Saturday, January 31, 2015

Friday, January 30, 2015

January 30, 2015

Let it shine! Let is shine! Let it shine!

Luke 8:16-18

"No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him."

Personal Challenge...

Wow! Amazing how the scriptures read differently when pursuing them through Eastern lens. We have all heard the child's song, "This little light of mine, I am going to let it shine!" I have always assumed that it was based on this passage, but there does not seem to be a connection here. Here we are told that the light is there to reveal those things in our lives that need to be removed, those hidden sins, thoughts, and desires. It is the light of Christ, illumined through the Holy Spirit, that will reveal those things that need cleaning. And the more of that light that we have shining into our lives, the more light we get to reveal even more that needs to be cleansed. Glory be to God! Shine on, sweet Jesus, shine on!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

January 29, 2015

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 146:1-2 (145:1-2 LXX)

Praise the Lord, O my soul.
I shall praise the Lord while I live;
I shall sing to my God as long as I exist.

Personal Challenge...

It is so easy to get trapped in the busy-ness of life and forget that we owe our entire existence to our Lord. Praise You, oh my Lord, for you are my life! You are my all! And I sing of Your glories, mercy, and grace!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 28, 2015

Opening the pipeline of understanding...

Psalm 111:10 (110:10 LXX)

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord;
A good understanding is in all who practice it.
His praise continues unto ages of ages.

Personal Challenge...

It is amazing how important the pursuit of knowledge has become in our modern church. Sometimes it appears that the desire, the expectation, is that the more I know about God the better I know Him. Here the Psalmist reminds us that the true path to wisdom and understanding begins with a proper fear and respect of our Lord and is then followed with an ongoing practice of fear and respect of Him. This lifestyle is what opens the pipeline for our Lord to pour godly wisdom and understanding into our lives. It is then that we can gain more knowledge from worldly sources and temper, or filter, it through divine wisdom. Glory be to God!

January 27, 2015

As we fall upon our knees...

Judith 8:14 (LXX)

You cannot plumb the depths of the heart of man, nor grasp the thoughts of his mind. How then do you expect to search out God, who made all these things, and come to understand His mind or comprehend His purpose? No, brothers! Do not provoke the Lord our God to anger.

Personal Challenge...

We, the modern, western world, are so arrogant thinking that we can force God into a box of our own definition and then thinking we understand all that He is and knows. We pursue knowledge with the intent to be all-knowing, when only God is. We pursue wealth and prestige with the intent to have others look up to us and therefore be worshipped when only God deserves worship. And yet God Himself became lower than us and became incarnate so that we might become eternal. God forgive us in our pride and arrogance thinking that we could know all of Your thoughts and ways. God help me to be humble before You and my fellow man so that as I fall down to my knees in humility others may see only You standing in my stead. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Monday, January 26, 2015

January 26, 2015

Prayer 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.


Happy Anniversary Laura...

Today I celebrate my seventh year anniversary with my precious bride. I offer this prayer up for her and our marriage today and every day.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

January 25, 2015

Desiring, denying, and cross-bearing...

Luke 9:23-24

Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it."

Personal Challenge...

If we take the word of God literally then we will read this verse as saying that we must die physically for Christ when the situation to that occurs and not any other way. But losing our lives can, and must, happen every moment of the day. We must develop a practice of putting God and others before ourselves...denying our wants, desires, and even needs sacrificially for Him. This is taking up our cross daily, this is denying ourselves, this is dying for Christ. Our salvation is a never ending process and not a one time event. Glory be to God!

January 24, 2015

Saint of the Week...
Abba Isaiah

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23, 2015

Knowing God...intimately!

John 17:3

And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Personal Challenge...
"The knowledge of the only true God is far more than intellectual understanding. It is participation in His divine life and in communion with Him. Thus, eternal life is an ongoing, loving knowledge of God in Christ and the Holy Spirit." Orthodox Study Bible, p. 1458.
Once again our modern, Western way of thinking has sent us down the path of pursuing intellectual understanding of God. We try to rationally deconstruct the scriptures to find God. We basically worship the scriptures and call that worshiping God. We read books about God and call that a personal relationship with Him, or a true understanding of Him. As I learn more and more about the martyrs and saints that have given their all for their Lord there is a common theme. It is a vibrant, personal relationship with their God, developed in the context of the community of the Church, and totally consuming their entire being that gives them the power to live this way for their Lord. One does not give up his life to the enemy because he knows about his Lord...He does it because he participates in His divine life and is in constant communion with Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

January 22, 2015

Sewing new cloth to old...

Luke 5:31-36

Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”

And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”

Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old."

Personal Challenge...

We are often asked why we fast in the Orthodox Church. Isn't that something that went away centuries ago? Jesus Himself reminds us that while He was here on earth that it was a time to be with Him, celebrating His presence, and learning from Him. He also told us that there would be a time when He would leave and that that would be a time to start fasting again. Why do we fast? He gives us a reminder that our Lord, the Bridegroom, is not here, but is returning some day. The fasting helps us to remember that He is coming and to help us develop the discipline of waiting for Him. It also helps us to free up those things that hold us to this world and give them to those in greater need than ourselves. Glory be to God!

Is is this final paragraph, the parable of the new cloth being sown onto the old garment, that really struck me. The faith practice of Eastern Orthodoxy is much different than Western Christianity. It is much more in alignment with our early Church fathers and how they believed and what they taught. This was long before the age of logic and enlightenment that we live in today. As I am now participating in a class that is teaching how to read the scriptures the way they were read in the early days of the church I am reminded that the more that we try to bring in our modern ways into Eastern

Orthodoxy the more the garment tears and falls apart. I must truly embrace that which I have chosen to pursue and let go of that which keeps trying to draw me back to the former way of thinking. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

January 21, 2015

What am I growing in my heart?

Luke 6:45

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Personal Challenge...

So... what is the true state of my heart? Am I harboring good or evil? I can create an external life that appears to all around me that I am a good, loving, and godly man, but if I continue to harbor evil in my heart then I will sooner or later drop my guard and my mouth will speak what is in my heart. By the grace of God I can continually run to Him, confess my sins and the condition of my heart, and have Him cleanse it and fill it with good. This is a never ending process and one that I need dearly. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

January 20, 2015

Going to the Source of truth...

Wisdom of Solomon 3:9

Those who trust in Him will understand truth,
And the faithful shall continue with Him in love,
Because grace and mercy are upon His elect.

Personal Challenge...

We so often seek the truth of God in our own capabilities, our knowledge, other men and women of the world around us who have written texts about God, and the modern day practices of searching the scriptures for Him. What about putting our trust into the source of truth, and allowing Him to reveal it to us? Sometimes we have to let go of our excess baggage, especially the rational, logical ways of man, and grab hold of our Lord for He is the source of truth, grace, and mercy. Glory be to God!

Monday, January 19, 2015

January 19, 2015

His words shall not pass away...

Mark 13:31

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Encouraging Words...

So...what words will not pass away? What was Jesus talking about? It was definitely not the written scripture as we know it today, because they did not yet exist. It would be His teachings that He shared with the 12 Apostles and that have been passed down through the ages. The written word, later codified and canonized by the Church, are a subset of the teachings. Praise God for creating the Church, His Bride, in such a way that His teachings would be preserved until He returns...when we can be taught by Him directly.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

January 18, 2015

Willing to give it all?

Acts 21:13

Then Paul answered, "What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."

Personal Challenge...

Am I so close to my Lord, so committed to Him, so trusting in Him, that I would be willing to walk into the lion's den prepared for whatever may come of my temporal body or way of life? It seems like we of the western way of thinking about God have come up with some safe images of Him and what He would do for us in these cases. This is not how Paul and the early church fathers thought at all. For them it was about what they could give to God...including their life. They saw God bigger than themselves, their enemies, and even the world. They did not have scriptures to cling to because they had not been written yet. And besides, they didn't need them because they walked close to their Lord. So, am I ready to make a statement like this and then step out on faith? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Friday, January 16, 2015

January 16, 2015

The blessing of the New Covenant

Jeremiah 40:6-9

‘Behold, I bring her health and healing for her wounds, and I will show them how to obey. Yes, I will heal this city and bring about peace and faithfulness. I shall return the captives of Judah and Israel and will restore them, even as before. I will cleanse them from all their wrongdoings by which they sinned against Me. I will not remember their sins by which they sinned against Me and withdrew from Me. This shall be for the gladness, praise, and majesty of all the people of the earth, who shall hear all the good things I will do. They shall fear and be provoked concerning all the good things and the peace I shall bring upon them.'

Encouraging Words...

What a glorious blessing that we have been granted the privilege to live in the age of our Lord. All of these promises that God made through Jeremiah the prophet to both the Jewish nation and the Gentiles around them have come to fruition in the incarnation, death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are the Church, His Bride of the new covenant, and we are the ones that He has rescued from death, given healing to, and forgiven us of our sins. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

January 14, 2015

Living contradictory to our world.

John 3:30

He must increase, but I must decrease.

Personal Challenge...

The gospel of Christ is so contradictory to our culture and indeed the entire Western way of life. In our culture the goal of life is to be elevated above all that are around us and to accumulate as much as we can during our span here on earth. However, the gospel teaches us that if we are to be followers of Christ then the opposite must be happening in our lives. We should be decreasing so that Christ becomes more evident all of the time. We should be living in a way that we are a blessing to those in need. When God blesses us with wealth we can share it with those who are less fortunate. This may not just be by giving away our wealth, but giving away ourselves, our time, a kind and loving word, a listening ear. God does not just want part of us...He wants us all. He doesn't want the scraps, He wants the cream. None of this is possible if we are focusing on increasing. Glory be to God! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

January 13, 2015

Building an oasis in the desert.

Jeremiah 36:5-7

Build houses and dwell in them. Plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands; and be multiplied and not diminished. Seek the peace of the land into which I carried you captive. Pray to the Lord for them, for in its peace you shall have peace.

Encouraging Words...

As children of the Living God we are exiles from His kingdom as we live our lives in this temporal world. We do not live in His paradise but in the dry and barren land of His enemy. But just as God told His children in Israel to live full and complete lives, enlarging their number, while living under the captivity of the Babylonians, He tells us to do the same in our lives today. We can live full lives in His light, we can enlarge His Church, we can become a blessing to those around us who cherish this world and who may even be hostile toward us. Our charter, our calling, is to cultivate our lives in such a way that His kingdom, His paradise is manifest through us. Glory be to God!

Monday, January 12, 2015

January 12, 2015

Whose opinion really matters?

Acts 4:19-20

But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

Personal Challenge...

Political correctness, or social conformity, has become the norm in our society today. And in the name of diversity we are often told that we cannot stand up for our faith and our Lord. We must always temper our actions with love for our neighbor but if the "system" begins to violate God's teachings then we must take His side and be prepared for the consequences. Glory be to God!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015

January 10, 2015

It is all a matter of perception...

Matthew 10:28

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Personal Challenge.

We often live our lives fearful of what another man (or woman) might do to us. If we stand up for, and demonstrate, our faith at work we fear that we could loose our job, or worse yet be passed up for a promotion. We don't share our faith and the Good News of Christ for fear that we might loose our friends, or worse yet be labeled a Jesus Freak. God has both our physical life and our spiritual life in the palm of His hand. No one else does. We should be living our lives fully for Him. Glory be to God!

Friday, January 9, 2015

January 9, 2015

Living in His presence...

Jeremiah 23:23-24

“I am a God who is near,” says the Lord, “and not a God afar off. Can a man hide in secret, and I not see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth?” says the Lord.

Personal Challenge...

How is it that we can proclaim that our Lord God is omnipresent, everywhere at all times, and still justify our acts of sin as if He does not know and see what we are doing? Now is the time to live our lives, by the actions we take, the words we speak, and the thoughts that we have, as if we are doing them while standing at the foot of His throne, for that is what we are doing. Now is the time to bare all before Him, confess our sins, repent from them, and run into His loving arms, resting there in His loving forgiveness, grace, and mercy. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

January 8, 2015

It is all about the faith...

Acts 3:16

And His name, through faith in His name, has made this man strong, whom you see and know. Yes, the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect soundness in the presence of you all.

Encouraging Words...

How awesome it is to know that our Lord is so powerful that all we need to receive His grace and perfection in our lives is faith in Him. On top of this He is the one that fives us this faith. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

January 5, 2015

What word are we talking about?

Luke 11:28

But He said, "More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it."

Personal Challenge...

We live in the age of the printed word, whether on paper or on a computer screen. It has become such a prevalent part of our lives that we neglect the spoken word, the stories, the traditions, and the history that is passed on from generation to generation. Written words can become just as distorted as spoken words that are not tempered with truth and grace. When Jesus spoke these words there was no written scriptures of His life and actions. When He referenced hearing the word of God and keeping it, He was talking about His spoken word and His personal character. We must always remember that we worship Jesus, the living Son of God, and not a book written about Him.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Friday, January 2, 2015

January 2, 2015

Living up to your words?

Matthew 5:37

But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

Personal Challenge...

That which comes out of our mouth so clearly demonstrates that which is in our hearts. We are called to speak truthfully and to act according to that truth. The modern world has become so skillful at saying one thing and meaning something different. Have we as followers of Christ started doing the same? Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

December 31, 2014

Now is the time...

Malachi 3:1-5

“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come into His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom you desire. Behold, He is coming,” says the Lord Almighty. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can withstand His appearance? For He enters like a refiner's fire and as soap in one's wash. He will sit as a refiner and a purifier of silver and gold. He will purify the sons of Levi and pour them out as purified gold and silver, and they will bring an offering to the Lord in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord, as in the days of old, as in former years.

“And I will draw near to you in judgment, a swift witness against sorcerers, adulterers, those who swear falsely by My name, those who exploit wage- earners, those who oppress widows and afflict orphans, those who pervert the justice due foreigners, and those who do not fear Me,” says the Lord Almighty.

Encouraging Words and Personal Challenge...

In the day of Malachi (~500 years before Christ) a new temple had been consecrated and the people restored. And yet, they were grumbling and complaining against God. Here Malachi prophecies of the coming messenger, the forerunner John, who will be proclaiming the coming of the Son of God, both the Redeemer and the Judge. We live in the age of redemption where we have the opportunity and responsibility to proclaim His love, redemption, and grace to all those around us. This is also an age of refinement where we are being cleansed and purified through our trials and tribulations to be more like Him. Now is the time to live for Him. Now is the time to humble ourselves before Him. Now is the time to follow in His steps and to love our neighbor and take care of the the widow, the orphan, and the poor amongst us.