Saturday, April 30, 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016

April 29, 2016

HARDENING MY OWN HEART


Exodus 8:11

But when Pharaoh saw there was relief, his heart was hardened; and he did not heed them, as the Lord said.

Personal Challenge...

I have often heard the story of Pharaoh and Moses interpreted to say that Pharaoh had no choice to not let God's people go because God hardened his heart. That is not what the scriptures say. God gave Pharaoh his free will to make the determination to let the children of Israel leave, but he continually resisted and hardened his own heart. As this verse points out, how often do I pray for God's help in a situation and promise to God that I will do something different with my life if He will answer my prayers, and then when He does answer my prayers, harden my own heart and immediately go back to doing what I want to do. I have the freedom to choose right versus wrong. All too often, I choose the wrong. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April 27, 2016

STANDING ON HOLY GROUND!


Exodus 3:5

So He said, “Do not come any closer. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.”

Personal Challenge

Has my worship of my God during the liturgy and throughout the week become commonplace? Do I approach my God with a spirit of awe and reverence or just as if I would anything else in my worldly life? Truly, when we come before our God, whether individually or collectively in our fellowship of believers, we are stepping on holy ground and should fall upon our faces before our Lord and creator because we are not worthy to be in His presence. I know that I must constantly mind my heart to remember that my God deserves my worship and respect and that I must set aside all of this world that comes between Him and me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

April 26, 2016

MINDING MY OWN PLATE!


Romans 14:3-4

Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.

Personal Challenge

What a fitting reminder as our church has finished the lenten season and is now walking through Holy Week. It is not my responsibility to look at my brother's plate and judge him/her for their walk with God. I should only focus on what God has called me to do and to do that with humility. God has each one of us on our own separate paths to theosis because He knows what we need to grow in His image. Besides, I have enough trouble living my life in a way that glorifies Him and there is no way that I can advise another on theirs. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April 25, 2016

FREEDOM OF CHOICE


Genesis 24:8

"And if the woman is not willing to follow you, then you will be released from this oath; only do not take my son back there."

Encouraging Words

When Abraham was getting close to his final days, he asked his faithful servant to go back to the home of his forefathers to find a wife for his son, Isaac. What is so powerful in this passage is that Abraham, as well as God, recognizes that the woman being sought after still would have her free will and would be able to reject the request to come back to this foreign land to marry Issac. God gave us, His beloved children, free will and He honors that. He allows us to choose Him or reject Him. He allows us to choose between right and wrong. That is the ultimate expression of love, especially when He also forgives us when we choose wrong and later return to Him with a repentant heart. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Monday, April 25, 2016

April 24, 2016

OBEDIENCE: INTENT OR ACTION?


Genesis 22:10-12

Then Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham! Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” He then replied, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him, for now I know you fear God, since for My sake you have not spared your beloved son.”

Personal Challenge

So often in my life, I have felt that I was not really serving my God unless I was in the midst of doing something, or going somewhere, that made it obvious to everyone what I was doing. My times on mission trips and serving in Haiti after the earthquake come to mind. The problem with this is that if I do not guard my heart and mind these acts of service can also become sources of pride. This event with Abraham and Isaac demonstrates a very important aspect of our relationship with God. He does not need me to drop everything and run off to the mission field to show Him my love for Him and my neighbor. What He wants from me is a love for Him that is so true and that permeates my being so thoroughly that I would do anything for Him if He should ask. He cares more about the intentions of my heart than He does my actions. He wanted to know how much faith Abraham had in his God. When Abraham demonstrated His love and faith, God no longer needed the actions requested. And through that demonstration of love and faith by Abraham, not only was his son spared, but Abraham was blessed with seeing the resurrected Christ standing in the place of his requested, sacrificial son. Glory be to God! The reminder for me is that God wants from me a heart and mind that would drop everything and go anywhere in His service more than He wants me to keep looking for a job "doing" His work. He wants me to be His missionary where He has placed me, in my home, in my church, at my work, and in my community. Serving Him is not about doing what I want to do. I can serve Him where He has me today as well as I can somewhere else around the world.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

April 23, 2016

Saint of the Week
St. Innocent of Alaska


April 22, 2016

NO LONGER PLAYING HIDE AND SEEK


Genesis 3:11-13

Thus He said, “Who said you were naked? Have you eaten from the one tree from which I commanded you not to eat?” Then Adam said, “The woman You gave me, gave me of the tree, and I ate.” So the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Personal Challenge

God loves us and cares for us. He still comes looking for us even though we continue to sin and separate ourselves from Him. His ultimate pursuit for us played out in the incarnation of His Son, Jesus. Through Adam, sin entered into the world and it became easy for us to blame everyone and everything else for our sin. Through Jesus, the new Adam, He has provided for us the means by which to own our sin and to give it over to Him for forgiveness and restoration. Through Him, we can develop the ability to say, "No!" to sin and the tempter. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

April 21, 2016

HEALING OF SOUL AND BODY


James 5:13-15


Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

Encouraging Words

Our Lord demonstrated to us while He was living on this earth as a man that He cared for the entire person. His healing always included the body, the soul, and the spirit. We have been given, through the church, the sacrament of the anointing of oil for those who are sick. It is offered to all and still focuses on addressing the whole person. The process includes the priest, who has been given the gift of this ministry at his ordination, the prayer of the faith, the work of Christ, the Holy Spirit represented in the oil, and the confession of sins. Jesus still offers to heal to those who believe. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

April 20, 2016

LIVING WITH A PURE HEART


Ezekiel 36:25-57

I shall sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be cleansed from all your uncleanness, and I will also cleanse you from all your idols. I shall give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you. I shall take the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I shall put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My requirements, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

Encouraging Words

One of the biggest struggles that I had with reformed theology was the teaching that our hearts are impure and that they will always lead us to sin. I could never embrace this because I was taught as a child that Jesus dwells in my heart. Couple this with the teaching that God cannot be in the presence of evil, then how can my heart be both evil and the home of Jesus. It cannot! Once Jesus takes over my life, He fulfills this promise by giving me a clean heart, a pure heart, a heart of flesh like Adam and Eve had before they sinned. So, why do I sin? Because I still have a mind and can choose to override my heart. What this means is that by the grace of God and the power of Jesus Christ, I can also choose to follow my new heart and say, "No!" to sin. I can choose to live a righteous and holy life. Galory be to God!

April 19, 2016

RIGHT THINKING!


Isaiah 55:8-9


“For My counsels are not as your counsels, neither are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “But as heaven is distant from earth, so is My way distant from your ways, and your thoughts from My mind.”

Personal Challenge

Why is it that I always try to force God into my way of thinking, my paradigm? God's wisdom and counsel greatly surpass any that mankind can produce. It only makes sense that it is for me to change my way of thinking, my thoughts, and my desires to match His because He is the creator and sustainer of all. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

April 17, 2016

JESUS BAPTIZED HIS CREATION


Matthew 3:13-17

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”

But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.

When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Encouraging Words


Only in Christianity do we see our God choosing to become one of us so that we can become one with Him. Jesus took on the flesh of mankind so that through Him we might be able to enter into eternal life. He chose to be baptized, not because He needed any sins forgiven, for He had none, but so that He could unite with His creation and restore it to its original state that existed before sin corrupted it. Jesus, fully God and fully human, is God and I am not. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Monday, April 18, 2016

Friday, April 15, 2016

April 15, 2016

HE LIVES!


1 John 1:1-3

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

Encouraging Words

How awesome it is that we do not serve or worship a mythical god. The apostles knew Jesus personally, they saw Him perform His miracles, they heard Him teach the multitudes, they saw Him die on the cross and be resurrected from the tomb. And it does not stop there. Our Lord has continued to manifest Himself throughout the last 2000 years. He is alive and continuing to be present with us at all times. Glory be to God!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

April 14, 2016

THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE UPON HIS SHOULDER


Daniel 2:45

Whereas you saw the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, it ground to powder the clay, the iron, the copper, the silver, and the gold. Thus the great God has made known to the king what must come to pass after this. The dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy.

Encouraging Words

Jesus is that stone carved out of the mountain that will lay all governments to rest. He has already set this in motion. No government, since He walked this earth, has been able to silence His message or quench the fire that burns in the hearts of His followers. this is not some future overthrowing of the governments of the earth, but an ever-present state that we live in. That is why we live here as ambassadors and should not concern ourselves with the affairs fo this world. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

April 13, 2016

TRAMPLING DOWN DEATH BY DEATH


Hosea 13:14

“I will deliver them out of the hand of Hades
And will redeem them from death.
Where is your penalty, O death?
O Hades, where is your sting?
Pity is hidden from My eyes.”

Encouraging Words

Jesus' death on the cross, descension into hell, resurrection, and ascension into heaven put to death, once and for all, the power that hell had over us. It's gates have been destroyed, freeing its captives forever. That is why we sing over and over again during our Pascha celebration, "Christ has risen from the death, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" Glory be to God! He is risen!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

April 12, 2016

GOD OF MERCY


Psalm 63:3 (62:4 LXX)

Because Your mercy is better than life,
My lips shall praise You.

Encouraging Words

There are really no words in the human vocabulary that can fully describe the mercy of God. His mercy is our source of life, our very existence and essence. It is our sustenance. It is the redemptive power that grants us everlasting life in His presence. It is indeed, that which is better than life and that which deserves our praise for Him. Glory be to God!

Monday, April 11, 2016

April 11, 2016

THE POWER OF WISDOM (JESUS)


Wisdom of Solomon 8:17-18 LXX

When I considered these things within myself
And thought about them in my heart,
That in kinship with wisdom there is immortality,
And in friendship with her there is good pleasure,
And in the labors of her hands there is unfailing wealth,
And in the shared training of her company there is discernment,
And in the fellowship of her words there is good repute—
Thus I searched about that I might take her for myself.

Encouraging Words

Since the early church fathers taught that the wisdom spoken of in the Old Testament writings was Jesus, replacing the word "wisdom" with "Jesus" shows the power and glory of who Jesus ios and why we pursue Him. Glory be to God!

When I considered these things within myself
And thought about them in my heart,
That in kinship with Jesus there is immortality,
And in friendship with Him there is good pleasure,
And in the labors of His hands there is unfailing wealth,
And in the shared training of His company there is discernment,
And in the fellowship of His words there is good repute—
Thus I searched about that I might take Him for myself.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

April 10, 2016

HOPE!


Psalm 27:4 (26:4 LXX)

One thing I ask from the Lord; this I will seek,
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
And behold the delights of the Lord,
And visit His temple.

Encouraging Words

One of the most powerful things that the human race has at our disposal to guide us through every day of our lives is hope. No other creature has this capability. To be able to put our hope in our God, the creator of all, the sustainer of all, the giver of both temporal and eternal life to all, is the ultimate exercising of hope. It is no wonder that the psalmist only asked for one thing, to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life. This too is my desire. Glory be to God!

April 9, 2016

Saint of the Week
St. Issac the Syrian



Friday, April 8, 2016

April 8, 2016

PLEASE FORGIVE ME!


Matthew 5:3-12

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness 'sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Personal Challenge

In the Orthodox Church, we have entered into the second half of our Lenten season. Why do we still practice Lent? As we lead up to our celebration of the resurrection of our Lord, we use this time to review our lives, our hearts, and our minds to be reminded of how much we need Jesus as our Savior. We also use this time to search our hearts and contemplate the depth of our selfishness and sin that separates us from God. It is a time for soul-searching, confession, and repentance. It can be so easy to just ramble off a list of things that I have done asking for God's forgiveness, but the challenge for me is to dig in deep and try to see what is causing me to do the things on that list. I have found that praying through the beatitudes helps to lead me through this process.

Here are some notes from my Orthodox Study Bible that expand on this passage:
Poor in spirit - those who have the heart of the poor, the same attitude as the poor, and are totally dependent on God.
Those who mourn - sorrow over the sufferings of this life, the sufferings of others, the state of the world, and their own sins.
Meekness - an attitude of being content with both honor and dishonor.
Hunger and thirst for righteousness - see the presence of God and His Kingdom as the most important thing in life.
Mercy - love set in motion, expressed in action.
Pure in heart - completely devoted to the worship and service of God and accepting no compromises.
Peacemakers - share God's peace with those around them, imitating Christ's sacrificial love and participating in His work.
Persecuted for righteousness' sake - uphold truth, refuse to compromise with the ways of the world, and give themselves to no other.
As I read through these I am so clearly reminded that my list of sins that I have committed all boil down to a heart that does not pursue these virtues presented and exhibited by Christ. And for this, I ask your forgiveness for the offenses that I have committed against you.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

April 7, 2016

FINDING LIFE...IN CHRIST!


John 5:39-40

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

Personal Challenge

Do I really want to have the life that only Jesus can give me? I will not find this life in the Scriptures alone. I will not find it in the liturgy alone. I will not find it in my prayers and quiet times alone. I will only find true life in Christ. I must run to Him and follow Him in order to receive the life that He has for me. All of these other things point me to Him but are not Him. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

April 6, 2016

LOVING JESUS, RECEIVING THE COMFORTER


John 14:15-17

“If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you."

Encouraging Words

If I love Jesus then I will keep His commandments. What are those commandments that I will keep? They all boil down to tow things, love God and love my neighbor. There is nothing in these commandments about fasting, or praying, or going to church, or anything else of this sort. If I am practicing, and desiring to perfect, these two commandments, then all of the other acts of worship will flow out of my love for God and my neighbor. What is even more exciting is that the more I love Jesus and pursue Him, the more the Holy Spirit can do in my life to help me express my love to Jesus and my neighbor. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

April 5, 2016

LIVING IN THE MIDST OF THE SANCTUARY


Ezekiel 37:26-28

I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant, and I will establish My sanctuary in their midst forever. My tabernacle shall be among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies them, when My sanctuary is among them forever.

Encouraging Words

In the Easter Orthodox Church, we just passed through our midway point of Lent leading up to Pascha (Easter). We not only celebrate the wonderful glory of the resurrection of our Lord, but we also proclaim that He has put to death the hold that physical death had on us. Through His incarnation, death, and resurrection, the power of death over us was broken and banished forevermore. By doing that, Jesus established His sanctuary and His everlasting covenant in our midsts. We have access to this tabernacle for we are His people and we are sanctified in Him. Glory be to God!

Monday, April 4, 2016

April 4, 2016

LIFE HAPPENS!


Baruch 2:14-15 LXX

O Lord, hear our prayer and our petition, and for Your own sake deliver us, and grant us mercy before those who have carried us into exile, in order that the whole earth may come to know that You are the Lord our God, for Israel and his descendants are called by Your name.

Encouraging Words


Life happens! And in that, both good things and bad things occur in our lives. Our response should be to run to our Lord in prayer and praise in order to be beacons to the world around us of His great love and mercy. The circumstances do not separate us from Him but draw us closer to Him. Glory be to God!

April 2, 2016

Saint of the Week
St. Mark the Ascetic


Saturday, April 2, 2016

April 1, 2016

LIVING UNDER AUTHORITY


Baruch 1:11-12 LXX

And pray for the life of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and his son Belshazzar, that their days on earth may be like the days of heaven. And the Lord will give us strength and enlighten our eyes and we will live under the shelter of Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon and under the shelter of Belshazzar his son,for many days and find mercy in their sight.

Personal Challenge

Just as God knew who would be the captors of his children in Israel, so does He know where we are to be born. And as He told His children to not only submit to the authority that were over them, so does He tell us to do the same today. If we keep our hearts and minds focused on the truth that we are sojourners through this earth as Israel was in Babylon and that our true home is somewhere else, then we can pray for those who lead us. It does not matter if it is Bush or Obama, Trump or Clinton, Sanders or Cruz, or anyone else, because our allegiance is to our Father in heaven and we are His representatives here on earth. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!