Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August 27, 2013

James 3:17-18

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Encouraging Words...

"The wisdom that is from above...", as the early church fathers read in the Old Testament was Jesus Christ. So with Jesus as our Lord He will pour into His children that pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality or hypocrisy, form of Wisdom. Oh how much different life, all aspects of life, will be as we receive this Wisdom and let it wash over us and control us. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner, and guide me in the ways of your peace.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August 26, 2013

Matthew 21:21-22

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."

Command with a Promise...

Have faith, do not doubt, ask in prayer (believing prayer), and mountains will be moved, seas will be calmed, and requests will be answered. The reality of miracles in a Christian's life comes from both the power and glory of God and the Christian's level of belief and prayer. Oh God, I believe, help me in my unbelief.

Monday, August 26, 2013

August 25, 2013

Matthew 14:27

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

Encouraging Words...

Jesus once again demonstrates to His disciples, both literally and figuratively, that He is there with them in the midst of their trials and tribulations. The first storm occurrence was with Him in the boat with the disciples and this one is when He is out of the boat away from them. The imagery here is that whether I am in the midst of God's work, being close to Him, or just going through life not even thinking about Him (which should be happening less and less on my journey to theosis), I will encounter trials and tribulations. And in the midst of these I am not alone. Not only can Jesus calm these storms, but He can also help me to do miraculous things through Him as long as I keep my eyes upon Him. Glory be to God!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

August 24, 2013

Matthew 25:34-40

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me. ’

Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? ’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Personal Challenge...

So many people wonder throughout their lives what must be done to make it into heaven. And there are many different answers. The answer is not alway as simple as we often hear. Yes, it is only possible through the work of Jesus Christ and the grace of God. But as this passage reminds us, the King expects us to serve in our salvation. Being a Christian is a verb and not a noun. In order to honor my Lord in this life I must be doing His work on His behalf, being His hands and feet, His mouth and ears. There is no such thing as passive salvation.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

August 23, 2013

Proverbs 2:1-6

My son, if you receive the words of my commandment
And hide them within yourself,
Your ear will be obedient to wisdom,
And you will incline your heart to understanding;
You will entrust it to your son as an admonition.
For if he calls upon wisdom,
And you utter your voice for understanding;
If you seek perception with a strong voice,
If you seek her as silver
And search for her as treasure,
Then you will understand the fear of the Lord
And find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom,
And from His face come knowledge and understanding;

Encouraging Words...

I love how the early church fathers taught that when the Psalms and Proverbs speak about Wisdom they are talking about Jesus Christ. Reading through passages like this one with this understanding make the test jump off of the page. Try this passage knowing that it is pointing to Christ as the Wisdom of god and cherish the truth that the Lord gives wisdom, and from His face come knowledge and understanding.

Friday, August 23, 2013

August 22, 2013

Psalm 85 (84 LXX)

   1 For the End; a psalm for the sons of Korah.
   2 O Lord, You were pleased with Your land; You turned back the captivity of Jacob;   3 You forgave the transgressions of Your people;
     You covered all their sins. (Pause)
   4 You ended all Your wrath;
     You turned from the wrath of Your anger. 
   5 Turn us, O God of our salvation,
     And turn away Your anger from us. 
   6 Will You be angry with us forever,
     Or will You prolong Your anger from generation to generation?
   7 O God, You will turn and give us life,
     And Your people will be glad in You.
   8 Show us Your mercy, O Lord,
     And grant us Your salvation.
   9 I will hear what the Lord God will speak in me,
     For He will speak peace
     To His people and to His holy ones,
     And to those who turn their heart to Him.
 10 His salvation is very close at hand to those who fear Him,
     That glory may dwell in our land.
 11 Mercy and truth met together;
     Righteousness and peace kissed each other;
 12 Truth arose from the earth,
     And righteousness looked down from heaven.
 13 For the Lord will give goodness,
     And our land shall yield its fruit.
 14 Righteousness shall go before Him
     And establish His footsteps as our pathway.

Encouraging Words...

The early church fathers taught that the Old Testament always foreshadowed the coming of Christ, the incarnation of Him as man. If one reads this Psalm with that perspective it clearly becomes a prophecy of the Incarnation (the End, v. 1). His Incarnation (vv. 10–14) gives His holy ones (v. 9) deliverance from captivity (v. 2), the remission of sins (v. 3), deliverance from God's wrath (vv. 4–6), joyous life (v. 7), mercy (v. 8), and peace (v. 9). (Taken from the Orthodox Study Bible.) Glory be to God!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August 21, 2013

Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Command with a Promise...

God is good! He is more active in our lives than most of us are aware. What a precious reward we receive for obeying these commands...the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, and guarded hearts and minds. Praise be to God!

August 20, 2013

Luke 6:38

Give, and it will be given to you:good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.

Encouraging Words...

God's economy is so much different than man's. I must learn His economy and abandon man's.

August 18, 2013

1 Corinthians 1:10

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Personal Challenge...

We have come to the same state that the early Corinthian church was at and which Paul challenged then. "I follow Martin Luther!" "I follow John Calvin!" "I follow John and Charles Wesley!" "I follow the apostles!" "I am Greek or Russian or...!" This list goes on and on. And what is missing here? We all, hopefully, are following Christ. Yes, we must take a stand against heretical teaching, but we must become unified in Christ. I am so saddened by rhos who see me as an Orthodox Christian as "unsaved" and that they must try to woo me to their practice of Christianity. Our continued push for factions in the Body of Christ will be levied in the judgment day. Love above all things should be our common, uniting action. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August 19, 2013

Romans 8:31-32

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Encouraging Words...

Once again we are reminded by our early church fathers that we are not on our journey through life alone. We have our Lord, the Creator of all, walking the road with us. What a comfort!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

August 17, 2013

Romans 13:1

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Command with a Promise...

Paul makes it clear in this passage (vs. 1-10) what our role is in relationship to the governing authorities that we are under. It is disconcerting to me to see more and more people who claim to be followers of Christ who blatantly violate this command to be subject to those officials whom God has placed in authority over us. I am not always happy with what they do or how they do it, but there are proper, even godly, ways to deal with them. May God's way always be in the forefront of my thoughts, words, and actions.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

August 16, 2013

1 Corinthians 14:33

For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.

Encouraging Words...

It is always good to remember that God is not a source of confusion or discord or disarray. He provides peace and clarity for His children. When I enter into a period of life where the confusion begins to be be obvious I claim this promise about God and demons that are causing the discord flee. Glory be to God!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August 15, 2013

1 Corinthians 10:31

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Personal Challenge...

Paul very clearly reminds me here that as I go through life I am to do all that I do for the glory of God. The context of this verse sets this reminder in relationship to what I do around others. If what I want to do will affect them or take them down the wrong path the it is up to me to sacrifice what I want for the greater good. I do not compromise on what God wants me to do, but I do deal with those around me in love.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

August 14, 2013

1 Corinthians 10:12-13

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Encouraging Words/Personal Challenge...

Verse 13 here is one of those fundamental verses that we often memorize in scripture memorization activities. It is very encouraging to know that God is always there to walk with us through the temptations in life, that He will protect us from being tempted beyond our ability to say, "No!", and that no temptation is new and unique to me...others have been tempted this way and beaten the temptation. God is the center of this verse and that is good. Today is the first time that I have recognized how powerful verse 12 is in this context. This is where the personal challenge comes in. I cannot go through life with a cocky, arrogant attitude about my ability to withstand temptation. I must be vigilant at guarding my heart and fleeing from temptations. These two verses go hand in hand.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August 13, 2013

Luke 5:27-28

After these things He went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he left all, rose up, and followed Him.

Personal Challenge...

I am always amazed at how responsive some of the people in the scriptures were to the calling of Jesus. If Jesus where to say to me today, "Go here and do My work." would I drop everything and go? Levi, Peter, Joseph, Mary, Paul, and the list goes on demonstrate that if I am a follower of Christ then I must be ready to say, "Yes!" when He calls upon me. He has promised to take care of my needs. Do I believe Him? He has promised to guard and protect me. Do I trust Him? My prayer is that if, or when, He calls upon me that I will be able to say, "Yes!"

Monday, August 12, 2013

August 12, 2013

Luke 1:37

For with God nothing will be impossible.

Encouraging Words...

It has been such a blessing to go through the years of life that I have so far knowing that I can hold on to verses such as this one. I have had my share of ups and downs, joys and sorrows, successes and failures. And I am very aware that there are many, if not most, people that have had many more, and many worse downs, sorrows, and failures than I ever have. My prayers go up to the Father of life and love on their behalf. But I still come back to share that this verse is one of the cornerstones that a life can be built on. If I start here and add other foundational truths my life will be one that defies the impossible because it will be a life built on Jesus Christ.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

August 11, 2013

Romans 15:1-3

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”

Personal Challenge...

I am not only commanded to love my neighbor, but I am also commanded to bear their burdens with them, to lift them up. This all leads to edification, for them, for the name of Christ, and for me as well. And this is not something that Christ Himself was unwilling to demonstrate for us. For He bore my burdens and sins on the cross. Glory be to God!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

August 10, 2013

Matthew 10:38-39

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Personal Challenge...

Here is one of the core requirements for living a Christian life...taking up my cross and following Jesus. Where did Jesus go? He gave up the comforts of heaven to come to be amongst us. What comforts of my home, my "entitlement" as a comfortable American citizen, am I being asked to leave behind so that I can follow where He leads me? All of them! He spent time with the outcast, the sick, the broken, the lonely, the lowly. Who is He asking me to spend time with? The homeless, the sick, the broken, my enemies, those whom I love and those whom I don't, anyone in need! He let go of the possessions that were His. What does He want me to let go of? All that I have because it belongs to Him anyway! Does He want me to give everything away, run off into the desert and spend the rest of my life living the life of a hermit? Not necessarily, but He does want me to live my life ascetically...putting others first, loving my neighbor and doing all that I do in love, holding on to those things that He has given me lightly so that they do not become idols, manifesting the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Glory be to God!

Friday, August 9, 2013

August 9, 2013

Mark 9:33-34

Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all."

Personal Challenge...

Once again, Jesus cuts to the core of my heart and reminds me where my true place in life is. Because of Him I am a child of God, I have been adopted into His family. Through Him I am a saint, a priest, royalty. However, I am commanded to be a servant, to put others first and myself last. This is so contrary to how the world wants me to operate (as well as my own desires). At work, in our churches, in our homes, we jockey for positions of authority. And when we get there our pride swells up and we begin to lord it over those whom are subordinate to us. This is not what Jesus did. The Creator, the Son of God, became a servant to all. It did not change the fact that He was still royalty, but it did highlight the fact that He loved us dearly and immeasurably. Should I do any less if I truly desire to love and serve Him? I can be elevated to positions of authority and leadership, but for each step of the ladder that I go up I must humble myself all the more to reach the place that I should be in order to be a true servant leader...the bottom of the ladder. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

August 8, 2013

Matthew 7:7-8

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Encouraging Words...

So! Who is this passage referring to more? The asker, seeker, knocker? or the Giver, Revealer, Opener? Both are at play here. We must be diligent, persistent, relentless in my asking, seeking, and knocking. And part of that diligence is continually renewing our hearts and minds so that we are pursuing those things that God would want me to have. But it also speaks of God who does answer us, and does help us to find, and does open the doors for us. But in His love for us He provides that which is best for us and not just what we think we want. As a father I understand this (to a human point). I tried, and continue to try, to meet my children's' (and now grandchildren's) needs. Sometimes I even met, and continue to try to meet, their wants. But it is still necessary to withhold that which would actually cause harm. I am so thankful that my Father, my Abba, my Daddy, not only knows what I need, but provides it when I need it. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

August 7, 2013
Matthew 15:7-9

Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
     ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
      And honor Me with their lips,
      But their heart is far from Me.
      And in vain they worship Me,
      Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

Personal Challenge...

It can be so easy to get caught up in the teachings and doctrines of men and totally miss the mark of what God wants of us as Christians. This is what the scribes and pharisees did in the day of Jesus...making their doctrines and commandments more important than God's, and just as damaging, more than God's creation. Are we doing the same today with our myriad of teachings, doctrines  and faith practices? Are we elevating our images, our articulations of who God is and what He wants, above God Himself? God wants our hearts before He wants our worship, teaching  and doctrines. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us, sinners!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

August 6, 2013

Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord your God is with you. The Mighty One shall save you. He shall bring gladness upon you and will renew you with His love. He will delight over you with joy as in a day of feasting.

Encouraging Words...

It has always been verses like this one that have made it difficult to accept a doctrine that presents God as a wrathful, judgmental God. I am, we all are, the works of God's love, created in His image. He has always desired to walk with us in the garden. And yes, we do sin and turn our backs upon Him, and someday we will need to account for these sins. But if God loves us so much that He gave up His only Son in order to redeem us, then His love will be what blesses us as this verse so eloquently reminds us. Glory be to God!

Monday, August 5, 2013

August 5, 2013

1 Corinthians 6:11

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Encouraging Words...

The verses before this one give a long list of the types of sinful backgrounds that the followers of Christ came (and continue to come) from. I know that I can identify with more than one in the list. And yet God cancels this past all out through the work of His Son. The early church fathers taught, and we continue to teach today, that salvation includes being washed in Holy Baptism, sanctified through the Holy Spirit in the oil of chrismation, and justified through our faith. In Christ we can be set free from the very worst of sins. Glory be to God. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 4, 2013

Romans 12:12

rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer;

Personal Challenge...

In this passage Paul gives us some very valuable instructions on how to live our lives. In this verse there are three very vivid reminders. We have such a wonderful hope in Christ for a future that will be filled with God's grace and glory; we are to rejoice in this. We will encounter tribulation in our lives; by the hope that we have in Christ we must be patient through this tribulation. All of this is made possible by continuing through our lives being steadfast in prayer. Glory be to God!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

August 3, 2013

Matthew 9:24

He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him.

Encouraging Words... we have Jesus, the Son of God, who has been healing people of all forms of diseases, casting out demons, and raising people from the dead being ridiculed by those around Him. Should I expect any less when I stand up for Him and profess Him to those around me?

August 2, 2013

Matthew 13:45

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Personal Challenge...

The kingdom of heaven, God's gift, is of such great value that I must be willing to sell all, give up all that I have, in this kingdom in order to acquire it. Have I done this? Am I ready to do this every day? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

August 1, 2013

1 Corinthians 3:18

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

Personal Challenge...

There is a fine line between earthly wisdom and godly wisdom and we must constantly be putting to death our earthly focus and desires in order to gain that which is godly. To the world this looks foolish. But this foolishness becomes our starting place to receive God's blessings of true wisdom. All too often I see in today's workplace God's wisdom being abandoned and man's wisdom prevailing. This, however, is producing an environment that is bound to fail, bound to treat people as commodities as opposed to images of God. Man's wisdom will lead to ruin and despair. God's wisdom, even though it looks foolish to the world, will lead to peace, joy, and eternal blessings.