Saturday, May 30, 2015

May 30, 2015

Saint of the Week...
St. Nicolai Velimirovich


May 29, 2015

Signs and miracles...really?

Mark 8:11-12

Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation."

Personal Challenge

Am I as bad as the Pharisees? Do I keep looking for Jesus to perform signs and miracles so that I can believe in Him more? There are over 2,000 years of signs and miracles that prove who He is. There is an untold amount of times that I have seen His hand at work in my own life. And yet, I still find myself faltering in true, total faith in Him. This not due to any lack in who He is, but in lack of my own faith. Christ has trampled down death by His own death. He has opened the doors to His kingdom in this age and the age to come, by rising from the dead. He has saved me from the grip of death. Now I must choose, over and over again, to put my total and complete trust into Him and put sin to death in my own life. Glory be to God!

Friday, May 29, 2015

May 28, 2015

Saying "No!" to sin!

Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."

But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
'He shall give His angels charge over you,'
'In their hands they shall bear you up,
Lest you dash your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus said to him, "It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"

Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, "All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me."

Then Jesus said to him, "Away with you, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.'"

Encouraging Words

I don't think there is an event in the life of Christ that shows that He was fully man more than this passage does. Jesus voluntarily went out into the wilderness after His baptism by John. He chose to fast for forty days, and He was hungry. Then in that hunger He was tempted greatly by the devil. Here He shows us what we can do and how we too can defeat temptation. He chose to rely on the bread of heaven, the teachings of God to say, "No!" to sin. This was not the "fully God" nature of Him denying to sin. It was Him as "fully man" saying, "No!" By this act, and the continued refusal to sin, that He opened the way for us to also exercise our free will and to choose not to sin. Glory be to God!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 27, 2015

Healing for our blindness...

Luke 18:40-41

So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be brought to Him. And when he had come near, He asked him, saying, "What do you want Me to do for you?"

He said, "Lord, that I may receive my sight."

Personal Challenge

Jesus wants me to call out to Him. He wants me to stop Him in His tracks and petition Him with my needs and even my desires. He wants me to be healed of my blindness so that I can see Him and how much He loves me. His desire is that all will call out to Him in blind faith. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

May 26, 2015

Tripping over my own feet...

Psalm 103:17-18 (102:17-18 LXX)

But the mercy of the Lord is from age to age upon those who fear Him,
And His righteousness upon children's children,
To such as keep His covenant
And remember His commandments, to do them.

Personal Challenge

What commandments does God want me to remember and do? To love Him and to love my neighbor. It is so simple to boil the entire scriptures down to these two expectations of me, and yet so difficult to do them. Why is it so difficult? Because I keep getting in my own way. I do this by always trying to figure out how to put myself first, both before God, and before my neighbor. Isn't this the true essence of sin? The wonderful thing about all of this is that if I keep trying, keep working at it, then He will cover me with His love and mercy, and not only me, but my children and their children as well. Glory be to God!

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 25, 2015

Living under His mercy!

Psalm 145:8-9 (144:8-9 LXX)

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
Longsuffering and abundant in mercy.
The Lord is good to all,
And His mercies are upon all His works.

Encouraging Words

If God created all of mankind in His image then are we, not His works? And if we are His works, all of us, then are not His mercies upon us and He good to us? This makes the first sentence all the more powerful in our lives, that the Lord is gracious, merciful, longsuffering, and abundant in mercy. He is this way towards me, and all of the rest of mankind, His creation. He is not a wrathful, vengeful, judgmental Father. Glory be to God!

May 24, 2015

Mysteries only revealed to children...

Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes."

Personal Challenge

It is so easy to rely on the knowledge and wisdom gained in this world by my own work and believe that I have gained the knowledge of God. However, as Jesus informs us here, He has hidden the mysteries of God, the truths of His Wisdom, from those who rely on their amassed earthly knowledge and wisdom. I pray to my Lord that I will always approach Him and His throne as a child, a babe in Christ, with an innocent and open mind, trusting in Him fully and completely, knowing that He will reveal to me that which I am ready to receive and will use for Him. He knows my heart better than I do. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22, 2015

Compassion for the harvest!

Matthew 9:36-38

But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."

Encouraging Words

Once again, I can see the compassionate heart of our Lord for His sheep, especially those who are lost. He does not look at them as elect versus non-elect, but as all being His sheep. This is not an image of a wrathful, judgmental God. I am also urged to always be mindful of the harvest, and if I am not being active as a harvester, then I am to be active praying for the harvest, the harvesters, and the souls that are not yet in the fold. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 21, 2015

Healed by the faith of our friends!

Matthew 9:2

Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you."

Encouraging Words

I am not alone on my journey of theosis. I belong to a community of other believers and just as the paralytic was healed because of the faith of his friends, so too is my life impacted and edified by my brothers and sisters in Christ. This also means that my faith has a direct impact on those around me. God works through me as I work for Him and believe in Him. There are no couch potatoes of faith in His kingdom.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May 20, 2015

Life in the boat (or really the lifeboat)!

Matthew 8:23-27

Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!"

But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

Personal Challenge

The early church fathers viewed the boat in this story by Matthew as the Church and how we can count on it to protect us from the storms of life because Jesus still resides with us. The Church is our place of protection from the evils of the world. That does not mean that we will never experience storms and the tossing about that go with them. Sometimes it feels like it is really these times that help to determine who is really committed to staying in the boat and putting their trust in Jesus and not themselves. A winnowing of sorts. The lesson here is that we should be able to be at peace, to sleep as Jesus did, in the protection of our Church, and especially our Lord and Savior who is protecting us while we are in the Church. This also implies that when I step outside of the Church, do things my way because I don't like how the Church is doing it, or because I am an individual and Jesus "Saved Me!" so I don't need the Church, then I no longer have the protection of the boat against the storms of life. Pretty sobering thought, which leads me to the point of believing that if I am to survive in the boat, not only do I need to remain in it and trust Jesus, but I also need to be at peace with my fellow boaters...loving my neighbors and putting their needs before mine. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 19, 2015

It is the journey, not the destination!

Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it:'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

Personal Challenge

I have found that it is so easy to remind others that these are the two commandments that we must follow while forgetting to follow them myself. Lord, have mercy! It is easy to give the first commandment plenty of lip service and practice it on the surface once or twice a week while at church, but this is not living out this commandment. It is, however, impossible to do the second one without working hard on the first one. It is such a blessing that God is so patient and merciful with me. The second commandment is the one that reveals to me how far I have to go on my journey of theosis. I find myself acting as the young rich man asking Jesus to qualify what He means by "love" and then what He means by "neighbor". But the answers always come back..."unconditionally" and "everybody". Lord, have mercy! As I have often heard and come to believe, "Life is not about the destination, but about the journey!" Thank You, Jesus, for leading me on the path of love for my Father and my neighbor. Lord, have mercy!

Monday, May 18, 2015

May 18, 2015

Do you mean that these are not MINE?

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.

Personal Challenge

It is so easy to get caught up in the individualness of our culture and start believing that the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed on me are mine and for my own use. They are not. They have been given to me to build up His Church and to use them for His glory. It is also easy to look at others and wish I had their gifts, or think that mine are better. But once again, this is a wrong behavior, a selfish, sinful behavior. I have been given my gifts because they are the ones that God, in His infinite wisdom, determined were best for me. It is my responsibility to use them properly for Him and His Church. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

May 17, 2015

God is Love!

Psalm 59:16-17 (58:17-18 LXX)

But I will sing of Your power,
And greatly rejoice in Your mercy in the morning;
For You are my protector,
And my refuge in the day of my affliction.
You are my helper; I will sing to You;
For You, O God, are my protector;
You are my mercy, O my God

Encouraging Words

What a striking contrast to those who have built their entire belief system on an angry and judgmental God. What a blessing to see my Lord, my God, my Father, as a powerful, merciful, protecting, helping lover of mankind. Glory be to God!

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015

May 15, 2015

Turn my eyes, O Lord!

Psalm 119:37 (118:37 LXX)

Turn away my eyes that I may not see vanity;
Give me life in Your way.

Personal Challenge

Not only should I strive to take every thought captive so that I do not sin, but I should also turn over the members of my body to prevent them from sinning as well. As we live in the age of information and uninhibited lifestyles, the eyes have become the portal for every kind of atrocity that one can imagine. Here the psalmist lays out the perfect way to deal with this sensory overload, asking God to turn his eyes away from those things that will separate him from his Creator. I too wish that my Lord would give me life His way and not mine. Glory be to God!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May 14, 2015

Under the wings or under the thumb?

Hebrews 4:13

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.

Encouraging Words

This verse can be either oppressive or liberating. The oppressive view is that God, the great judge, is watching my every move and keeping account of everything that I think, say, or do, especially the bad things so that in the day of my judgment He can slam the gavel and call out "guilty!" the liberating view is that God, the loving and merciful Father is everywhere, at all times, and He is watching over me as a mother hen watches over her chicks. He allows me to exercise my free will and coaches and teaches me that living rightly is better for both me and those around me. I prefer the liberating view. It helps me to know that He is always there with me and creates within me a desire to do right for Him, to please Him, to impress Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner, and thank you for opening the doors of heaven to me and destroying death's hold upon me.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

May 13, 2015

Covered in my Master's dust!

Psalm 63:8 (62:9 LXX)

My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand takes hold of me.

Personal Challenge

Oh how much I need to grow in my relationship with my Lord so that I could claim like the psalmist that my soul follows so closely in the footsteps of my Lord that He could reach back and take hold of my hand along the journey. The sin of independence drives me to do my own thing, my own way, in my own time, and, therefore, the gap between my Lord and me widens. As the disciples of the rabbis of the past used to walk so closely to their teachers that they were covered by the dust for his footsteps, so too do I need to follow in the steps of my Rabbi that I am recognized by His dust all over me. Glory be to God!

May 10, 2015

Has this time come?

2 Timothy 4:1-4

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

Personal Challenge

Has this time come? If not, we are certainly in the season of this time. We see that it has become so easy for people to not only challenge the sound doctrine of the church, but also show disrespect and disdain for those who have been ordained to teach this doctrine. We have come to a season where we choose to define our doctrine by our own desires, by our itching ears and our desires to have them tickled. We have chosen to abandon the truth by redefining it to match our desires and, therefore, turn aside from these truths to fables because we believe we can define them better. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! And where do I fit into all of this, or what role do I have to play? I am called to submit myself to my Lord and His Church, to work within it in order to serve it and help it to grow. I am not called to be divisive or manipulative. I must choose to follow in the footsteps of Christ and give my life for His Church, His Bride. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 12, 2015

Hmmm...where does divisiveness come from?

Titus 3:9-10

But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self- condemned.

Personal Challenge

Am I being told here to never engage in a dispute? Absolutely not! I am being told that there are those things that are foolish to get in a dispute over. This list is fitting for the time that it was written, but for our day and age there are still issues that are foolish to argue over. One that we are always to be willing to dispute over is the divisive person. Today there are so many ways that divisiveness has become acceptable. I mus first look at my own heart and both the words that come out of my mouth and how they come out to make sure that I am not being divisive. Sarcasm, put-downs, gossip, back-biting, etc., are all ways that I can be divisive, so I must always keep my tongue in check. However, when I encounter someone else who is being divisive, especially in the body of Christ, I am told to reject them after admonishing them a couple of times. It is clear hear that they are responsible for their own divisiveness and are being self-condemning. It is not only acceptable for me to separate myself from them after properly admonishing them, but also it is expected of me to do this so that I myself do not become divisive like them. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Monday, May 11, 2015

May 11, 2015

Close, but still far away.

Psalm 73:26-27 (72:26-27 LXX)

My heart and my flesh fail,
O God of my heart; and God is my portion forever.
For behold, those who keep themselves far away from You shall perish;
You destroy away from You all who act unfaithfully.

Personal Challenge

Is it possible to be near to God and yet far from Him at the same time? I believe it is. It is possible to know much about God, His kingdom, His Church, and yet not embrace what we know about Him and let it change our lives. This is the difference between knowledge and wisdom. For if I really "know" God, I will be less worldly and more godly. If Wisdom has permeated my heart and mind then I will be humble before my God and fellow man and live my life in a spirit of love. If my heart of flesh has been replaced with the heart that only God can put in me then I will cease living a life of this world and live a life for Christ. Glory be to God! 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015

May 8, 2015

Seeking proper guidance.

Psalm 73:24 (72:24 LXX)

With Your counsel You guide me,
And with glory You take hold of me.

Encouraging Words

We live in an age where people believe that they have all of the authority that is needed to interpret the scriptures and the teachings of the fathers. However, the Church has taught that the interpretation belongs to the community and the true interpretation comes from decades, centuries, and even millennia of trying and testing the interpretations for validity and truth. This does not mean that I cannot read the scriptures and early church fathers and apply their truths to my life. Isn't this the purpose of searching the that I might be changed and my thoughts, desires, and actions be centered on Christ? If I am reading the scriptures to tell everyone else what they need to do then I have missed the point Guide me, O Lord, guide me!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

May 7, 2015

Whose Church is it anyway?

James 4:1-7

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:

“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.

Personal Challenge

Why is it aht the modern, western church is so ridden with divisions and splits. Maybe it is because of allowing so much of the world into our churches. We demand that the music sound the way that we like to hear it. We expect that the teaching will tickle our ears and when it doesn't we threaten to leave or worse yet stay and make everyone miserable. Are we not becoming the warring and sinful people that this passage is talking about? How is it that the Eastern church has been able to survive for 2000 years and not be divided and changed by the demanding people? Maybe because at the heart of true orthodoxy is humility, the willingness to accept that the Church is not mine to control and manipulate, the willingness to accept that I belong to the Church and should change to become one of Her faithful. It is not that our church is perfect, for it is filled with imperfect people who are on journeys toward theosis. The Church is an ark that provides us shelter in this broken and fallen world. It is my responsibility to serve Her and yield to Her. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

May 6, 2015

Hear my prayer, O Lord.

Psalm 143:1 (142:1 LXX)

O Lord, hear my prayer; Give ear to my supplication in Your truth;
Answer me in Your righteousness;

Encouraging Words

Only one is truly righteous, and that is our Lord. However, we can go to Him in prayer and supplication knowing that He hears our prayers and answers them in truth and righteousness. As I draw closer to Him He helps me to see these answers and accept them as the answers that I need. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May 5, 2015

Sing praises!

Psalm 61:8 (60:9 LXX)

So I will sing praise to Your name unto ages of ages,
That I may pay my vows day to day.

Personal Challenge

What a wonderful reminder that no matter what is going on in my life, whether good or bad, I should be singing praises to my Lord! Glor to God in all things!

Monday, May 4, 2015

May 4, 2015

Where is my wisdom coming from
and how am I applying it?

James 3:14-16

But if you have bitter envy and self- seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self- seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.

Personal Challenge

There is a wisdom that does not come from God. It is based on the things of this earth and essentially demonic. It is so easy to fall into the trap of purporting wisdom without seeking wise counsel or guidance from the godly first. This warning is sandwiched between verse 13, which reminds me to seek counsel from those whose works are done in meekness and humility, and verses 17-18, which teaches me that godly wisdom is pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, and without partiality and hypocrisy. It ends with a reminder that righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. As I observe so much of what is going on in the churches around the world with divisions and bickering, it appears that these actions are based on verses 14-16 and not the other verses. I am moved to look at my own heart and make sure that the wisdom that I desire and pursue, and eventually speak, only comes from above. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

May 3, 2015

Who do I really follow?

Sirach 36:1-4

Have mercy on us, O Lord, the God of all, and look upon us,
And put Your fear on all the nations.
Raise Your hand against foreign nations
And let them see Your power.
As in us You have been sanctified before them,
So in them may You be made great before us.
Let them know You as we also have known You,
For there is no God but You, O Lord.

Personal Challenge

Contrary to modern, American Christian belief, God is not a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent, or any other political party. He is not a conservative or a liberal, a capitalist or a socialist. He is the God of the heavens and the earth. He is the Lord over all of the nations whether they acknowledge Him or not. We, as His children and followers are supposed to be His means by which all peoples of the earth hear about Him. His agenda is the one that I am called to embrace. His platform is the one that I am called to share. I cannot truly represent Him and His kingdom if I put my earthly affiliations before His. This does not mean that I do not participate in the politics of the place that He has placed me, but I do not define Him by that choice. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015

May 1, 2015

Practicing my faith...regularly!

James 2:14-17

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Personal Challenge

What is the evidence of my faith in Christ in my life? It is not the position of leadership that I hold in my church, or the size of the check that I put into the offering plate on Sunday, or the number of Christian books that I have read, or verses of scripture that I have memorized. All of these are good and part of my regular practice of being a follower of Christ, but the true evidence of my faith is in how I purpose to treat those around me, especially those in need. Yes, writing a check to help those in need goes a long way, but how I become the hands and feet of my Lord Jesus Christ are how I demonstrate my faith in Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner and forgive me for not demonstrating my faith in You by actively loving my neighbor.

April 30, 2015

What am I zealous for?

Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Personal Challenge

Am I zealous for doing good works for my Lord? If not, then maybe I need to search my heart and seek the truths that God wants me to pursue. Have I truly denied ungodliness and worldly lusts? If not, then this will get in my way of pursuing Christ. Am I living soberly, righteously, and godly in the ways that my Lord would want me to? If not, then the path that I am on will not lead me to His likeness. Do I live my life looking anxiously for His blessed hope and glorious return? If not, then I am not prepared for Him and may have a lamp that is out of oil when He arrives. Jesus gave Himself for me so that I might be redeemed from every lawless deed that I have committed, or ever will. He has purified me to be one of His own special people. This is why I should be zealous to do good works for Him. Glory be to God!