Monday, September 30, 2013

September 30, 2013

Pursuing that which is good.

Isaiah 55:1-2

“You who are thirsty, go to the water, and all who have no money, go and buy wine and fat, and eat and drink without money and price. Why do you value at the price of money, and give your toil for what does not satisfy? Listen to Me and eat good things, and your soul will delight in good things."

Encouraging Words...

The things that we so often pursue in this world are bankrupt. They are temporary and yet expensive because they distract us from our Lord. If we truly want to enjoy the glorious feast we must pursue that which is good, Jesus Christ. We must partake in the meal that He offers, which is valuable beyond price. Then, and only then, will we delight in His good things, both in this life and the one to come.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 29, 2013

Righteousness for God makes a difference.

Tobit 12:8-9

Prayer is good with fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. A few prayers with righteousness are better than many with wrongdoing. It is better to do almsgiving than to lay up gold. For almsgiving rescues one from death, and it will wash away every sin. Those who do almsgiving and are righteous will be full of life.

Personal Challenge...

Once again it is pointed out that almsgiving (going above and beyond that which is expected) is good for us. Yes, is it is only God that can forgive our sins, but by living a righteous life, and doing these things that He has commanded us, like prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and living righteously, will draw us closer to Him. And in drawing closer to Him our desire to sin will decrease and our desire to honor Him will increase.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

September 28, 2013

Life is good living under His wing.

Psalm 91:4 (90:4 LXX)

He shall overshadow you with His shoulders,
And under His wings you shall hope;
His truth shall encircle you with a shield.

Encouraging Words...

God is my protector, my shield, my hope. There is no reason to walk through the journey of life with any trepidation, fear, or uncertainty when this truth can be embraced. Glory be to God!

Friday, September 27, 2013

September 27, 2013

Almsgiving, a practice that we need again...

Tobit 4:16 LXX

From your bread, give to him who is hungry, and from your clothing, give to the naked. If you have more than you need, do almsgiving, and do not let your eye envy the almsgiving when you do it.

Personal Challenge…

This whole chapter is full of wise and magnificent life advice. This verse focuses on doing almsgiving, a word, and activity, not used much in today’s vocabulary or society. The essence of its meaning is to give of oneself above and beyond what is due. This is what comes after the tithe, after the obligations. It is no wonder that our early church fathers and the traditions of our Orthodox faith encourage us to practice almsgiving. It helps to fortify the soul and bring the love of God to those around us.

September 26, 2013

Sometimes the journey is difficult.

Tobit 1:6 LXX

But I alone traveled frequently to Jerusalem for the feast days, as it is written for all of Israel in an everlasting ordinance. I would carry the first fruits and the tithes of my harvest and the first-shearing.

Personal Challenge…

Tobit is one of the apocryphal books that does not exist in most Western Bibles. This book is a love story which is similar to the love story encapsulated in John 3:16 by Jesus: A father sending his son into the world so that he may find a bride, save her, and bring her back rejoicing to his parents. This verse reminds me that often times to be truly submissive to my Lord, to follow Him where He leads me, I will have to do things that are inconvenient for me and often contradictory to those around me. So be it, because His glory is more important than mine.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

September 25, 2013

What actions am I being stirred up to?

1 Ezra 9:54-55 (1 Esdras LXX)

Then everyone went on their way to eat and drink, to gladden themselves, to give gifts to those who were lacking, and to heartily rejoice. For they were inspired by the words which were taught to them, and they gathered together.

Personal Challenge...

The passage leading up to these verses gives us the account of Ezra reading the Law of the Lord to the people of Israel and their being stirred up to these actions. Am I moved to action every Sunday through liturgy after worshiping Him who fulfilled the Law? If I am not, it is more of a condition of my heart than it is the liturgy. Are the actions that I am stirred up to directed at others, taking care of meeting their needs, sacrificing myself for them as Christ did for me? If not, then again it points to the condition of my heart. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

September 24, 2013

Giving credit where it is due...

1 Ezra 4:58-59 (1 Esdras LXX)

Now when the young man went out, he lifted his face to heaven toward Jerusalem and blessed the King of heaven, saying, “The victory and the wisdom are from You, the glory is Yours, and I am Your servant."

Personal Challenge...

Am I this willing to claim that all of my successes and accomplishments are not of my own doing, but from the Lord? I can do nothing on my own. I can accomplish nothing on my own without becoming prideful about it. Part of growing to be like Christ is giving all credit to the Father for what He has done and for His willingness to use me.

Monday, September 23, 2013

September 23, 2013

Living a life that bucks the tide...

1 Ezra 4:38-50 (1 Esdras LXX)

But the truth abides and is strong forever. The truth lives and rules unto ages of ages. There is no partiality or prejudice with the truth, but it does righteous things, distinct from all wrongdoings and evil. All are pleased with its deeds, and there is nothing unjust in its judgment. For strength, dominion, authority, and majesty belong to it unto all ages, and blessed is the God of truth.

Personal Challenge...

We live in an age of relative truth. As I flip through the news channels I see opinions present as truth that contradicts each other. As I work through a day in my place of employment I see facts manipulated to tell the story that one wants others to hear. Our entire society has walked away from black and white truths and embrace relative grays and called them truth. This is also rampant in many churches. God is Truth! All truth is God's truth! If I claim to be His follower, His adopted child, then shouldn't I be always seeking and proclaiming truth? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

September 22, 2013

Interesting who God uses for His work...

1 Ezra 2:2 (1 Esdras 2:2 LXX)

“Thus says Cyrus the king of the Persians: Israel's Lord, the Lord Most High, revealed and indicated to me, the king of the inhabited world, that I should build a house for Him at Jerusalem in Judea."

Encouraging Words...

Here we have a case where God chooses to use a Gentile, apparently one who does not follow Him, to do His work. God does speak to those saved and those unsaved. But beyond that He uses Cyrus, a gentile king, to typify Christ. God used Him to rebuild the physical temple and set the Jews free, just as He later uses Christ, the King of Jews, to build His church and set the Gentiles free. Glory be to God for He can use me too!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

September 21, 2013

Be not afraid!

Deuteronomy 31:8

But the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not be afraid, nor be terrified."

Promise with Command...

What do I have going on in my life that might cause me to be fearful? A situation at work? A conflict in a relationship? A medical challenge? Finances? And the list goes on. This promise from God himself says that He will go before me. He will be with me. He has never failed me or all of mankind before me. So what am I to do as I walk through these fearful His grace do not be afraid or terrified, but dependent upon Him.

Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20, 2013

The doors have been opened...

Luke 4:18-19

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Encouraging Words...

The poor! The brokenhearted! The captive! The blind! The oppressed! Once again the gospel that we have reveals to me that the God I serve does not do things the way that we, His creation, thinks it should be done. Wouldn't He have accomplished so much more if He would have been born into a wealthy, affluent family and spent His life hobnobbing with the upper crust, the politicians, thew wealthy? But no, He shose to be lowly, to be humble, and to pen the door for all of us to enter His kingdom. What is even more powerful than this is that through His incarnation He opened the doors to heaven for all of us...not someday in the future, but now, every single day, the Kingdom of heaven is around me. Glory be to God!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September 19, 2013

Help in the midst of the journey through life...

Mark 9:23-24

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

Encouraging Words...

Oh, how often I find myself in the shoes of this father  asking for help in my unbelief. The encouraging thing here is that the Holy Spirit has been provided for this dwell within me, to guide and direct me, to comfort me, and to help me in my unbelief. The challenging part is that I can choose to yield to Him or choose to ignore Him! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

September 18, 2013

We are living a life at war...

2 Corinthians 10:3-6

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.

Encouraging Words...

Even though I am constrained by my physical body to live in this temporal world, by the power of God I can not only be aware of the spiritual world around me, but I can tap into His power and authority to fight the battles in both worlds and be victorious for my Lord. Through Him, and in Him, I can be used to glorify and magnify Him. It is not me doing this, but Him...all that I am is a clay pot for His use.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

September 17, 2013

Our journey through the wilderness...

Luke 4:1

Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

Encouraging Words...

Just as the wandering in the desert by the nation of Israel typifies Jesus wandering through the desert after His baptism, so to does this act by Jesus typifies our lives as His children. Upon our baptism and receipt of the Holy Spirit, He starts our journey through this desert wilderness called life. Once adopted by God, we are no longer a citizen of this world and as we live our lives more like Christ's the less we fit into this world. What a blessing it is that we have the Holy Spirit to lead us through this wilderness. Glory be to God!

Monday, September 16, 2013

September 16, 2013

Jesus...leading the way.

Luke 3:21-22

When all the people were baptized, it came to pass that Jesus also was baptized; and while He prayed, the heaven was opened. And the Holy Spirit descended in bodily form like a dove upon Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.”

Encouraging Words...

Wow! These short two verses are packed with so much of our teachings in the church. Jesus does not need baptism, but in doing so He accomplished many things: 1) He affirmed John's ministry as the forerunner; 2) God, the Father, proclaimed Him as His beloved Son and the Holy Spirit confirmed that; 3) He gave us, His children, the example of being baptized; 4) He prefigured His own death, giving baptism its true meaning; 5) He sanctified the waters by entering them and preparing them for our baptism; 6) He fulfilled so many of the types in the Old Testament pointing to Him (Moses and the Red Sea, the ark crossing the Jordan, and many others); and 7) He opened heaven to our world, which had been separated from God through sin. This event was also the greatest and clearest public manifestation of God as Trinity in human history. But of great importance to us a followers of Christ, the words spoken by the Father also apply to us who are baptized in Christ and who live our lives faithfully, as our sonship is bestowed through our adoption into His family. "You are my beloved son/daughter, in you I am well pleased." Glory be to God!

September 15, 2013

Putting our treasures in proper perspective...
Matthew 19:21

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Personal Challenge...

It is so easy to read this passage and dismiss it because we read it as Jesus dealing with wealth. It goes much farther than this. What am I holding on to as higher value than Jesus? Is it my position at work or in the church? Is it my stuff that I have accumulated? Is it my pains from my past that I let control me? Is it my social, political, or other world view that I value more than God's view? Is it my knowledge and worldly wisdom that I have accumulated? Is it my pride and arrogance? I am being told here to let go of, give up, cast off, everything that stands between me and the cross. This must be a willing casting off and not one done out of duress. And the closer I get to Christ the more personal these items that I need to cast off become, even to the point of total self-sacrifice. But the command does not stop there...I am to follow Christ, willingly, wherever He leads me. He will take me places where I do not want to go, for in these places I will discover more that I must cast off. However,if I desire to know Christ intimately and become like Him, this is the process that I must follow.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

September 14, 2013

1 Corinthians 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Encouraging Words...

Today in the Orthodox Church we celebrated the Elevation of the Precious and Life giving Cross. Without the cross there is no life. Without the cross there is no restoration of God's creation. But why does God do things the way that He does; elevating the humble, giving us life through the death of His Son, and many other things that appear to be contradictory to our way of thinking? And that is the answer right there. God does not do things the way that we would do them. And we do not do things the way that God does. The early church fathers taught that God is humble. How could the God of all, the Creator of all, be humble? I cannot answer that, but I can point to His acts of humility... becoming His own creation, being born in a manger, living a lowly and humble life, giving up His life on a cross. So it becomes clearer that He is humble because He humbles Himself. And this makes no sense to us. This is why the message of the cross is foolishness to those who do not know Him. But once we truly meet Him and become His, this message becomes more dear and our hearts begin to yearn to follow Him, to take up His cross, to become humble as He is humble, to love others more than ourselves, to become like Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Friday, September 13, 2013

September 13, 2013

2 Corinthians 4:7-10

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard- pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Encouraging Words...

I love plants, plants in the garden, plants in pots, plants all around the house. In this love I have the opportunity to work with earthen vessels, clay pots. By themselves they are very fragile and easily broken. Filled with the incorrect material they can still be very fragile. But filled with the right material they can take a lot of "abuse" and still hold their precious package. God uses us in the same way. We are earthen vessels, fragile and easily broken. But when we are filled with Christ and the Holy Spirit we are transformed. We can be hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down, but by the grace of God and because of His power and not ours we can make it through this not crushed, not forsaken, not destroyed. Glory be to God! It is because of Him and the work of Jesus Christ on the cross that we can magnify God through our trials and ordeals as well as our accomplishments and successes.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

September 12, 2013

Mark 1:35

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.

Personal Challenge...

Once again, Jesus does not tell us what we are to do, but He demonstrates it by doing it Himself. Here we have Jesus, a part of the Godhead, committing a significant part of His day to prayer and solitude  He is God and yet He shows us that it is imperative to spend time alone with God the Father...lots of time. Jesus was also fully human, which means He had temptations and spiritual attacks coming at Him all of the time. Is it possible that one of the key contributors to His being able to submit His human will entirely to God and not sin was because of the time that He spent in prayer and solitude? If so, then wouldn't this also be of benefit to me? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

September 11, 2013

1 Peter 5:8-10

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

Command with a Promise...

We do not live in a singular universe. We live both in the physical and the spiritual realms all of the time. We are commanded to be serious about this, to live our lives sober and vigilant, looking for the attacks from the spiritual realm that flow into the physical realm. We cannot resist our enemy and be steadfast in our faith without focusing on both of these realms. And even if we do this there will still be suffering, but if we persist the promise is that we will be perfected, established, strengthened, and settled in our Lord. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

September 10, 2013

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Encouraging Words...

"Behold, all things have become new." What a powerful promise. In Adam I was a victim to death. In the New Adam, Christ, death has been defeated, i have been set free from the bondage of death and sin, and I can lead a new life, a full life, a sinless life. Even though I still choose to sin, in Christ my sins are forgiven, I am renewed and cleansed through Him. Glory be to God!

Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9, 2013

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus:that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

Personal Challenge...

Our belief as Christians is so different than all other religions. We are not just commanded to live our lives a certain way, to meet a set of rules and requirements, but we are shown by the example of our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, what sacrificial living is like. He died so that we might live. He gave His all for us. My challenge is to follow in His footsteps and die both for Him and for my neighbor.

September 8, 2013

Luke 10:41-42

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Personal Challenge...

Jesus wants us to serve Him, to do good works for Him, but more importantly He wants us to love Him. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our acts of service that we forget the reason we are spread the Good News about Jesus and His love and sacrifice for mankind. All acts of service should be leading to this. All acts of service also need periods of rest and rejuvenation in Christ.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

September 7, 2013

James 4:10

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Command with a Promise...

What an interesting God we serve. If I am weak He makes me strong. If I am poor He makes me rich. If I lower myself before Him, humble myself before His grandeur then He will lift me up. The important thing for me to remember here is that His economy is different than mankind's. The strength, the richness, the lifting up, will be in His realm, in those areas He deems of value and not in the realm of mankind. My eyes must be looking toward His kingdom to see this.

Friday, September 6, 2013

September 6, 2013

2 Corinthians 4:16

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

Encouraging Words...

What a great promise this is. As I grow older I am watching this come to fruition. And as a child of God it is encouraging to know that He is at work renewing my inner man even as my physical body is deteriorating.

September 5, 2013

2 Corinthians 4:1

Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.

Personal Challenge...

It is so easy to forget that if we are attempting to live our lives to glorify Christ, our ministry, then there will be difficulties along the way. It is also easy to forget that often these difficulties will actually be spiritual warfare. All the more reason to be constantly aware that we have received God's mercy and to not lose heart, for He is with us in the midst of these difficulties and warfare.

Monday, September 2, 2013

September 1, 2013

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Personal Challenge...

How do I do this except in the power of Christ? As I prepared this morning to put Laura on an airplane back to home, I hurt for her as she continues to heal from her accident. Then I headed back up to Red Bluff to pick up my motorcycle and said goodbye to my parents. Tomorrow I say goodbye to two of my children, one of their spouses, and our newborn granddaughter, and head back to Ohio. And in the midst of all of this I am to rejoice and give thanks? How can I do this? In prayer! In Christ! For I can rejoice that all of these my loved ones are well and that God willing I will see them again soon. I can rejoice that I live in an age where I can talk to them on the phone or see them on Skype. I can live over 2,000 miles from my loved ones and interact with them on a regular basis. I can rejoice and be thankful that I have been able to spend this time with them and exchange our love for each other. Saying goodbye is hard and yet it is part of life and I am so blessed that I have so many in my life that I can love and that love me. Glory be to God!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

August 31, 2013

Matthew 18:1-6

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea."

Personal Challenge...

I take a short hiatus away from these blogs so that I can welcome our new granddaughter into the world and look at the passage that is scheduled for today.

As I read through this all I can do is picture, feel, experience, this little 9 lb. bundle of joy and ultimate humility in my arms, know that God wants me to behave this way in His arms...fully dependent upon Him, fully at peace in His love and protection. I am also very aware of my responsibility to teach her about her heavenly Father and about how much she is loved by Him. I am reminded to pour myself into the life of my wife, into the lives of my children and their spouses into the lives of my grand children, and into the life of every person that God brings into my life. This is the example that He set Himself as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Glory be to God!