Friday, June 26, 2015

June 26, 2015

What is my true substance?


Psalm 89:47-48 (88:48-49 LXX)

Let my substance be remembered, as to what sort it is,
For did You create all the sons of men in vain?
What kind of man is there who will live and not see death?
Will he deliver his soul from the hand of Hades?

Personal Challenge

I have a substance of which I am made. I am not referring to the physical elements that define me as a human being, but of the characteristics and nature of who I am that define me. I do have a choice in this area to follow Christ and be like Him or to deny Him and be like the devil. Whatever choices I make there will be a day that I will stand before my Lord and account for them. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

June 25, 2015

Where is the burning heart?


Luke 24:32

And they said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”

Personal Challenge

Does my heart burn within me when I spend tiome in God's Word? How about when I am in the midst of celebrating liturgy? Or when discussing the Scriptures with my brothers and sisters? If not, then it is time to check the state of my heart. With Jesus being in the midst of all of these activities, and so many more, them my heart should be at a place where He is causing it to burn for Him. Glory be to God!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

June 24, 2015

Works!


Titus 3:4-8

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.

Encouraging Words

Works! There is such a heated debate around works. Paul reminds Titus, and us, that it was not our works of righteousness that earned us salvation. It was the kindness and love of God our Savior toward us, and His mercy that we have been justified through and made heirs to His kingdom. It is all about what God did and the fact that we are blessed recipients of His love. However, he does not stop here. He tells us that because of this gift from God we should maintain good works for Him. Glory be to God!

June 23, 2015

Who is my elder?


1 Peter 5:5

Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud,But gives grace to the humble.”
Personal Challenge

The note on this passage in the Orthodox Study Bible says,
Humility is the foundation of virtue; it is learned through submission and obedience to godly elders. In submitting to one another, we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.
An interesting, and disheartening, phenomena that I have seen since I converted to Orthodoxy has been seeing how many converts come into the faith and wield and attitude of superiority over others, including their priests and fellow parishioners who have been Orthodox their entire lives. Even converted priests are doing this and expecting others to adopt their version of Orthodoxy. This attitude is not one of humility and submissiveness. Coming from Protestantism, the elder is almost always interpreted to be the leader in the church. Could it not also be used to identify someone who is older in the faith than I, someone who has been on their journey longer, making them more seasoned and, therefore, worthy of my respect? And even if not, being humble and submissive would still dictate that I elevate them above myself. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

June 21, 2015

Thinking about casting stones!


John 8:7-9

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

Personal Challenge

Oh, how quickly I find myself reaching for the stones of judgment when dealing with someone who in my mind, and heart, has committed a sin that I have judges as grievous. And then…my loving, non-judgmental, God reminds me that, “He who is without sin…” can go ahead and cast the first stone. My only recourse is to drop the stone and walk away in my own sin. In Orthodoxy, we are taught that we are all accountable for each other’s sins as well as our own. My sins impact you and your sins impact me. If I am truly active trying to live out the second of the two great commandments by loving my neighbor, then I will be active in their lives, loving them, walking through their repentance with them, and allowing them to do the same in my life. This changes the perspective about church family and the need to be loving and caring.

June 20, 2015

Saint of the Week
St. John Chrysostom


Friday, June 19, 2015

June 19, 2015

Gifts received in order to give back.


1 Peter 4:10-11

As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Personal Challenge

What is the ultimate reason that we do what we do with our lives as Christians? To glorify God! And to help us do this God has given us different spiritual gifts. These gifts are to be used to build up the body of Christ, and, therefore, to glorify God. They are not ours to use for ourselves on to hide under a bushel. Glory be to God!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

June 18, 2015

The gates are already open


Mark 12:27

"He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken."

Encouraging Words

One mistaken doctrine that is prevalent today is that if we are followers of Christ that we will go to heaven when we die. Jesus taught, however, that when He takes over as Lord of our life we immediately become residents of heaven. He claimed that the kingdom of heaven is amongst us...now. We are aliens in this earthly realm now, or as Paul calls us, ambassadors representing our true home, which is heaven. What a wonderful promise to hold on to as we deal with our daily lives. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 17, 2015

Has real gratitude ever been given?


Luke 17:15-16

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

Personal Challenge

As I read this account of the healed Samaritan, a race of people that were outcast and despised, I must look at my own heart and wonder if I have ever returned to God, and with a loud voice glorify Him and fall down at His feet giving thanks. I was blind and He gave me sight. I was deaf and He gave me hearing. I was dead and He gave me life. Do I show my thanks to Him the way this man did or do I take it for granted and act as if I am entitle to His love, grace, and healing power? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

June 16, 2015

How does my garden grow?


1 Peter 3:7

Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Personal Challenge

Peter is guiding us here on what our role is as a husband. My wife is my partner and a joint heir in the grace of life that God is pouring out. We became one flesh when we married and my responsibility is to treat her with understanding, honor her above all else in this earthly realm, and to be a blessing in her life. If I desire a close relationship with God, where my prayers are not hindered, then I must be tending the garden of my marriage and nurturing my wife. Glory be to God and continue prayers that I will do this all the days of my life.

Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15, 2015

Investing in our future!


1 Timothy 4:12

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

Personal Challenge

One of the things that I love doing with my life is working with youth, specifically the high school and college age youth. Indeed, I believe it is a calling and a gift that God has blessed me with. I cannot count how many times I have been asked by other adults when I was going to grow up and stop hanging out with the "kids". My answer is always, "Never!" Paul saw the need, and the great value, of investing in the youth of the church. He nurtured and taught Timothy knowing that the future of the church would fall into hands like his. What better way to pass on the wisdom and gifts that God has bestowed on us? What better way to be kept young and always embracing the new. May God be glorified through the youth of His Church.

June 14, 2015

What? Are You talking to me...again?


Luke 19:45-46

Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, "It is written, 'My house is a house of prayer,' but you have made it a 'den of thieves.'

Personal Challenge

Here I go again...another passage that I have read multiple times and now seeing a different meaning in it for the first time. Is not my heart the temple of God? We are taught that when we have received Christ and the Holy Spirit through baptism and chrismation that we are cleansed from our sins, redeemed, and sealed by the Holy Spirit. He now dwells within us as His living temple. But it is still possible for me to sin because I have the free will to choose what I want to do in my life. And over time, because of my sinful choices, this temple begins to be filled with the "money changers" and "thieves". As I confess these sins they are forgiven, but if I am not careful with my choices what remains behind are habits, tendencies, and even additions. These are much more subtle and lie in wait for the next opportunity to seize a temptation and turn it into a sin. This is why I need my Jesus to continually upset the carts and tables in my heart and throw these thieves out. I cannot do this on my own. I need Him to be the Lord and High Priest of this temple. My job is to continually turn to Him, confessing my sins, repenting of my choices that are sinful, and be in submission to Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Friday, June 12, 2015

June 12, 2015

Great is my Lord!


Psalm 92:15 (91:16 LXX)

So as to proclaim, "The Lord my God is upright,
And there is no wrongdoing in Him."

Encouraging Words

The Psalmist proclaims the glory and majesty of our Father in heaven and all of His great and mighty works. He rejoices in the fact that our God is a loving and caring Father to His creation and that we can find our rest and peace in Him. I too, proclaim that He is good, upright, and completely devoid of any wrongdoing and choose to find my life, work, and rest in Him. Glory be to God!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

June 11, 2015

What am I not doing?


James 4:17

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Personal Challenge

It is so easy for me to recognize those sins in my life where I know that I have done something that betrays the love of my God and violates my relationship with Him. The ones that I usually fail to recognize and, therefore, go unconfessed, are the ones related to the things that I should have done, but didn't. James reminds us that knowing what to do, followed by not doing it, is a sin. Have I passed up an opportunity to be loving and caring to my neighbor...I have sinned. Have I failed to turn my head and heart away from temptation...I have sinned. Have I not given my all to my Lord and my neighbor...I have sinned. Thank God for His abundant grace, mercy, and love that He is willing to forgive me of both sins of commission and omission through the blood of Christ. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

June 10, 2015

Am I the seed on the rocky soil?


James 2:14-16

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?

Personal Challenge

My salvation in Christ is dynamic and living. If there are no actions, no "good works", associated with my faith, then how is it any different than the seed that fell on the rocky soil that dried up and died (Luke 8:4-8)? I have always read this passage as a commandment to do good deeds toward those who are destitute and in need of the basics of life, which it does apply to this. However, goes much farther than that. I am commanded to do good deeds to everyone, at all times. I am to speak to and think nice of, that person who just drives me crazy. I am to love that person that takes advantage of me and abuses that very love that I am giving to them. I am to love and care for my neighbor and put their needs before mine. Oh, how much help I need from the Holy Spirit toe even come close to starting this in my life. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

June 9, 2015

Modern versions of Pharisees and Sadducees...


Luke 7: 31-35

And the Lord said, "To what then shall I liken the men of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, saying:
'We played the flute for you,And you did not dance;We mourned to you,And you did not weep.'
For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, 'Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' But wisdom is justified by all her children."

Personal Challenge

So, why is it that we modern Christians think that we can behave the same way that the Pharisees and Sadducees did, and not be judged by Christ accordingly? The children in the day of Jesus used to play a game of opposites. One would call out an emotion or sing a song, and all the rest would act out the opposite behavior. Jesus accused the religious elite, the saved of that day, for doing the same thing by telling everyone to do one thing, but doing something entirely different themselves. He condemned them for doing this. So, how is it that we do this today? So many Christians, even priests and pastors, claim to be followers of Christ and expound on His gospel about loving our neighbor and then rail on those who need Jesus the most: the homosexual, the mother who has aborted a child, the immigrant, someone with a tattoo, someone who is of a different faith practice, etc., or worst of all someone who brings the love of Christ to these people. Heaven forbid that on Sundays we proclaim the love of God for all of mankind, and the rest of the week we use Facebook, or our blogs, or whatever other means we have at our disposal, to demean our neighbors...especially those who are already outcasts. Jesus hung out with prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, the outcast of society, those who were lost, and commanded us to do the same. As for me, I do not want to stand before my Lord someday and be held accountable for not loving my neighbor as He loved me and commanded me to do likewise. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Monday, June 8, 2015

June 8, 2015

He has me covered.


Psalm 61:1-4 (60:2-5 LXX)

Hear my supplication, O God;
Attend to my prayer.
From the end of the earth I cried out to You
When my heart was discouraged;
You lifted me high on a rock.
You guided me, for You became my hope,
A tower of strength from the face of the enemy.
I will dwell in Your tabernacle unto the ages;
I will be covered with the shelter of Your wings.

Encouraging Words

I can come into the presence of my Lord and ask Him to hear my prayer and He does. He hears me calling even from the ends of the earth or the depths of my sin. When I am discouraged or alienated from Him He responds. He lifts me up, He guides me, He gives me hope, He surrounds me with a tower of strength, He brings me into the tabernacle so that I can dwell with Him, He covers me with His shelter. Glory be to God!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

June 7, 2015

Covered by His mercy and truth!


Psalm 57:1-3 (56:2-4 LXX)

Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me,
For my soul trusts in You;
And in the shadow of Your wings I will hope,
Until lawlessness shall pass away.
I will cry out to God most High;
My God who is my benefactor.
He sent from heaven and saved me;
He gave over to disgrace those who trample me down. (Pause)
God sent out His mercy and His truth,

Encouraging Words

Oh, what a blessing it is to fall under the merciful wings of our Lord. As my soul thirsts for Him, He responds exceedingly beyond my greatest dreams. Through the sacrificial works of His Son, He poured out His love, mercy, and truth upon me, all of humanity, and all of creation. We now live in grace and truth as the doors of heaven have been opened and the gates of hell destroyed. Glory be to God!

June 6, 2015

Saint of the Week
St. John of Krondstadt

Friday, June 5, 2015

June 5, 2015

Just saying, "No!"


James 1:12-15

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full- grown, brings forth death.

Personal Challenge

I love how the New Testament writings almost always give me a warning that the sledgehammer is about to fall by inserting "therefore" or "but" into the middle of a passage. It is so easy to blame my sin on a temptation, and then blame God, the devil, or someone/something else for bringing the temptation into my life. Yes, temptations are out there in the world, and sometimes the enemy tries to trip me up with them. However, it is usually my own desires and thoughts that create the temptation. Then if I am not living a life constantly on the guard of this the temptation which I introduced into my life gives birth to enticement and then to sin. It is so much easier to say, "No!" at the beginning of this progression than it is to wait until the sin is in the process of being committed. I cannot blame this on anyone or anything for it is my own doing. Lord, help me to say, "No!" sooner and to stick to it more strongly.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

June 4, 2015

We can't have it both ways!


Hebrews 13:17

Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Personal Challenge

It amazes me how some people in one moment proclaim how much they love Christ and desire to be like Him, and then in the next moment rail against the leadership and authority of their church, whose authority they have been placed under. We are called to be submissive to those in authority, to be humble servants of our Lord living lives that magnify Him and not our personal preferences. It is not really possible to be both of these ways at the same time. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

June 3, 2015

Floating along the stream of life...


Hebrews 11:17-19

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, "In Isaac your seed shall be called," concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.

Personal Challenge

God works so far outside of our meager way of thinking and by doing this He continually tests and stretches our faith in Him. When we decide to constrain Him, and put Him in a box defined by doctrine and dogma, then we also constrain our faith and therefore begin to miss out on His mysteries and miracles. One way He does this is by answering our prayers and petitions, giving us what we have been asking for, just to take it away. We see this with Abraham, Job, and many other patriarchs. However, He so often restores what He has taken away commensurate with our faith and trust in Him. Through all of this I find that there is no such thing as a static Christian life. The currents of the stream that we are taking our journey in is full of eddies and currents, storms and calms, joys and sorrows. So my growth leads me to learning how to be at peace in the presence of my Lord...no matter what He asks. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

June 2, 2015

Am I among the people or set apart?


Isaiah 6:8-10

I also heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go to this people?" Then I said, "Behold, here am I, send me." So He said, "Go, and tell this people, 'You shall hear indeed, but not understand; and you shall see indeed, but not perceive.' For the heart of this people has become insensitive, and their ears hear with difficulty. They have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return, and I should heal them."

Personal Challenge

I usually go to the first part of this passage and ask if I would be willing to go do God's work as willingly as Isaiah was. But maybe the real question to be pondering is where I fit in with the people that Isaiah was being sent to. Do I close my eyes, ears, and heart to the true message of God because I want to do things my way? Do I hold my beliefs, my understandings, my knowledge and earthly wisdom in higher regard than God's? If the answers to any of these questions come anywhere close to a yes, or even a maybe, then it is time to repent and flee into the arms of my Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Monday, June 1, 2015

June 1, 2015

Help me in my unbelief!


Hebrews 11:8

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

Personal Challenge

I have to ask myself, "Would I be willing to pull up roots and go to some unknown place if God told me to?" I want to say, "Yes!", but I find myself coming up with all kinds of counter-questions that I would be challenging God with if this occurred. He wants all of me so that I would be willing to do this without any hesitancy. It is not only my willingness to go where He would want me to go that God desires. AM I willing to do what He asks me to do? Am I willing to do that task at church, or at work, or at home, that no one else wants to do? Am I willing to befriend that person that is uncomely or that just pushes all of my buttons? Am I willing to go the extra mile, or give up my coat, or whatever else He asks of me? All of these acts require just as much faith as it took Abraham to move. Once again, I find myself like the father who asked Jesus to heal his son, saying, "I believe, help me in my unbelief!" Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!


May 31, 2015

Singing unto Him...


Psalm 104:33-34 (103:33-34 LXX)

I will sing to the Lord all my life;
I will sing to my God as long as I exist;
May my words be pleasing to Him,
And I shall be glad in the Lord.

Personal Challenge

If I am living my life this way, singing pleasing words to Him continually, then there is no reason in my life for personal gratification and self-centeredness. If I am always focusing on me, my wants, my desires, my feelings, then I am not singing to the Lord all of my life. There is no room for both of these ways of behaving for they are mutually exclusive. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.