend.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

July 21, 2013

Matthew 8:13

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

Encouraging Words...

I have often been asked, the question, "Why doesn't God do these kinds of miracles any more?" Well...actually He does, all the time. One of the blessings of doing missions work outside of the USA is that I have had the chance to be in places where people's beliefs are more like this centurion's and miracles are more visible. I have also seen the hand of God at work enough in my own life to see that He is still working these kinds of miracles. So what is the difference? Just as in the day of Jesus it is us, the people, who are of little faith. We either do not see Him working His miracles or we are so faithless that we inhibit His miraculous workings. So much for living in the "age of enlightenment." This is one of the reasons that one of the primary focuses of my journey through life as an Orthodox Christian is to learn to think, and believe, like our early church fathers did. To think like the apostles, to believe like the apostles, to abandon the modern way of thinking and believing about God. As the father of the boy possessed by a demon said to Jesus, "I believe, help me in my unbelief!"

Saturday, July 20, 2013

July 20, 2013

Romans 6:11-12

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

Encouraging Words...

Sin's power in my life is not absolute. Through Christ I can reject sin and live a victorious life for God. I am not totally depraved, rather I am a diamond created in the image of God covered with mud. As I follow Him He washes off that mud, polishes me, and helps me to sparkle. Since Christ was able to live His human life with His human will aligned with God's and therefore sinless, then my living in Him gives me the ability to reject sin as well. Glory be to God!

Friday, July 19, 2013

July 19, 2013

Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!

   “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
   Or who has become His counselor?
   Or who has first given to Him
   And it shall be repaid to him?”

For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

Encouraging Words...

One of the many things that I am enjoying in my journey through life as an Orthodox Christian is the understanding that God is so much more than any man, or group of men, can ever define or pin down...and that is okay. God is far more than any of us finite members of His creation can ever grasp. The beauty of accepting this is that I know that I will be able to spend the rest of eternity getting to know God and that there will still be more to learn. It also frees us up to be more accepting of others and their belief practices because all truth is God's truth and only He knows who He has given that truth to. Glory be to God!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

July 18, 2013

Psalm 5:3 (5:4 LXX)

In the morning You shall hear my voice;
In the morning I will stand before You,
And I will watch.

Encouraging Words...

One of the things that I have been doing since I converted to Orthodoxy is my morning prayer rule. It is a time to start each day with prayer and reading of the scriptures. It is not a mandatory thing, but a choice. A choice to do as the psalmist echoes here, to come into the presence of our Lord and speak with Him. A choice to spend more time getting to know Him and His teachings through the written words and the teachings and traditions of those who have gone before us. A choice to look to Him for His guidance throughout the day. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 17, 2013

John 3:36

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Encouraging Words...

What do you do with a verse like this when most of your Christian life you are taught that God is wrathful and judging and that we are all condemned to hell unless we receive Christ, then you learn that the early church fathers taught that God is love and does everything in love? This verse seems to point to God as angry and wrathful not loving. It takes a lot more study and research to understand this and I am still wrapping my head around it. As Orthodox Christians we still acknowledge that there will be a final judgment by God. So much so that in every liturgy we pray, "For a good defense before the dread Judgment Seat of Christ, let us pray to the Lord: Lord have mercy." The encouraging words here are that God loves us, His creation, so much that He has given us the means by which we can stand before that last judgment seat blameless and exonerated. It is His only Son who gave up His life for mankind and provides us the means to be children of God. And God did not stop there. He also placed in our being, and in all nature around us, all of the indicators that we need to point us to His Son. So who am I to say how that judgment plays out. That is up to God and it is a mystery. Glory be to God.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July 16, 2013

Romans 10:14-15

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace,
Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Personal Challenge...

I believe we are all called to be one of three types of people in the church when it comes to spreading the gospel: goers, senders, and pray-ers. Someone must go to those who have not heard the gospel, or who do not have it readily available to them. Others must be active in sending the goers by financially supporting their needs. All of us must be pray-ers who lift up the goers and petition for more senders. This does not discount that all of us are commanded to share the gospel in every aspect of our lives. For me, the personal challenge is that I desire to be a goer. I have been blessed with the opportunity to do God's work both here in my own back yard as well as around the world. I have even been blessed with the opportunity to do this full time for over two years in Haiti. Unfortunately I have made choices throughout my life that now prevent me from being a full time goer. No regrets though, because by the grace of God I am continually given opportunities to go, to send, and to pray for the harvest. God is so good to His children, of which I am one. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Monday, July 15, 2013

July 15, 2013

I Kings 8:22-24 (3 Kingdoms 8:22-24)

You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth, and fulfilled it with Your hand, as today. Now, O Lord God of Israel, keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, so long as your people guard and keep their ways to walk before Me, as you walked before Me.’ So now, O Lord God of Israel, let the word be confirmed You spoke to Your servant David my father.

Encouraging Words...

Just as Jesus prayed for His apostles and the future of His church in John, chapter 17, Solomon prays for his people, requesting that God our Father will fulfill His promises to David. God cares for His people more than we will ever be able to comprehend. All we have to do is look at the church and the robust history that we have with it and we can see how much God has kept His promises. Glory be to God!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

July 14, 2013

Matthew 6:32b-34

For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Encouraging Words...

I do not need to be consumed by worries about the earthly things that I want or even need. god knows what my needs are and He will take care of them. Since my heart and mind are to focus on Him and the heavenly realm I can let go of my concerns of this world and live freely in Christ. If I put all of my energy toward Christ the rest will follow. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

July 13, 2013

Matthew 7:24-25

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

Encouraging Words...

"for it was grounded on the rock." Having built homes in Thailand, Mexico, and Haiti after disasters I know all too well the true value of building on solid ground. What a blessing it is to have the Rock of Jesus to build my life on. He will never falter...even when I do. Glory be to God.

Friday, July 12, 2013

July 12, 2013

Matthew 18:15-18

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. ’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

"Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Encouraging Words...

Jesus established for us a very clear and effective model; for discipline and reconciliation in His body, His church. There is no room for gossip and slander, which only destroys the fellowship of the community, but there are dire consequences for not recognizing our sins against each other and repenting from them. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

July 11, 2013

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Encouraging Words...

Wages...that which I earn for the labor I have performed. Gift...that which is freely given to me without my doing anything to earn it. What a contrast. Since sin dwells within me, within my flesh, I have committed, and will continue to commit, sin. Therefore, I have earned the wages of that sin, which is eternal death. However, Jesus, who never sinned, and who broke the grip of both sin and death, has become that free gift offered by God to me. Through Jesus' life and work, and God's grace and love, I have been given the gift of eternal life. What a blessing. What an incredible act of love by our God the Father. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

July 10, 2013

Romans 8:1-2

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Encouraging Words...

Prior to the coming of Christ we were all condemned under the law. Christ, however, fulfilled the law and therefore freed us from this condemnation...if we walk in His power and authority. Not only did He do all of this work because I could not, but He also sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within me and to help me walk in Christ. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July 9, 2013

Romans 7:17 & 20

But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Encouraging Words...

I am not depraved! I am created in the image of God! I am not sinful by nature, but sin which is distinctly separate from me still dwells within my fleshly body. The early church fathers taught that because I am created in the image of God, there is an indelible goodness in my nature that can never be undone. Yes, I can become immersed in sin, but I can know that it is not part of my nature, but a foreign force that dwells within me. Sin is what I do, not what I am. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner! Lord Jesus Christ, Master of my life, give me the power and the desire to say "No!" to sin and "Yes!" to Your will in my life. Glory be to God!

Monday, July 8, 2013

July 8, 2013

Romans 3:10-12

As it is written:
“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”

Encouraging Words...

If I read this passage through the filter that God is a wrathful, judging God, then there is no hope for mankind. If I read this through the filter that God is love and in the context of the entire scriptures, then I can see that God has provided total and complete hope for mankind through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. The law's purpose was not to condemn mankind, but to point us to Christ and our need for Him. Through Christ the law has been justified and put to death.

July 7, 2013

Romans 2:11

For there is no partiality with God.

Personal Challenge...

Don't we often as Christians show partiality when we label someone as not being a "true" Christian because they practice their Christianity different that us? If God shows no partiality then why do I think that I can?

July 6, 2013

No posting.

July 5, 2013

Luke 6:20-23

Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:

“Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man's sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets."

Encouraging Words and Personal Challenge...

How easy is it to confuse Jesus' blessings of the "bad" things (poverty, hunger, weeping, being hated) with the things of this world when He is referring to the things of the heavenly realm, which also exists in the present. Am I poor in hour I hold on to the possessions that I have and have a heart for the poor around me (both economically and spiritually)? Am I totally dependent upon God? Do I weep over the sufferings of this physical life and the suffering of those around me as well as those far off in such great need? Do I get persecuted because I uphold the truth, refuse to compromise with the ways of the world and give myself to none other than God? Here is where the blessings of God will pour into my life. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

July 4, 2013

Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Encouraging Words...

From the Orthodox Study Bible: "The ultimate purpose of man's existence is to attain the glory of God. Even if a person were to keep the whole law, he would still fall short of that glory, because he would still be bound by death. The glory of God is both eternal righteousness and eternal life. Jesus Christ alone lived in completed righteousness, and He alone was resurrected from the dead. Therefore, He alone is the fullness of the glory of God, and we receive that glory in Him (see Jn 14:6)" The encouraging part here is that through the glorious work of JEsus Christ I too will be able to enter in the the glory of God.

July 3, 2013

Matthew 7:21

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven."

Personal Challenge...

God does not want His children to be passive followers of Him. He wants us to be active doing His will. But He also doesn't want us to just be busy. If we are not operating within His will we are still just spinning our wheels. The life of a Christian is an active, purposeful, God-centered life.

July 2, 2013

Matthew 7:15-16

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles."

Personal Challenge...

Christ warns us to be prepared for the false leaders and teachers that will infiltrate His church. We are to watch for the fruit of their labors. Is there a history of division and brokenness left behind them...then they are suspect. Is there much pomp around their righteousness, knowledge, or piety... then they are suspect. Am I exhibiting any of this in my life...then I must repent and turn to Christ in humility. I am commanded to be diligent in my involvement in the church so that my eyes stay focused on Christ and not on men.

July 1, 2013

Matthew 6:31-34

“Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Encouraging Words and Personal Challenge...

As I return from a week in Mexico I must ask myself, "What in my life is really a need?" Many of those things in my life that I have treated as needs are really wants because the majority of the world lives without them. I complain about taking a cold shower every day when many have no running water and what water they do have is not safe to drink. I complain about the food I eat every day and yet many only get to eat a meager meal every few days. I can go on complaining about my work, my possessions, etc., etc., etc., and still many go without. Lord have mercy on me a sinner. So what should I be needing in my life? The kingdom of God that can only be found in those whom God has placed in my life; my wife, my children and grandchildren, my parents and siblings and their families. This is where the kingdom of God is. Also in the people of my church, work and neighborhood that He has blessed me with. The kingdom of God will not be found in stuff but in the life that He has called me into. It is here that I can project God's love to those around me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

June 30, 2013

1 Corinthians 4:10

We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!

Personal Challenge...

Have we, the church in America, become like the early church in Corinth? That city, and the church in it, was wealthy and prosperous, strong, and wise because it was in the center of the crossroads of the world. However, in all of this prospering the church had become ineffective in the world. Are we, am I, any different? God forbid! Am I willing to become a fool for Christ...abandoning all for Him? Am I willing to become weak for Him so that He can become strong in me? Am I willing to become dishonored in my world so that He becomes the one that is distinguished? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner!

June 29, 2013

1 Peter 1:3-5

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Encouraging Words...

What a wonderful promise Peter elicits for us here in this verse. Because of God's great mercy towards us and the work of His Son Jesus Christ we have been given a living hope, an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled, one that does not fade away, waiting for us in heaven. We are kept by the power of God. Glory be to God!.

June 28, 2013

Mother Teresa...

We must proclaim Christ by the way we talk, by the way we walk, by the way we laugh, by our life, so that everyone will know that we belong to him. Proclaiming is not preaching, it is being.

Encouraging Words...

What a powerful statement. Jesus must permeate every aspect of my life in order for me to be able to proclaim Him to the world.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

June 27, 2013

Matthew 5:23-24

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Personal Challenge...

The life of a Christian cannot be lived entirely in solitude. We must work out our faith in community. Even the monks and ascetics who removed themselves from all other people did so in order to be in uninterrupted community with Christ. But for those of us who do not go into the desert we must live in fellowship, relationship, with those around us. This is why this passage is so critical. I cannot fully worship my God, fully serve Him, fully receive His mercies and blessings unless I am fully reconciled with those in my life. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Friday, July 5, 2013

June 26, 2013

Romans 1:20-21

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Encouraging Words...

God's creation, especially mankind has no excuse for not worshiping Him. First of all we were created in His image. Secondly we were created to worship Him and to be in relationship with Him. Finally, He hid reflections of Himself in the midst of all of His creation. Glory be to God!