Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31, 2014

Going through the Refiner's fire...

Jeremiah 30:16-17 (37:13-14 LXX)

Therefore, all who devour you shall be consumed, for all your enemies shall devour themselves. Your sins multiplied because of the abundance of your wrongdoings, thus they did these things to you. But those who tore you to pieces shall be as prey, and I will give all who plundered you as plunder. For I will bring about your healing from a painful wound. I will heal you,' says the Lord. 'For you were called Dispersed, for they said, "She is your prey, because no one seeks her."'

Encouraging Words...

Sometimes God allows the consequences of our sinful behavior to overtake us so that through it we can be refined and turn back to Him. This is never pleasant, but it it serves to return our hearts and our minds to Him it is worthwhile. Better yet, to not stray from Him and have to be corrected. In all cases we are His precious children and He does what is necessary to keep us on the right path, His path. Glory be to God.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March 30, 2014

Following in His footsteps...

Psalm 25:4-5 (24:4-5 LXX)

Make known Your ways to me, O Lord,
And teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation,
And on You I wait all the day.

Personal Challenge...

Oh, what an easy prayer to say, yet so difficult to practice. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Friday, March 28, 2014

March 28, 2014

What is that hidden treasure worth?

Matthew 13:44

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

Personal Challenge...

Do I treat the great and glorious gift of salvation as something so special that I sell all that I have, give up all that is important to me, so that I can have it? How often do I sell my Lord short for my own desires? What a precious gift we have in Christ. A gift that is worth abandoning all for. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

March 27, 2014

Making it through the tough times.

2 Chronicles 14:11 (14:10 LXX)

And Asa cried out to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, with You it is not impossible, whether with the many or with the few. Strengthen us, Lord our God, for we trust in You. And in Your name we go against this multitude. Lord our God, do not let man prevail against You!"

Encouraging Words...

No matter what battle we are fighting, what struggle we are in the midst of, what the odds are against us, if we are striving to glorify our God and His work, He will prevail and carry us along with Him in His victory. We may live in the physical, temporal world, but we also live in the spiritual world and many times the battles and struggles that we find ourselves caught up in are the consequences of these spiritual acts of warfare. The test for us is whether or note we can continue to cling to God through the tough times as tightly as we do through the good times and therefore reflect His glory, His grace, and His love in the midst of the storms. Glory be to God! May we all be Asa's in this day of our Lord.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March 26, 2014

Living life as His friend...

John 15:12-14

This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.

Personal Challenges...

We are called by Christ to become like Him. This can be so difficult when it comes to dealing with people and yet He tells us that if we are to be counted among His friends then we will do what He commands. That means loving our friends as well as our enemies, even to the point of laying down our lives for them. We may never be asked to lay down our physical lives for those around us but what about treating them with love and respect, or not gossiping about them when the opportunity arises, or sympathizing with them and coming alongside them in their need even when they spurn us, and the list goes on and on. I have so far to go in this area of my journey to theosis. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March 25, 2014

Making the right choices...

Amos 5:14

"Seek good and not evil so that you may live, so that the Lord God Almighty will be with you. As you have said, ‘We hated evil and loved good.’ And restore justice in the gate that the Lord God Almighty may have mercy on the remnant of Joseph."

Personal Challenge...

Every moment of every day we have choices to seek good or to seek evil. We were created with the ability to make this choice (free will) and the capability to choose the good. As we look through the history of the church we see many examples (Hebrews 11 lists many of them) of men and women who have chosen good and were blessed by God. We also have the Holy Spirit to guide us on this journey. As the movie Matrix introduced, we can choose the red pill or the blue pill, but sometimes we may need to choose neither and follow another path, one that we can only see through eyes opened by God. I like the commentary on these verses offered by Ambrose of Milan (340-397 AD)...
“For when a man rules his own self—and that counts for more than to govern others—his heart is in the hand of God, and God turns it where He wills. If He turns it to the good, perfect goodness is His. And so let us be in the hand of God that we may seek the good... that you may live, and so the Lord God Almighty will be with you.” (Orthodox Study Bible, p. 1000)

Monday, March 24, 2014

March 24, 2014

What is the state of my free will in relationship to God's?

Exodus 36:3-5

They received from Moses all the offerings the children of Israel brought for all the works for making the holy place, and they continued bringing him freewill offerings every morning. Then all the wise men who were doing all the work of the holy place came, each according to the work he was doing, and they spoke to Moses, saying, “The people bring much more than enough for the work the Lord commanded us to do.”

Encouraging Words...

Imagine, if you can, what the Church, and the world, would be like if we, the members of the body of Christ, gave so much from our wealth that the leaders had to say. "Stop!" We would be able to send missionaries to all parts of the earth who would not have to worry about where their support was coming from...the Great Commission. We would be able to feed the poor, clothe the naked, and take care of the widow and the orphan, our neighbors...the Great Commandment. The Church would be bringing the kingdom of God to life here on earth. This is God's will for us, just as it was His will that the early Israelites build His tabernacle. However, He did not force them to give of their wealth, He just asked them to give of their own free will. When we, the children of God, align our free will with His, He does mighty and glorious things.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 23, 2014

Who is this God?

2 Samuel 22:2-3 (2 Kingdoms 22:2-3 LXX)

And he (David) sang:
"O Lord, my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
My God will be my guardian, in whom I will trust;
My defender and the horn of my salvation,
My protector and the refuge of my salvation;
You will save me from unrighteousness."

Encouraging Words...

Why would I want to claim Jesus as my Lord, live my life in ways that would glorify Him, and strive to be different than the world around me? David makes it clear in this passage why we would put our trust in God and live for Him. He is our savior from death, He is our victory over eternal separation from God. He is our protector and source of life. Glory be to God!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March 22, 2014

Sojourners never looking  back...

Hebrews 11:13-16

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.

Encouraging Words...

If we proclaim Jesus as our Lord, and God as our Father, and the Holy Spirit as our Comforter, and live our lives this way, then we are no longer residents of this world. We have become strangers and pilgrims in this land with those who have gone before us on a journey to that promised land, to that city that He has prepared for us. We too are sojourners and we too can partake in His promise to be with us on our journey. But just as for those who have gone before us we must be careful to not look back so that we might be drawn back to the land that we have left behind. We must always keep our eyes and hearts set on Him and His kingdom.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March 21, 2014

Do I really seek Him?

Psalm 27:8 (26:8 LXX)

My heart speaks to You; my face seeks You;
Your face, O Lord, I will seek.

Personal Challenge...

Is this really my way of life? Do I seek my Lord above all else? Do I speak out to Him at all times? Regretfully I do not. My time with Him is so random and sparse...and this is my own doing, my own choice. No wonder I stumble and fall and commit sin. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner and help me to breathe this prayer with every breath I take.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March 20, 2014

Keeping the covenant of faith...

Exodus 19:5-6

"'Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be a special people to Me above all nations; for all the earth is Mine. You shall be to Me a royal priesthood and a holy nation.' These are the words you shall speak to the children of Israel."

Encouraging Words...

God made His covenant with Abraham because of his faith and the special people referred to are not his physical offspring, but his spiritual ones. The nation of Israel, the physical offspring, lost their love for God and their faith in Him and through Christ God fulfilled this covenant and initiated a new one that made His church, comprised of Jews and Gentiles, the new special people. Now it is up to us to keep the covenant of faith given to us.

Friday, March 14, 2014

March 13, 2014

No time to be a couch potato...

John 8:12

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

Encouraging Words...

Once again we are reminded, this time by Jesus Himself, that the life of a Christian is not a passive, sedentary life. We are told to follow Him and walk in His footsteps. We are never told to take it easy and rest comfortably in our salvation. Because of the work of Christ we will desire to be His workers and to be active for Him. His promise to us is that if we do this He will light our way.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 12, 2014

Watching God at work.

Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Encouraging Words...

I have often heard it said, "Hindsight is 20/20 vision." There has been many times in my life that I have been able to look back and see how God has turned situations, both good and bad, into wonderfully miraculous events. He has always worked together those things involved in ways that I would have never imagined. And through these events He has honed by vision and taught my heart to watch as His hand guides and blesses my life. Sometimes He even gives us the opportunity to see His hand at work going before us. I may be entering into one of these times and am relishing the opportunity to watch how He unfolds His handiwork. My part is to be humble and submissive to Him and to follow His will...and at the end of this season, give all the glory to Him.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 11, 2014

Am I hardening my heart?

Exodus 8:11

But when Pharaoh saw there was relief, his heart was hardened; and he did not heed them, as the Lord said.

Personal Challenge...

How often do we call out to God when we are in the midst of our trials and tribulations, just to turn our backs on Him when He delivers us? It is often said that times of prosperity are the times when people walk farthest away from God. We begin to look upon ourselves as being in charge of our lives and everything in them and then by our own free will decide that we don't need God's help anymore. Are we any different than Pharaoh was? Is it no wonder that through history the church has grown the most in times of oppression? Why not, however, stay close to God in the good times as well as the bad? It is a choice that we can make, that we must make, every morning that we get up and every moment throughout the day. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 10, 2014

Keeping our eyes on our own plates...

Psalm 37:7 (36:7 LXX)

Submit to the Lord, and supplicate Him;
Do not be envious of him who prospers in his way,
Nor of him who transgresses the law.

Personal Challenge...

Our priest often reminds us that we we are in the midst of our own personal fast that we are not to look at our brother's plate. This prevents us from being puffed up by thinking that we are doing a better job at fasting or so that we avoid becoming envious of what our brother has. Our Lord want us to be content where He has brought us on our sojourn to His promised land and to not compare ourselves to others. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

March 9, 2014

Standing on holy ground...

Exodus 3:5

So He said, “Do not come any closer. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”

Personal Challenge...

Oh how presumptuous a generation we have become that we believe we can stand in the presence of our living God with our heads held up high and our chests puffed out. Is this not the behavior of the pharisee that Jesus condemned when He pointed out the humility of the publican? Throughout the scriptures we see that when men came into the presence of God, both the Father and the Incarnate Son, their response was to fall on their face because they knew they were unworthy. Why do we act today as if we are on equal footing with the Lord our god and refuse to bow before Him, to humble ourselves before His awesomeness? I know that for me it is my pride. What would someone think if I bowed submissively before my Lord? I have a personal relationship with Him so He is my equal. Not! He is my Lord! My Savior! He is God! He is the creator of all! He holds eternity and all that is within it in the palm of His hand. I am but an ant before Him. I must bow before Him and submit my all to Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

March 8, 2014

Living our life for the other...

Prayers for Married Persons

O Lord Jesus Christ, thank You for blessing our marriage through the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
When we stood together before Your Holy Altar, we invited You to come and bless us.
We claim Your Holy Presence in our marriage this day and every day.
You are the Source of Love.
Keep pouring Your love into us through the Holy Spirit.
Help us to stay close to You.
Help us to prefer one another in love,
To consider it a privilege to be able to serve one another
Until we see You face to face.
Help us to be kind to each other, tenderhearted,
Forgiving one another as You have forgiven us.
Never let the sun go down on our anger.
Grant us always to see our own faults
And not to judge each other.
Open our eyes to the best in each other.
Let patience reign supreme in our hearts.
Give us hope to brighten life,
And joy to lighten sorrow.
May our home be a haven where spiritual values are treasured and
Holy principles are modeled.
Gladden us with Your grace and peace that with one heart we may
Praise and glorify You.

Encouraging Words...
This weekend we had a marriage retreat at our church. What a great opportunity to spend time with other brothers and sisters in Christ who all had a common desire to learn more about living in our marriages in a more godly and Christ-centered way. It is not about me! It should always about my spouse! We learned about "Philotimo: Sacramental to Marriage" from Fr. Timothy Pavlatos. What a blessing it is to be in a relationship with a woman who loves her Lord above all and loves me, her husband, more than herself. God only knows how much I do not deserve such a wonderful partner. Above is a prayer that is part of my daily prayer rule. It too is a wonderful reminder of how important the other person is in our relationship. Glory be to God!

March 7, 2014

Who do I really work for?

2 Samuel 24:24 (2 Kingdoms 24:24 LXX)

Then the king said to Orna, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with something that costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

Personal Challenge...

David teaches us a very valuable lesson here. Our commitment to our Lord, our sacrifice to Him, should never be cheap. God wants our first fruits not our leftovers. Whether it be singing in the choir at church, or teaching in Sunday School, or vacuuming the sanctuary floors, or changing diapers in the nursery, or whatever ministry we are involved in, we are to do it sacrificially, offering up our very best to our Lord. Whether it be in our homes, or at work, or while shopping, or even driving, we are to do everything sacrificially for our Lord so that those around us will be pointed to Him. We as a community of believers cannot allow ourselves to be lazy, or cheap, or nonchalant about the work that He has called us to do. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

March 6, 2014

Running the race...

1 Corinthians 9:24

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.

Personal Challenge...

As we go through this journey of Great Lent, a special time of ascetic practice, we must remember that we do not do this just for the asceticism itself. Paul reminds us that the athlete exercised and practiced so that he/she would win the race. We too should be exercising the practices of Lent in order to prepare ourselves to win the race of live and hear at the end, "Well done My good and faithful servant!" We do not do this by lording it over others about how good we keep the fast, or how well we do our prostrations, or how many services we have attended, or anything else related to our ascetic practices. We do this by loving our God, loving or neighbor, and giving of ourselves and what we possess to those in need. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

March 5, 2014

Living strong...

Deuteronomy 31:6

Be valiant and strong, do not fear nor be afraid of them, nor be terrified before them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes before you and with you and among you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Encouraging Words...

Our Lord promises to always be with us. He keeps His promises. We can be strong, valiant, and fearless in every circumstance and situation knowing that our Lord has gone before us and stands beside us. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March 4, 2014

Oh the depths of His love...

Jeremiah 31:3 (38:3 LXX)

The Lord appeared to him from afar, saying, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore, I drew you in compassion."

Encouraging Words...

Throughout the Old Testament scriptures God promises through His prophets that He will draw His children, the descendants of Abraham, together in His everlasting love. These children are not the children of Abraham's flesh, but the children of His faith. It is by faith and by the work of Christ that we become children in the family of God and covered in the new covenant established by Him. We are loved with an everlasting love and covered by His compassion. Glory be to God!

Monday, March 3, 2014

March 3, 2014

On our faces before our God!

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim

O Lord and Master of my life, do not give to me the spirit of laziness, faintheartedness, lust for power, and idle talk.

But give to me Your servant the spirit of purity, humility, patience, and love.

O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, for blessed are You unto ages of ages. Amen.

O God, cleanse me, a sinner. O God, cleanse me, a sinner.
O God, cleanse me, a sinner. O God, cleanse me, a sinner.
O God, cleanse me, a sinner. O God, cleanse me, a sinner.
O God, cleanse me, a sinner. O God, cleanse me, a sinner.
O God, cleanse me, a sinner. O God, cleanse me, a sinner.
O God, cleanse me, a sinner. O God, cleanse me, a sinner.

Personal Challenge...

Today is the first day of Great Lent in the Orthodox church. We start this season off with the Canon of St. Andrew as our evening service. This is one of my most favorite services. So often in our Christian church experience we speak of the majesty of our Father in heaven and our need to bow before Him, however we never allow for this in our worship. The Canon of St. Andrew is conducted with the opportunity to perform many prostrations. This service has been so moving in my journey into Orthodoxy. One of the components of this service is the Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim. This prayer is so powerful, so reaching into the depths of our need for our Lord and when included in the Canon of St. Andrew brings to a place in our worship where we are on our faces before our Almighty and Glorious God.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

March 2, 2014

Please forgive me!

Romans 14:3-4

Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

Personal Challenge...

Today we celebrated Forgiveness Sunday in the Orthodox church. Tomorrow is the first day of Great Lent as we prepare for that sojourn to Pascha (Easter) and our early church fathers saw fit to start this journey off with a day and services set aside seeking and offering forgiveness amongst our brothers and sisters, our community. In this special service we hear the teachings of our Lord from Matthew 6 about forgiving those here on earth who have offended us and begin laying up rewards in heaven. Paul, in the letter to the Romans reminds us that God is the judge and not us. We cannot make it through life, especially the Christian life, without living in community. Today at church we had the opportunity to ask each individual to forgive us. We ask for forgiveness for what we have done or not done, whether known or unknown. It is a very moving experience if we choose to participate in it completely. And in response to our request for forgiveness we will hear, "May God forgive us all!" over and over again. This can be both very uplifting and freeing while at the same time very humbling.

I reach out to all who read this and ask you from the bottom of my heart, "Please forgive me for the offenses that I have committed against you and for the things that I should have done in our relationship that I have neglected to do."

Saturday, March 1, 2014

March 1, 2014

Love expressed through chastening.

Deuteronomy 8:2-5

Now you shall remember the whole way the Lord your God led you in the desert, to deal harshly with you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He dealt harshly with you and weakened you with hunger, and fed you with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God man shall live. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your feet become callused these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.

Encouraging Words...

God took His chosen people, the Israelites, through a 40 year sojourn in the desert before He brought them into the promised land. He loved these people. He had a covenant with them and always honored it. And when they turned their back on Him for false Gods He loved them even more and took them through a chastening process. A process of refinement. It is in the midst of these processes that our true heart is revealed. As God's children under the new covenant ushered in by our Lord Jesus Christ, we too are on a sojourn to the promised land. We too will be chastened and refined so that our true heart will be revealed to us. This refinement is all at the hands of God and covered by His love and protection. He loves us that much. Glory be to God!