Monday, November 30, 2015

November 30, 2015

Reconciliation before worship

Matthew 5:23-24

Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Personal Challenge

It can be so easy to slip into a state of worship and forget that no worship, actually none of our life is strictly personal. We worship our Lord in community, within a community. And by doing this my worship cannot be full and complete if there is an unreconciled issue between my brother or sister and me. Reconciliation must be at the center of my life so that I can truly love my neighbor and love my Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Sunday, November 29, 2015

November 28, 2015

God does not play hide and go seek!

Romans 1:20-21

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Encouraging Words

God never hid Himself from His creation. By putting Himself into all of His creation, He made it possible for all of us to see Him and to know Him, whether or not we ever hear a sermon about Him or read a word that describes Him. Isn't this an awesome picture of how much God loves each and every one of us? Glory be to God!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

November 27, 2015

Loving the lost!

Matthew 18:12-14

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety- nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety- nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Encouraging Words

It still amazes me that there is such a wide group of people that claim that our God is a wrathful and judgmental God who rejoices in condemning lost souls to hell and damnation while at the same time proclaiming the love of Christ. How can this be when God is love, not just the God of love. Jesus so effectively uses a parable here to demonstrate to all that His Father, our Father, loves His cration so much that He will do whatever is needed and take as long as needed to rescue that last, lone sheep who has gone astray. That is the epitome of love. Shouldn't I then, if I claim to be His child, be pursuing every lost sheep around me with His love? Should I not do this no matter what they believe, or don't believe, because that is what He does? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner!

November 26, 2015

Saint of the Week
Ancient Patericon

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

November 25, 2015

Ending the race strong!

Acts 28:30-31

Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.

Personal Challenge

Paul lived through some very difficult and oppressive situations. And all of these came his way because he consistently proclaimed Jesus as his Lord and Savior of the world. I often wonder if I will run my race as strongly as Paul. Will I be willing to give up everything so that others might be saved? Will someone write about me in my last days saying that I proclaimed the kingdom of God and the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with confidence? Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

November 24, 2015

Living, loving, and serving in unity!

John 17:20-21

"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me."

Encouraging Words

Jesus my Lord and Savior, prayed for me and that I might be in unity with my other brothers and sisters of His family. He desired that through the teachings that He gave to His direct followers, the Apostles, that His teachings would be passed on until He returned. This is what we call Apostolic succession and why it is important to the unity of our Church. This brings unity to His followers, which in turn brings the lost to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The question that I must constantly be asking myself is whether or not I am truly loving my brothers and sisters in Christ, even if they may have departed some from the full teaching of our Holy Fathers so that together we may in our unity show the love of God to the lost world? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Monday, November 23, 2015

November 23, 2015

Seeking Christ!

John 16:23-24

“And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full."

Encouraging Words

One of the things that I have grown to love in the Orthodox church is our ramp up to Easter or Pascha as we call it. During Lent, the days of fasting and preparation before Pascha, everything changes in our liturgical practices. The tones become more somber, the rhythm slows down, everything becomes darker, including the vestments and the lights. In many of our services, we even stop reading the gospels and read more Old Testament passages. The purpose of all of this is to remind us of those times before the light of Christ was with us. This verse reminds me of this, that for Jesus' followers, they went through a dark time when they did not know where Jesus was and whether or not He was alive. How dark that must have felt. Maybe that is why He encouraged them, and us, to ask of Him what we need, especially in these dark and lonely times. Glory be to God!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

November 21, 2015

Saint of the Week
St. John Climacus

November 20, 2015

Being built up in my community!

Matthew 18:20

For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.

Personal Challenge

Having grown up in the teachings of Western Christianity, I had embraced the concept of personal faith and salvation, that it is me and my Lord and nothing else is needed. Eastern Christianity, however, teaches that my faith is built in my community, my fellowship, my church and that my salvation is worked out there. Reading this verse through that Eastern grid confirms for me that I must be actively involved with my brothers and sisters in the name of Christ to fully appreciate His presence. Again, it is not about me, but us. Glory be to God!

Friday, November 20, 2015

November 19, 2015

Our peace can only come from Him!

John 14:27

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Encouraging Words

Jesus does not ask us to live our lives free of fear and troubled hearts without first giving us His peace. How else can so many martyrs in the life of the Church give up their lives for Christ? The peace that He gives to us is not earthly peace found in possessions, positions, or political powers, but it is from a heavenly source. That source is our God, the Father of life and love. Glory be to God!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

November 18, 2015

Time to get out of the boat!

John 21:7

Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea.

Personal Challenge

Am I willing to live my life radically for Jesus as Peter and the other Apostles did? Am I willing to jump out of my boat of comfort and swim to the feet of Jesus so that I can be with Him? Am I willing to take the insults and abuses that will be thrown at me because I choose to stand up for christ? Standing up for Christ means showing His love to my neighbor and even my enemy. It means taking into my life those who are in need, feeding them, clothing them, loving them whether they accept my Lord or not. Thew was no caveat in Jesus' command to Peter to feed His sheep. It is time that Christians live radical lives for God and show His love everywhere in this world, to put our faith in Him and not be fearful that someone we love for Him might strike us. If so, we turn our other cheek and love even more. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November 17, 2015

Where do we really put our faith?

John 14:12

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father."

Personal Challenge

What works did Jesus do that I can exceed? He gave up the glories of heaven to become a lowly and despised person in the Roman empire. An empire that was both one of the most affluent societies in the history of mankind and at the same time the one of the most corrupt. He lived a life of a human in the midst of this affluence and corruption. He spoke and taught of loving our neighbor and even our enemy...even to the point of giving up His life for them. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and spent His time with the outcast and the downtrodden. He was rejected by His society. And He has the audacity to say that if we believe in Him we will do greater works than Him? Actually the audacity resides within us modern people who claim to believe in Him and yet scream out in fear that we must close our borders to the downtrodden, to those who have lost their all, and who have been persecuted by evil. Shame on us for claiming to be a Christian nation and for turning our backs on those in need. My Jesus, my God, weeps when one of His created children perishes without knowing Him or seeing His love for them. Should I not weep as well? Should I not be willing to help a brother or sister in need because I have the ability, the abundance and the blessings to help them? Jesus died so that all of His creation might be saved. Who are we, the "Christians" of the modern, western world, to deny others safe haven and loving open arms? And yes, I know that we take the risk of letting a bad person in as well. Then I must put my trust in God that His love will prevail.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

November 15, 2015

Saint of the Week...
St. Silouan the Athonite

November 13, 2015

Giving His love away!

Acts 1:9-11

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Personal Challenge

So…how much time do I waste “looking up into heaven” waiting for the return of my King when there is so much work that needs to be done for Him? Am I willing to give up my place in heaven so that every lost soul around me might go there in my place? Am I willing to be sacrificed for everyone else that God loves? I cannot cherish the truth that I will someday be with my Lord in heaven while at the same time taking joy in the fact that those around me may not. To be a Christian is to be one that actively shares the love of Christ hoping that all will be saved. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November 12, 2015

Never shrinking back in the midst of the storm!

Habakkuk 2:4

If any man should shrink back, My soul will not be well pleased in him; but the righteous shall live by My faith.

Personal Challenge

Being a follower of Christ is not a part-time thing. I cannot claim Hm as my Lord on Sundays and then live like I do not know who He is the rest of the week. If I desire for Him to be well pleased with me as His child then I will never shrink back from in front of my peers or in the midst of pressure. What helps me to stay strong this way? He does! His faith! His power! His love! For I can do nothing apart from Him. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November 11, 2015

Turning the world upside down!

Acts 17:6

But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some brethren to the rulers of the city, crying out, "These who have turned the world upside down have come here too."

Personal Challenge

How awesome it would be to be accused of turning the world upside down for Christ. In order to do this, I would have to be living a life that is so radically different than those around me that they would be shaken. Only a person living fully in Christ can have this kind of impact, for it is not the person that is being seen, but Christ. I cannot live this kind of life if I am enamored by the world and pursuing the things of the world. I cannot live this way if all that I care about is me and what I want. I cannot make this kind of difference if I am the same as everyone else around me. Making a radical impact on the world, turning it upside down, requires me to allow Jesus to have a radical impact on me and having my life turned upside down. Lord Jesus christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November 10, 2015

Looking for God in all things.

Acts 16:25

But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.

Personal Challenge

Life happens! Sometimes it is glorious and uplifting. Sometimes it is just plain mundane and ordinary. And sometimes it is downright painful and shakes our belief in God. In many of these events, we may begin to question God or more critically, our faith in God, and wonder what His will is. In all cases, I believe God's will always boil down to one thing, that all might know Him and how much He loves us and desires for us to be His children. If I can hold on to this then going through life and dealing with the things that happen in this broken and fallen world begin to have more meaning. I can look for the love of God in every event, good or bad. I can look for how God is reaching out to everyone in the situation, good or bad. I can find God's mercy and grace for me and everyone, everywhere and at all times. What is God's will? That we turn to Him and seek refuge in His unmeasurable love. Glory be to God!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

November 8, 2015

Pursuing holiness!

Psalm 138:4-6 (137:4-6 LXX)

O Lord, let all the kings of the earth give thanks to You,
For they heard all the words of Your mouth;
And let them sing in the ways of the Lord,
For the glory of the Lord is great;
For the Lord is high, and He watches over the lowly things;
But the high things He knows from afar.

Encouraging Words

Our God, the Father, is so holy that we, as humans, will never be able to come into His presence on our own without being destroyed. Our God, the Son, became human and lived a holy and righteous life thereby becoming our one and only High Priest that stands before the Father for us, therefore providing the means by which we can enter into the holy of holies and live eternally in the presence of the Father. Our god, the Holy Spirit, was given to us to lead us through our lives here on earth so that we can be more holy and righteous for our God. Glory be to God!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Friday, November 6, 2015

November 6, 2015

Always in His hands!

Psalm 139:4-6 (138:4-6)

For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether,
The last things and the first things;
You fashioned me, and placed Your hands on me.
Your knowledge has become too wondrous for me;
It has become too overwhelming; I am unable to grasp it.

Encouraging Words

My God is not just an object or a principle to be worshipped. He is real and He knows me far better than even I know myself. He fashioned me from before time and has placed His hands upon me. Is it no wonder that I will never be able to grasp Him and His wisdom? Glory be to God!

November 5, 2015

Finding joy and completeness!

Psalm 121:1-4 (120:1-4 LXX)

I lifted my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
Let not your foot be moved;
Neither let Him who keeps you slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.

Encouraging Words

The things of this world will never fully satisfy my needs and desires. I can look to them all I can, but they are only temporary. My help, my joy, my completeness can only come from the Lord. And in my Lord I can find joy and completeness in the things of this earth that He has blessed me with. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

November 4, 2015

Missing what is happening in our lives.

John 6:14

Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.”

Personal Challenge

It is one thing to proclaim Jesus as the "Prophet" of Lord when we have seen Him do mighty and glorious works, like in this case of feeding 5,000 with a few loaves and fishes. It is entirely a different thing to proclaim Him as our Lord when we do not see great and glorious things happening in our lives. Jesus is always the "Prophet". He is always our Lord. He is always doing great and glorious things in our lives, we just don't recognize them most of the time. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November 3, 2015

I am not my own!

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's.

Personal Challenge

So, if I start thinking that because I have been born into the land of the free and that I have the right to pursue happiness and self-gratification, then I am in for a rude awakening. When I was baptized into Christ and sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit I gave over my life, all of it, to God. I am no longer my own. He owns me! Yes, I am His bondservant! He dictates to me what I should think and do! My political preferences, my work preferences, my hobbies, my relationships, my desires and expectations of those around me, everything, must be submitted to Him! I am His, He is not mine. Am I living this way? Lord, have mercy! Am I willing to live this way? Lord, have mercy! Will He lead me and bless me in living this way? Lord, have mercy! It is time to let go...

Monday, November 2, 2015

November 2, 2015

When I cry out, He hears me!

Psalm 119:147 (118:147 LXX)

And I shall keep Your testimonies.
I arose at midnight and cried out;
I hoped in Your words.

Encouraging Words

My God never sleeps. He is never hidden or absent. If I cannot feel His presence in my life it is because I have moved away from Him. Because of this I can call out to Him at any time and in any situation knowing that He will hear my voice. Glory be to God!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November 1, 2015

His mercy endures forever!

Psalm 118:1-4 (117:1-4 LXX)

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Israel say that He is good,
For His mercy endures forever.
Let the house of Aaron say that He is good,
For His mercy endures forever.
Let all who fear the Lord say that He is good,
For His mercy endures forever.

Encouraging Words

Throughout our liturgy we proclaim, "Lord, have mercy!" While quoting/praying the Jesus Prayer we plead, ""Lord, have mercy on me, the sinner!" We do not do this because we believe that God might relax on giving us His mercy. We do this because we recognize how little we deserve His mercy and how much forgiveness we need for our sinfulness. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!