Sunday, November 30, 2014

November 30, 2014

Giving our all...

Philippians 3:8-11

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Encouraging Words...

Paul reminds us so clearly here that what God provides for us who follow Him is greater than anything, even life itself. He is not talking about wealth or stuff here. This is not some kind of prosperity gospel. Our righteousness comes for Him. Our salvation comes from Him. Everything we have and everything we are come from Him. So why shouldn't we count it all as loss for Him.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014

November 28, 2014

It takes work...

Philippians 2:12-13

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

Personal Challenge...

We see here again that our salvation is not a one time singular event or some special canned prayer that we say. This may have been what set us on our path of obedience to God, but our salvation is a lifelong process doing the work of God as He works within us to do His will and work. We are not on this journey alone. Glory be to God!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

November 27, 2014

A thought for this Thanksgiving day
from St. John Chrysostom...

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November 26, 2014

Living a martyred life...

Philippians 1:21

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Personal Challenge...

Does Christ permeate my every fiber? Is my every breath filled with Christ? If I were to die this moment would it be my gain? If I am truly pursuing Christ as my Lord then my answers to these questions need to be moving more and more to a resounding, "Yes!" If I am dying to the world around me, and more importantly to myself, then dying is my gain. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November 25, 2014

Getting the gospel out there...

Philippians 1:15-18

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

Personal Challenge...

Paul experienced those people in his life that challenged his belief and preached a partial gospel of Christ in order to confront him. He also experienced those who carried on his preaching and shared the gospel of Christ in all of its truth. And in both cases Paul was grateful because the gospel of Christ was being preached. Should we not also follow in his footsteps and be grateful that even those who are preaching and following partial gospels today are still spreading the gospel. God can still use partial truths about Himself to build His kingdom and save the lost.

Monday, November 24, 2014

November 24, 2014

Love surpases the letter of the law...

2 Chronicles 30:18-20

Lord. Most of the people from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not cleansed themselves, but they ate the Passover contrary to what was written.

But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, even though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." And the Lord listened to Hezekiah and healed the people.

Encouraging Words...

Here we have the people of Israel coming back to God and celebrating His Passover after many years of turning their backs on Him and living sinful lives. They were breaking the law of their covenant with God and this offense was deserving of death. However, Hezekiah, who prefigured Christ, petitioned on their behalf because he knew that their hearts had changed and they desired God. God heard his prayers and blessed the people because the condition of their heart was more important than the letter of the law. Oh how blessed we are to serve such a loving and merciful God.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

November 23, 2014

How to be guided by our God?

Psalm 143:10 (142:10 LXX)

Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God;
Your good Spirit shall guide me in the land of uprightness.

Personal Challenge...

Paul admonishes us to be crucified in Christ. Jesus commands us to take up our cross and to follow Him. How can we do this and not be changed? How can we do this and not be submissive to the will of God? We can't! If we want to be guided in the land of righteousness, to be used by God, to build His kingdom, then we must submit our will to Him and follow His teachings and leading. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

November 21, 2014

Wow! Reading it as it was written...
and leaving the baggage behind!

Philippians 1:3-6

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Encouraging Words...

Wow! I love going back through the Scriptures with an Eastern grid! Being chosen, being not about God picking some to be His adopted children and rejecting others. It is through Christ, His incarnation and work on the cross, that the choice was made. It is through Him that mankind is predestined to be adopted by God as His children. God is the one who gives us the opportunity to participate in His grace and mercy. He gave us free will to choose or reject Him.Glory be to God.

For more thoughts...
1:4- 6 Everything comes from God, and everything should be drawn back to Him. God's original intent for the Incarnation was not redemption from the Fall but adoption as sons of God (v. 5), that is, deification. For when God contemplated creating the world, He planned on bringing it into union with Himself through the Incarnation of His Son, that is, through the Son's union with human nature. That is why St. Athanasius can say, "God became man that man might become god."
The Father chose us (v. 4) in Him, the Son. Christ, who is God by nature, became Man by choice. If we choose Him, we, who are human by nature, become "gods" by grace. If we are in Christ, the Son of God, we are sons of God. Paul is not addressing individuals as such but us, the community, the Church. And he is not addressing the issue of human will in salvation but the will of God, which is that all are chosen (see Rom 11:32; 1Ti 2:4; 2Pt 3:9). But being predestined (v. 5) by God does not nullify human will:in everything, God is the originator, the initiator; we merely respond, but our response is necessary. Becoming a Christian is not so much inviting Christ into one's life as getting oneself into Christ's life. What is true of Christ must become true of one who is in Him.
From Orthodox Study Bible, p.1598

Thursday, November 20, 2014

November 20, 2014

Our sobering responsibility...

Ephesians 6:4

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Personal Challenge...

When do we as fathers stop bringing up our children in the training and admonition of the Lord? Never! We always have the opportunity to speak into the lives of our children, grandchildren, and God willing, our great-grandchildren...whether in word or deed. As fathers it is our responsibility to raise them up loving and respecting God and their neighbor, and to not provoke them to wrath. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner and forgive me of my shortcomings in this responsibility.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

November 19, 2014

Giving it all away...

2 Corinthians 9:6

But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

Personal Challenge...

So often, if not always, this verse is applied to the giving of money. But money is only one of the many resources that our God gives us. What about these: time, a kind word, a gesture of love, prayer, patience, silence when it would be so easy to gossip or put someone down, and the list goes on and on. We have nothing in our lives that does not already belong to God and that is on loan to us from Him. He wants us to give it all away bountifully. If we hoard His blessings then we eventually become full and will not be able to receive any more. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

November 18, 2014

Awoken from a terminal slumber...

Ephesians 5:14-16

Therefore He says:
"Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light."
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

Encouraging Words and Personal Challenge...

When Christ died on the cross, rose again, and ascended into heaven He put death and the grip that it had on creation to death. We still live in a fallen world, but one that has been redeemed by our Lord Jesus Christ. When He woke us individually from our slumber, our death, because we did not know Him, He set us on a new course in our lives. This is a course of participating in His work to redeem as much of the lost world as possible for Him before He returns. We must do our work wisely and diligently for we only have so much time to be His laborers. Glory be to God!

Monday, November 17, 2014

November 17, 2014

The blessing of a loving God.

Psalm 139:1-3 (138:1-3 LXX)

O Lord, You test me and know me;
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thoughts from afar;
You search out my path and my portion,
And You foresee all my ways.

Encouraging Words...

What a blessing it is to know that we serve a loving, caring, and protective God. He is ever present in our lives, not in a judging and controlling way, but in a guiding and encouraging way. Glory be to God.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

November 16, 2014

Living with the passions in our lives...

Ephesians 4:26-27

“Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.

Personal Challenge...

Anger is one of the passions that we have in our lives. As with the other passions it is not wrong to exercise it appropriately. It is when we allow the passion to control us, to hold on to us day after day, that we sin. Even Christ was angry at the money changers. In that anger He cleared His Father's temple and then released the anger so that it did not hold on to Him and lead to sin. Through Him and the Holy Spirit we can learn to do the same with the passions in our lives. Glory be to God!

November 15, 2014

Saint of the Week...
St Anthony the Great

Friday, November 14, 2014

November 14, 2014

The life of a leader...

Wisdom of Solomon 6:1-3

Listen therefore, O kings, and understand;
Learn, O judges of the ends of the earth.
Give ear, you that rule over multitudes,
And take pride in yourself over a multitude of nations.
For power was given to you from the Lord,
And your lordship from the Most High,
Who will make a careful search of your works
And examine closely your plans.

Personal Challenge...

No matter what position of leadership we find ourselves in, we must always remember that we are there because God has put us there. Whether it be a management role at work, a leadership position in our church or community, a head of a household, or any other multitude of positions of authority, we are there by the grace of God and must exercise our role with humility, love for those subject to us, and submission to God. We have no power or authority of our own accord. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

November 13, 2014

Using our whole heart...

Psalm 119:2 (118:2 LXX)

Blessed are those who search out His testimonies;
They shall search for Him with their whole heart.

Command with a Promise...

We are told here to search out our Lord with all of our heart. We are not saved once and then able to to rest on our "fire insurance". We are saved through an ongoing, continuing process of seeking our Lord, repenting of our sin, striving to walk in His ways, becoming like Him, and growing in righteousness. All of this is to be done with our whole heart. And the promise? He will bless us with His love and mercy. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

November 12, 2014

Overcoming the antichrists in our lives...

1 John 4:4

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Encouraging Words...

Another "Ah Ha!" moment as I read this scripture through the lens of Eastern thinking. I have always settled on the second half of this verse, "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" without the context of the three and half verses before it and the two after it. We are urged to be careful of those who teach false and/or partial truths and doctrines about our Lord. These are considered antichrists, which John tells us already exist in this world. Because we are God's children, transformed by the work of Jesus Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit, we can overcome these antichrists and their false teaching. Glory be to God!

Here is the full context for this verse.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God:Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

November 11, 2014

His strength in our weakness...

2 Corinthians 6:2

For He says:
"In an acceptable time I have heard you,And in the day of salvation I have helped you."
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Encouraging Words...

In His own time, and in His own way, God reaches into our lives and infuses His strength into us. In our human weakness God wields His strength to help us to renounce the world in order that we may master its influence on our lives. This will often alienate us from those who want to hold onto the world, which is all the more reason for us to show them the love of God. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Monday, November 10, 2014

November 10, 2014

Lightening the load...

Galatians 6:4-5

But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

Personal Challenge...

In an earlier verse (2) Paul tells us to bear one another's burdens and here he tells us to "each one shall bear his own load." Both statements are true. We are called to initiate caregiving in the church, and not to be needless burdens to others (notes from the Orthodox Study Bible, p. 1596). This also plays out in our time of fasting within the Orthodox faith. It is my responsibility to observe my own plate and my own convictions and not worry about whether or not my brother is doing what I am doing. To the contrary I should yield my convictions to meet his needs as a way of showing my love to him, We are called to do all that we do in love. Glory be to God!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

November 9, 2014

Are we really Christ's?

Galatians 5:24-26

And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Personal Challenge...

So! What question does this passage prompt in our lives? Are the passions and desires of the flesh crucified, or put to death, in our lives? If not, then am I truly Christ's or just faking it? This does not mean that we don't occasionally sin because of a passion or a desire, but it the passions or desires of the flesh and the world reign in our lives then we must question if we ever truly gave our lives over to Christ. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

November 7, 2014

Oh the cross, the glorious cross...

Galatians 6:14

But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Personal Challenge...

We are nothing without Christ. Our salvation is nothing without the cross. So all of the accomplishments that we achieve in the world, all the kudos, all the promotions are nothing compared to Christ and His work on the cross. This is why we boast in the cross, why we venerate it and kiss it, why we cross ourselves at the mention of the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Glory be to God!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

November 6, 2014

Where to put our trust and hope...

Psalm 118:8-9 (117:8-9 LXX)

It is good to trust in the Lord
Rather than to trust in man;
It is good to hope in the Lord
Rather than to hope in rulers.

Personal Challenge...

As we wrap up another election cycle in our country is is good for us to remember that our trust and hope should not be put into man or rulers, but in God alone. It is our responsibility as God's children to serve obediently under the rulers of our land for that honors God. It is also our responsibility to look to God to meet our needs and to serve Him with humility, love, and respect. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November 5, 2014

Watching the signposts...

Psalm 111:4 (110:4 LXX)
He made a remembrance of His wonders;
The Lord is merciful and compassionate;

Encouraging Words...

So why does our Lord do such wondrous things in both the lives of His children and in His creation? What is the purpose of miracles and works of wonder? They are all to point us to Him, to remind us of His great love, mercy, and compassions. They are to remind us that we need Him more than anything. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

November 4, 2014

Hide and go seek...

Jonah 2:3

"I cried out in my affliction to the Lord, my God,
And He heard my voice;
Out of the belly of Hades, You heard the cry of my voice."

Encouraging Words...

You can run, but you cannot hide from the presence of our God. We so often flee from Him because we know what He wants us to do. And no matter how far from Him we think we are we are still just as close as we were when we started. And this is a good thing, because the farther from Him that we try to be, the more we need Him. The wonderful thing is that once we realize what we have done, the sin that we have committed, we can cry out to Him and He will hear us and restore us. Glory be to God!

Monday, November 3, 2014

November 3, 2014

Worship or revelry?

Galatians 1:10

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.

Personal Challenge...

Is the gospel that we are preaching truly from God or something that is used to please men? Has our practice of worship shifted from the true worship of the living God to revelry, entertainment, and partying that tickles the ears of men and women? As bondservants of Christ we must be doing all, especially our worship, with the purpose of glorifying God and not just with the focus of attracting people to come to the party. If the party is all that they come for then they will leave when their ears are no longer being tickled. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

November 2, 2014

The measure of a man, or a woman...

Wisdom of Solomon 4:7-9

But though a righteous man may die before his time,
He shall be at rest.
For old age is not honored for its length of existence,
Nor measured by its number of years;
But discernment is gray hair for mankind,
And a spotless life is the maturity of old age.

Personal Challenge...

How is it that our culture, our society, has evolved to the state that the value of a man, or a woman, is measured by how much stuff they have accumulated? We are reminded here that it should be measured by the spotlessness and discernment in which we have lived our lives. In the end it does not matter what we have accumulated, for we cannot take that with us, but by that which we have left behind us in the lives of those whom we have touched. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

October 31, 2014

Living life God's way.

Titus 3:1-2

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.

Personal Challenge...

So often we claim that we do not know what God wants us to do with our lives. This passage makes it very clear. If we choose to live this way we will be doing exactly what God wants...glorifying Him, pointing the lost to Him, proclaiming His love for all of mankind. Glory be to God!