Wednesday, December 30, 2015

December 29, 2015

Doing all for His glory!

1 Corinthians 10:31

Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

Personal Challenge

Every moment of my life, every thought, every action, every inaction, can be used to glorify God. Or it can be used to distract from Him and His glory. the choice is mine. It is a choice that I must constantly be making. Thank You Lord for giving me the Holy Spirit so that I can have help in these choices.

Monday, December 28, 2015

December 28, 2015

Bearing one another's burdens!

Romans 15:1-3

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification. For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on Me.”

Personal Challenge

Do I truly love my Lord? Am I willing to do whatever He asks me out of that love? Or, is my love for Him in word only so that I can reap some benefit by claiming that I am His? Then, if I do love Him I will bear with my brother in his times of need. This does not mean that I just put up with him. It means that I share in his burden as Jesus did in mine. It means that I put his needs before mine. Am I really ready to live my Christian life this way? Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 27, 2015

Taking up our cross!

Matthew 10:38-39

And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Personal Challenge
One of the things that I am beginning to learn, especially in times of fasting such as Lent, is that if my Christian walk is all smooth and easy then I have drifted away from my Lord. The truth is that the closer that I am to my Lord, the more at odds I will be with the world. This is taking up my cross. To do this, I must turn my back on the world and all that it has to offer me and pursue my Lord. Only then will I find true life. Glory be to God!

December 26, 2015

Saint of the Week
St. Porphyrios

Friday, December 25, 2015

December 24, 2015

Striving to be real!

Matthew 15:7-9

Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:
‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,And honor Me with their lips,But their heart is far from Me.And in vain they worship Me.'
Personal Challenge

It is so easy to slip into the mode of telling others to practice what I preach but to not do what I do. This is something that I must fight off so that my actions reflect what my desire is for following Christ. But in order to do this effectively and genuinely, I must bring my heart into alignment with the heart of my Lord. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

December 23, 2015

I am no longer what I was!

1 Corinthians 6:11

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

Personal Challenge

So, what were we before Jesus got hold of us? We did wrong and cheated. We were fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, sexual deviants of all sorts, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, and the list goes on. And I am sure that we all, for I know that I do, will say that we were never as bad as this list. But then, I must remember that I only need to some of this in thought and it is as bad as doing the whole thing. In other words, I was (and still am) totally unworthy of God's love, mercy, and grace. But Jesus has come along and become my living sacrifice and benefactor. Through Him, and Him alone do I experience salvation from that which I truly deserve. In Him, I was washed through my baptism. In Him, I was sanctified through the giving of the Holy Spirit in the oil of chrismation. In Him, I am justified through my faith. Glory be to Jesus, my Lord and Savior.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

December 22, 2015

Selective faith?

Matthew 9:24

He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him.

Personal Challenge

What a sober challenge this is to us. These throngs of people had been following Jesus, pressing Him to perform one of His miracles in their lives. But look how quickly their tone changes when He steps into a situation that they do not believe He can handle. Not only do the not believe He can do nothing, but they also ridicule Him. How much am I like these crowds? As long as Jesus is doing the things that I expect Him to do my faith is strong and my actions commensurate with that faith. But as soon as He begins to take me into a situation where my faith will be tested and I will be stretched then I forget everything else that He has done and ridicule Him by turning away. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

December 20, 2015

Gaining wisdom through being a fool!

1 Corinthians 3:18

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.

Personal Challenge

The more I strive to know my God and the more I learn about Him, the more I realize just how much I do not know Him. God's ways are so far removed from the ways of man that I could acquire all of the knowledge and wisdom of mankind and be farther from God than I have ever been. This is where I continually deceive myself. My pursuit of God should not be based on pursuing the wisdom of men about God, but should be based on becoming a fool in the ways and knowledge of man so that God can fill me with His wisdom. I must become humble before Him and my fellow man if I am to begin the journey of truly knowing God. This is so contrary to the teachings of man. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

December 19, 2015

Saint of the Week
St. Dorotheos of Gaza

December 18, 2015

Being a part of the Body of Christ

Romans 12:4-5

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.

Personal Challenge

Paul seems to be pretty clear here that the body of Christ, the Church, is comprised of many members, many of which exercise their faith differently than I do. He doesn't tell me to disown them. He doesn't tell me to go out there and convert them to my way of thinking. He tells me to accept that God has a much bigger plan for saving His creation and that He will be using other Christians in that plan the way that He chooses to. My job is to be available for Him to use me. Glory be to God!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

December 17, 2015

Being a part of the family, not apart from the family!

Romans 8:14-15

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

Encouraging Words

Consider two different scenarios. One is where I am a slave to a master and one is where I have been adopted into the family and household of the same master. Would my behavior be different in these two scenarios? Absolutely! In one, I would live in fear and apprehension that I could be punished or sold off. I would do things to beat out the other slaves so that I would appear the best. In the other I would know that I was loved and cared for. I would not have worries of loosing my place in the family or the household and I would do my best to get along with the rest of the family. As a Christian, I am in the second scenario because my God has adopted me into His family. Glory be to God!

Friday, December 18, 2015

December 16, 2015

What is my responsibility?

Romans 12:14-18

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Personal Challenge

So, what is more important? To give my all for the way of life that I have been blessed with or to give my all to follow teaching such as this from Paul? My way of life as a wealthy, pampered American is not what Jesus died for. Therefore, it should not be what I live for. Jesus commanded me to take care of the orphan and the widow, to feed the hungry, and to clothe the poor. He commanded me to not fear or hate my enemy but to love them and to not retaliate against them. So how do I reconcile this with all of the rhetoric from those who claim Christ and call for acts of hatred, violence, vengeance, and judgment? Honestly, it is not my responsibility to reconcile this. For in doing that I end up doing the same thing and the enemy (Satan) has gained more ground. My responsibility is to love even more and to let my God do the reconciliation. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

December 15, 2015

It is not faith if it is not exercised!

Matthew 8:13

Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour.

Personal Challenge

So many of the miracles that Jesus performed were dependent upon the faith of the recipient of His blessing. This does not mean that He does not have the power to heal or do other miracles without our faith. God created us with free will. He did not create us to be robots or toys that He controls or manipulates. And just as we have the ability to choose to follow or reject Him, or be obedient to Him or reject His commands, we have the ability to choose whether or not His touching us miraculously takes affect or not. I must ask myself how much do I really believe that He is my Lord and at the same time Lord of all creation? How much do I believe that He will meet my every need and help me to know the difference between needs and wants? How much do I believe that He should be everything in my life and that I should be nothing? This is part of my journey to theosis, learning to shift my dependence from being placed on me and the things of this world to being place on Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

December 14, 2015

Choosing Who to serve!

Romans 6:11-12

Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

Personal Challenge

How do I reckon myself to be dead to sins and alive to God? I cannot do this on my own accord. This process starts by being given over to Christ and letting Him be the Lord of my life. Through Him, or in Him, I cam begin the journey of being victorious over sin in my life. This is why we believe there are three phases of salvation: I have been saved, I am saved, and I will continue to be saved. My life must be a constant journey whereby I strive to be more in the image of Christ. I must decrease and He must increase. A critical part of this journey is striving to give more and more of my will over to Christ so that I choose not to sin as often. This begins by recognizing and controlling my passions, which are gluttony, lust, greed, anger, sadness, acedia, vanity, and pride. Just like every journey that we take in our temporal life, there will be bumps, breakdowns, and detours along the way, but even these are important parts of the journey. Glory be to God!

Monday, December 14, 2015

December 13, 2015

Being Loved!

Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
“For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has become His counselor?”
“Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?”
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
Encouraging Words

I am so finite and know so little. God is so infinite and not only knows all but is the creator and source of all. Even in this great difference, He chooses to seek me out and be in a relationship with me. He gave His Son even unto death so that I might enter into a relationship with Him that will continue on into eternity. Why? Love! I know that I am so unworthy to be loved this way. I do not deserve to be in a relationship with God and yet He continues to pour out His grace and mercy upon me. Why? Love! Oh, how blessed I am to be a recipient of this unmeasurable love. Glory be to God!

December 12, 2015

We said goodbye to a good friend today!
You were and awesome companion Brody!
Have fun chasing those tennis balls buddy!

Friday, December 11, 2015

December 11, 2015

Tested in the Crucible of Time

Matthew 3:36

He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

Encouraging Words

How is it that we could get to a place in some Christian faith practices where we begin to qualify who does or does not constitute as being saved by our own parameters? How do we get to that place where we put God in a box and say that He has already selected who is saved and who is not based on our own definitions. This comes from adopting teachings that are new or different from what has been taught for centuries and applying our own rationalizations and thoughts so as to create new doctrines. This is how heresies enter into the Church. Sometimes they start with small, seemingly harmless changes that take on a life of their own. Sometimes they are blatant departures from the teachings of our Fathers. Either way, they are still heresies. It is our responsibility to remain true to those truths that have been taught from the beginning and trusted for millennia within the crucible of the Church. Glory be to God!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December 10, 2015

Unity in Community!

Matthew 18:15-18

"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.' And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector."

"Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

Encouraging Words

Much of what we get from the western version of Christianity is that I have all that I need to personally have a relationship with God, interpret His teachings, and apply guidelines such as this one about correcting a brother or sister who has offended me so that I am "unoffended". However, the eastern version of Christianity, and therefore, the one that these verses were originally written to and interpreted by, would argue that Christianity is not a personal thing, but a collective thing. We are Christians in the fellowship and community of our church, the Church. Therefore, this process of discipline must happen in the community. It is done for the edification of the community and not just for me. It will also involve my willingness to be forgiving and loving. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

December 9, 2015

Life, what a precious gift!

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Encouraging Words

What are wages? That which I receive for my labors. What is a gift? That which I receive without doing or being anything. The gift is often unmerited and yet in itself can be full of merit. Even though I continue to sin and stack up wages that are due to me, which is death, my God still has in store for me a gift that fully and completely counteracts those wages. This is the gift of eternal life. What an awesome, loving, and merciful God He is!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

December 8, 2015

Oh, the conundrum of living in a fallen world.

Romans 7:17 & 20

But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. ... Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.

Personal Challenge

Paul presents to us the dilemma that we all face every day of our lives We have been created in the image of God. He has breathed His life into us by giving us a soul. And we live in a fallen and sinful world. Since I have chosen to sin in my life I now have that sin dwelling within me and my entire life will be filled with the struggle of fighting against that sin and how it wants me to stray from my God. Jesus, by living the life of a human being, and living it pure and sinless, has conquered sin and provided the way for me to be victorious over sin as well. Glory be to God!

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 7, 2015

There is a diamond in there somewhere!

Romans 3:10-12
As it is written:

“There is none righteous, no, not one;
There is none who understands;
There is none who seeks after God.
They have all turned aside;
They have together become unprofitable;
There is none who does good, no, not one.”

Encouraging Words

It is always interesting to see how the grid that we perceive life through, the paradigm, the perspective, or whatever else you want to call it, informs us of what we think the scriptures and teachings of our Lord says. If I view this passage through the belief system that all of mankind is totally and hopelessly depraved then I will see these verses, and those surrounding them as saying that we are worthless heaps of dung and that there is no hope for us in the eyes of God. However, if I read these from the perspective that God loves us, created us in His image, and views us as diamonds covered in the muck of our sins, then I see a God who made His creation so that it would point to Him, a God who entered into a covenant with the Jewish people so that He could give them the Law and the prophets so that they could be a beacon to the lost world, and a God who sent His Son so that He could be a redeemer. these verses then become reminders of how much I need the love of God and the work of Jesus for my salvation and that He has offered this to me and to everyone else. He does not exclude anyone from this offering. Glory be to God!

December 6, 2015

Judge, Jury, and Executioner: I do not want to be!

Romans 2:1

Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.

Personal Challenge

There is only one who has the right authority to pass judgment upon another and that is God. On top of that, who am I to say how God will pass His judgment? If I expect that He will judge some harshly and with anger should I not expect the same for myself since I too am a sinner? If I desire that He show me grace and hope that His love will cover me should I not have that same hope for every other human being, because I know my own sin and how great it is? If I choose to play the role of God and judge others for their sins and their choices then I must be ready to be judged accordingly for my own sins and choices. I prefer to try my best to live my life loving my neighbor and loving my enemy and saying "No!" to being their judge. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Friday, December 4, 2015

December 4, 2015

Growing in His image!

Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Personal Challenge

None of us will ever be able to measure up to God's glory. He is God and I am not. My goal, my desire, in life is to live my life in the image of God. I know that I will never be able to achieve this in my life, but I do know that Jesus has as a human and that through Him I can grow every day closer to the image of God, provided that I listen to Him, hear what He says, and act upon this. It must be me that changes and not His image that changes. Glory be to God!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

December 3, 2015

Knowing the will of God!

Matthew 7:21

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.

Personal Challenge

Can I know the will of God? Many will say that I cannot. However, if this were true then that would make Jesus a liar and that cannot be so. So how do I know the will of God? Jesus made this clear when He told the young ruler that the will of God, the law of God, can be summed up in two expectations. They are to love the Lord my God with all of my heart, soul, spirit, mind, and body and to love my neighbor as myself. If I strive to live my life by these commandments I will see God's will for me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

December 2, 2015

Faith is a verb, not a noun!

Matthew 6:31-34

"Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."

Personal Challenge

What do I have to be fearful of? Nothing! What do I have to worry about? Nothing! What am I lacking in my life? nothing! My loving Lord provides for my every need, even before I know that I have the need. So what else can I do with my life but seek after Him and His things, serve Him and be a blessing to His creation, live out my faith in Him in action and deed, and be thankful that I am His child. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1, 2015

Becoming a fool for Christ!

1 Corinthians 4:10

We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!

Personal Challenge

Paul reminds us here that to be a follower of Christ is to be different from those in the world around us. If we blend into the world and become comfortable with its wisdom, strength, and honor then we have moved away from our Lord and His provision. Am I willing to live my life so in love with my Lord and so on fire for Him that those around me call me a fool? Am I willing to become weak and relinquish all that would make me strong in this world so that the strength of Christ is what sustains and protects me? Am I willing to be dishonored in the eyes and minds of those in my life so that my Lord may be the one that is distinguished above all? This is the life that I am called to live as a Christian. This is the life that the Apostles and the saints that have gone before me chose to live. This is where the love of God can be magnified in my life. Glory be to God!