Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30, 2013

We live our lives set apart, yet still in the midst of the world.

3 Maccabees 3:3-5

The Jews, though, maintained their goodwill and unswerving faith toward the throne. But because they worshiped God and lived by His precepts, they kept themselves separate from others with regard to food, and therefore appeared hateful to some. But they adorned their way of life with the good deeds of righteous people, and thus established themselves as honorable to all men.

Personal Challenge...

The Egyptian Jews lived under great oppression and persecution in the time of Maccabaeus. Even though the government that they lived under was hostile towards them and passed all types of laws that conflicted with their beliefs, they still openly practiced their faith. Most importantly they lived their lives demonstrating goodwill towards those around them, giving unswerving faith toward the government (knowing that God had put them in this situation for their refinement), and living lives of good deeds. In doing this they endeared themselves to their neighbors and were clearly established as honorable people serving a good, righteous, and honorable God. Am I expected to do any less as a child of God? Should I not live my life in a way that is set apart and obviously following God's precepts, all the while being submissive and supportive of the leaders that God has put over me? Once again it is about God and His glory and not about me!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29, 2013

Gentleness, lowliness, longsuffering, love = likeness of Christ

Ephesians 4:1-3

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Personal Challenge...

Even though we are free in Christ and members of His great and exalted family, we are still commanded to live our lives in lowliness, gentleness, longsuffering, and love for those around us. We do this in our love for Christ and for the unity of His body.

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28, 2013

Sweeter than honey from the honeycomb...

Psalm 19:7-11 (18:8-12 LXX)

The law of the Lord is blameless, converting souls;
The testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making children wise;
The ordinances of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is bright, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring unto ages of ages;
The judgments of the Lord are true, being altogether just.
More to be desired are they than gold and a very precious stone,
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
For indeed Your servant keeps them;
In keeping them there is great reward.

Encouraging Words...
God's ways, His teachings, His precepts, His holiness are to be cherished above all else. Through them, His grace, and the work of His Son, our souls are converted toward Him, we are made wise, giving us rejoicing hearts, enlightening our eyes, helping us to endure the ages. Glory be to God!

Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25, 2013

He is there for us...

Psalm 16:7-9 (15:7-9 LXX)

I will bless the Lord who caused me to understand;
Moreover, until night my reins also instructed me.
I saw the Lord always before me;
Because He is at my right hand, that I may not be shaken.
Therefore my heart was glad,
And my tongue rejoiced exceedingly;
My flesh also shall dwell in hope.

Encouraging Words...

Everything that we would ever truly need will be supplied by our Lord. He teaches and instructs, He goes before us and walks besides us, He is our source of hope. The more we commit our lives to Him and follow His precepts the more our wants become in alignment with our true needs.

October 24, 2013

Growth in Christ requires community...

Hebrews 3:13

but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

Personal Challenge...

One of the differences that I have discovered in Eastern Christianity versus Western Christianity is the perspective of community versus individuality. Growing up in Western Christianity I became well established in the individualistic point of view: I had a personal relationship with Christ, He saved/died for me, I am blessed...fill in the blank. While all of this is true it can create a faith that revolves around me, my needs, and ultimately my wants. This can lead to some skewed ways of thinking and behaving in our local church family. In my experience so far in Eastern Orthodoxy I am learning to think of my faith in terms of the community of believers. So many of our prayers, both individual and corporate, use we and us rather than me or I. We view the working out of our salvation, our faith, our journey to theosis, as something that can only be done in the community of faithful believers. The gifts that are given to us are to be exercised in building up the community. And the list goes on an on. This verse reminds us that we are all responsible to exhort our brothers and sisters daily, even to the point of being a responsible part of helping each other avoid sin. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23, 2013

The battle is not always against flesh and blood...

2 Maccabees 8:18
“For they trust in arms and bold acts,” he said, “but we trust in Almighty God, who with only one nod is able to overthrow both those who come against us and the entire world."

Encouraging Words...

Here Judas Maccabaeus reminds us that the true battles of life are fought both in the physical and the spiritual realms. Although our enemies (those opposed to God and His ways) may appear strong and well armed, they are operating only in the physical realm. They are no match for God in that realm, let alone the spiritual realm. We can take on any attack knowing that we are in His hands.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22, 2013

Living a godly life means putting one's self to death!

2 Maccabees 6:24-28a

“For to pretend such things,” he said, “is not worthy of our time of life, lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his ninetieth year has gone over to a foreign religion, and because of my pretense for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray through me, while I earn only pollution and defilement in my old age. For even if for the present I should avoid the punishment of men, yet whether I live or die, I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore by manfully giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age, and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and bravely for the venerable and holy laws."

Personal Challenge...

Do I have what it takes to live my life this way? Eleazar, in his 90th year, is being forced to violate the laws of his God that he has adhered to all of his life. He refuses and freely walks to the rack to receive his punishment. Then those who are punishing him offer him an out. He can pretend to the ungodly thing and they will let him go. He has the fortitude, the resolution, the love for his God, to deny this option because in so doing he knows that he will lead many astray. Again he offers to give up his life, which is taken away from him. How often do I chose to compromise my believes in order to save myself, whether it be my image, or to fit in, or for convenience? Am I willing to freely walk into the face of the enemy and suffer the consequences because I am unwilling to compromise my walk with my Lord? Lord Jesus Chris, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21, 2013

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you. Do not go astray, for I am your God who strengthens you; and I will help and secure you with My righteous right hand.

Encouraging Words...

Just as the nation of Israel was God's chosen people, blessed and protected by Him, I to, through the work of Christ, am one of His chosen people. These promise apply to me as well.

October 20, 2013

Proverbs 8:32-33 (32-34 LXX)

Now therefore, my son, hear me:
Blessed is the man who shall hearken to me
And the man who shall guard my ways;
Who watches daily at my doors,
Who keeps watch at the doors of my entryways;
For my issues are the issues of life,
And grace is prepared from the Lord.

Command with a Promise...

Aren't we all looking for blessings and grace in our lives? Here the psalmist points us in the direction of where we can secure these. If we hearken to those whom have gone before us living their lives in Christ, if we guard those traditions and teachings, if we carefully and prayerfully take care of the places of worship that we have today, then we will be blessed and God will pour out His grace upon us.

October 18, 2013

Psalm 16:11 (15:11 LXX)

You made known to me the ways of life;
You will fill me with gladness in Your presence;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Encouraging Words...

Our Lord is not some distant object that we worship and hope to someday see. He is not some nebulous state like nirvana that we hope to achieve. He is the real, ever present Creator of all that delights in being an active part of our lives. What a blessing it is to know that He will reveal to His children the true ways of life, that He will fill us with gladness in His presence, and that He will fill our lives with His pleasures. Glory be to God.

October 17, 2013

1 Samuel 16:7 (1 Kingdoms 16:7 LXX)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his outward appearance, nor for the maturity of his stature, because I have refused him. For man does not see as God sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

Personal Challenge...

It is critical for me to take the time to get to know other people so that I can have a better view into their heart. It is wrong to judge people and even more wrong to judge them on superficial, external appearances.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 12, 2013

I do not need to be alone...

Joshua 1:5

No man shall be able to oppose you all the days of your life, and as I was with Moses, thus I will be also with you. I will not forsake you nor disregard you.

Encouraging Words...

Joshua had a heart for God and stood up for Him even when everyone else around him did not. Because of this God made a promise to him. It is a promise that carries forward to all who die to the world and live for Christ. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

October 9, 2013

What false gods do I pursue?

Exodus 34:14

(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord God, a jealous name, is a jealous God),

Personal Challenge...

Our Lord God is not passionately jealous as we humans are, but as a loving father is intolerant toward bad things happening to his children, so the loving Father is intolerant of the evil things that happen to His children when they go astray to worship other gods. (Taken from the Orthodox Study Bible.) So, what gods am I worshipping that are getting in the way of my Lord? My gifts and talents? My possessions? My time? Whatever comes between my Lord and me is a false god. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

October 8, 2013

We are at war! Am I fighting the right battles?

1 Maccabees 3:59-60

For it is better for us to die in war than to look upon the evils the Gentiles would bring to us and the sanctuary. But as God's will is in heaven, so He will do.

Personal Challenge...

One of the things that I am reminded of when I read much of the Old Testament is how God calls His people to be militant for Him, for His truth, for His chosen people (His bride). If we temper this with Jesus' teachings of loving our enemy, loving our neighbor, and doing all that we do to glorify the Father, we come up with a very special form of militance that we are called to. Am I ready to enter into war against those things that tear down God's kingdom here on earth and yet fight the battle in a spirit of love? This war is not against politicians that I disagree with, or social demographics that I don't like, but against the lies and strongholds of my true enemy, the devil. This battle starts in my own soul and expands from there. I am called to fight His good fight and trust that the outcome is in His hands. It may not always turn out my way, but it is His way, His will on earth as it is in heaven that really counts.

Monday, October 7, 2013

October 7, 2013

Defending the truth...

1 Maccabees 2:50-51

Therefore, children, be zealous for the law, and offer your lives for the covenant of our fathers; and remember the deeds our fathers did in their generations, and receive great honor and an everlasting name.

Personal Challenge...

In the day of the Maccabees all that the Israelites believed and stood for was being desiccated and destroyed. Here we have a band of believers who decide to stand up for their God and His precepts. Should we not do the same for our Lord today? It has nothing to do with politics or societal issues, but everything to do with living our lives for Him as Christians, defending the faith and proclaiming the truth of His Bride, the Church. In order to do this though we must know those truths, know our traditions, know our God, and keep fighting His good fight.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

October 6, 2013

It is not about me, what I am, what I can do, or what I have.

Judith 9:11

For Your might is not in numbers, nor Your power in men who are strong, but You are the God of the lowly; You are the helper of the oppressed, the defender of the weak, the protector of those who are forsaken, the savior of those without hope.

Encouraging Words...

God loves all of His creation! But the extent of His love is greatly evidenced in those who are lowly, oppressed, weak, forsaken, and without hope. For it is when we recognize that we are all in these states when we are separated from Him that we truly recognize that our might, our power, our strength, is nothing and that only He can save us.

October 5, 2013

What we do does make a difference.

Judith 8:24-25

Now my brothers, let us set an example for our people, for their very lives depend upon us. Furthermore, the sanctuary, the temple, and the altar rest upon us. Besides all this, let us be thankful to the Lord our God, who is testing us just as He did our fathers.

Personal Challenge...

Does what I do as a Christian really matter? Absolutely! As an individual, and more importantly as a member of a community, it is extremely critical that I live my life in a godly, righteous, God-centered way. The lives of those around me depend upon this. For those who are already in the family of God it helps them to live their lives in godly, righteous, and God-centered ways. For those who are not it can be a witness to them and possibly by the grace of God draw them into His family. The church and her future, her practices and traditions depend upon it to keep her pure and growing in Christ. Every one of us matter significantly in the eyes of God. Then, as tests and trials come our way we can withstand them and glorify our God.

Friday, October 4, 2013

October 4, 2013

God can use us to do His work...

Judith 8:17

Therefore, while we await His deliverance, let us call upon Him to help us, and if it pleases Him He will hear our voice.

Encouraging Words...

God protects His people from their enemies. He works in mysterious ways as evidenced throughout history through human beings, both evil and good, powerful and weak. The lesson in these readings teach us that our worship of God, our trust in Him, and our obedience to His commandments result in divine protection and salvation from our enemies, no matter how powerful they may seem to be. This may not play out the way that we would do it, but His ways are always better. Glory be to God! (Adapted from the Orthodox Study Bible chapter notes.)

October 3, 2013

For the wrong reason...

Judith 8:11-13

They came to her, and she said to them, “Listen to me now, rulers of the people of Bethulia! Your words spoken today to the people are not right, nor is the oath you have sworn and pronounced between God and yourselves, promising to surrender the city to our adversaries unless the Lord turns and helps you in so many days.

Now who are you to have put God to the test this day, setting yourselves up as God's equal among the sons of men? You are testing the Lord Almighty, but you will never come to know anything!

Personal Challenge...

The book of Judith is so appropriate to today's living where the truths of God are under constant attack. I would encourage everyone to read it. Here we have a situation where this community is surrounded by the enemy and the prospects do not look good. But rather than proactively do something about it the leaders expect God to take over. Along comes Judith, a widow, who chastises them for putting God to the test. We do not have the right, authority, or power to do that. If I pray this prayer then God will do... If I behave a certain way or do certain things then God will... This is not how God works! Yes, God performs miracles...when He chooses to. Yes, God answers prayers...when He chooses to. I am supposed to be consistent in my behaviors, my practices and traditions, my prayer, fasting, and almsgiving because I am His child and I love doing things His way....not so that He will be my big sugar daddy in the sky. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

October 2, 2013

He walks amongst us.

Leviticus 26:12

I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.

Encouraging Words...

We do not serve some disconnected, inanimate god. Our Lord is ever present in our lives and walks amongst us. He is not a "future" god, but our "Now" God. Glory be to Him!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

October 1, 2013

Do the actions of the people of a nation determine the outcome of their future?

Judith 5:20-21 LXX

“Now my lord and master, if there is any sin of ignorance in this people and they sin against their God, then we will identify their offense and will go up to defeat them. But if there is no lawlessness in their nation, then let my lord leave them alone, lest their Lord shield them, and their God defend them, and we will become a reproach before the whole earth."

Personal Challenge...

The reputation of the God of Israel, our Lord and Savior, was profound in the day of Judith. He was the defender and protector of those who followed Him and obeyed Him. Can this be said of us today who proclaim Him as Lord? Is my life a beacon to those around me pointing to His glory and magnificence? Are our churches revered in this way by those who would attack and conquer us? God is constant, He continues to guard and protect His bride. He helps her to prosper...when she holds true to His precepts. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.