Monday, June 27, 2016

June 26, 2016

ACTING ACCORDING TO OUR CONSCIENCE


Susanna 22-23

Then Susanna sighed deeply and said, "I am hemmed in on all sides, for if I do this thing, it is death for me; yet if I do not, I will not escape your hands. But it is better for me not to do it and to fall into your hands, than to sin against the Lord."

Personal Challenge

This verse today poses an interesting dilemma that is very similar to dilemmas that we might face in our lives. The situations might be different but the fact that we are forced into situations where we must make difficult decisions has not. In this story, we find that Susanna, a beautiful woman of nobility has been trapped in a position where two nefarious noblemen are trying to force her to submit to them sexually or they will tell a lie that will condemn her to be stoned to death. It is a lose-lose situation for her. She does not choose the lesser of the two evils. She chooses to do the right thing, tell them "No!" to their threats, and take her chances with the process of proving her innocence in the courts against two witnesses. Her choice was to be obedient to God and trust that He would acquit her. This is such an awesome story and one worth reading over and over again.

So, how does this tie to difficult decisions that we must make today? There are many times that we find ourselves in situations that look like we will lose no matter which way we decide. What we often do, though, is choose the option with the least pain or the least impact on our lives. In other words, we choose the lesser of two evils. A case in point here is our current climate for political candidates. We are told by mainstream media that we only have two candidates. I hear over and over again that people are choosing to vote for the lesser of two evils, whomever that might be because they have no other choice. But in reality, there are other candidates, other options. We do have choices that might be more in line with our moral expectations. If that is the case, then the right thing to do is to vote that way rather than settle for the lesser of the two evils. We do have choices. We must study our options and choose what we think God would have us do and let Him do the rest.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 25, 2016

BRINGING US ALL BACK TOGETHER AGAIN


Ezekiel 34:15-16

I shall feed My sheep and refresh them; and they will know that I am the Lord,” thus says the Lord and Master. “I shall seek the lost, bring back the misled, bind up the broken, strengthen the fallen, protect the strong, and feed them with judgment.”

Encouraging Words

It is such a blessing to know that we are loved so deeply by our Father in heaven. As a father myself, with children, step-children, and their children spread all around the world, I definitely appreciate the joy of bringing those who have been spread across the lands back together again. I know how much I love and miss those who are so special to me. It boggles my mind to think how much more my Father feels His love for us. Glory be to God!

Friday, June 24, 2016

June 24, 2016

LOVED BY GOD


Lamentations 3:52-54

"You heard my voice;
Do not hide Your ears from my supplication.
You drew near at my call on the day I called upon You.
You said to me, 'Do not fear.'
O Lord, You pleaded the case for my soul;
You redeemed my life."

Personal Challenge


It often amazes me how often people act like they speak for God and condemn others who don't act, think, or live like they do. In doing so they call out these different people as being condemned and even hated by God. However, the scriptures and teachings of our church fathers clearly point our that our loving and merciful God hears the voices of those who sincerely call out to Him. He has throughout the history of mankind redeemed men and women who have committed every manner of sin. Sin is sin and it separates us from the love of our God. That is why He came to us and became one of us. He lived as a man in a sinful world and did not sin so that we can call out to Him and have Him hear us. That is true love and I am commanded to love those around me with this kind of love. It is not for me to judge another person's sin for mine is bad enough. It is for me to love my neighbor and show them God's love. Glory be to God!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

June 23, 2016

THE MIND OF GOD


Judith 8:14

You cannot plumb the depths of the heart of man, nor grasp the thoughts of his mind. How then do you expect to search out God, who made all these things, and come to understand His mind or comprehend His purpose? No, brothers! Do not provoke the Lord our God to anger.

Personal Challenge

We have reached a place in our modern culture where we act as is we know what goes on in the mind of God. Wait! This verse was written over 2,000 years ago and was dealing with the same problem then. Solomon reminded us when he wrote Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun. Just as the author of Judith was trying to inform his readers that God is so far beyond us that we will never be able to understand His ways, so must we be reminded that our modern expression of what God thinks or what God would do is so far from the truth. We are not God and we must not try to dictate what God thinks about the conditions of our world or the state of the hearts of people around us. What we must do is live our lives in accordance with the teachings that He has given us. And the way that I understand these teachings, they boil down to two things: love God and love my neighbor. If I can master these then I will be much closer to seeing knowing God. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

June 22, 2016

WE ARE LOVED!


Jeremiah 40:6-9

'Behold, I bring her health and healing for her wounds, and I will show them how to obey. Yes, I will heal this city and bring about peace and faithfulness. I shall return the captives of Judah and Israel and will restore them, even as before. I will cleanse them from all their wrongdoings by which they sinned against Me. I will not remember their sins by which they sinned against Me and withdrew from Me. This shall be for the gladness, praise, and majesty of all the people of the earth, who shall hear all the good things I will do. They shall fear and be provoked concerning all the good things and the peace I shall bring upon them.'

Encouraging Words
God loves us...no matter what! He loves us enough to forgive us of our sins...all of them! He loves us so deeply that He gave His Son to pave the way for us...forever. Here we have Jeremiah and his prophecy of how God will restore us to our relationship with Him to where it was before the fall. Glory be to God!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Friday, June 17, 2016

June 17, 2016

BLOOMING WHERE WE ARE PLANTED


Jeremiah 36:5-7

Build houses and dwell in them. Plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands; and be multiplied and not diminished. Seek the peace of the land into which I carried you captive. Pray to the Lord for them, for in its peace you shall have peace.

Encouraging Words

I love how much of the Old Testament is an image of New Testament times. As Christians, we are exiled in a land that is not our own. We are ambassadors here waiting to be called to our real home. But until that time, just as the people of Israel were told by Jeremiah to be productive citizens in the lands that they were exiled to, we are told to be productive citizens where we are placed. We are to be lights of love, joy, and peace and not beacons of gloom and doom. We are to be encouraging and pointing those around us to the promise of a better kingdom and not people that tear others down. We do have a promised land that we are headed to, but are also recipients of the promise of life today. Glory be to God!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

June 16, 2016

WHERE IS GOD?


Jeremiah 23:23-24

"I am a God who is near," says the Lord, "and not a God afar off. Can a man hide in secret, and I not see him? Do I not fill heaven and earth?" says the Lord.

Encouraging Words

So, where is God when we need Him the most? He is right here with us. It is usually the condition of our heart that keeps us from seeing or feeling Him in our lives. God is everywhere, always. Some early church fathers even taught that if we were to descend into the depths of hell, He would be there, because that is the first place that Jesus went to upon His death. He went there to free the captives and to break down the gates of hell so that it could never hold us captive again. These fathers also taught that if I desire to know my God fully then I too must descend into hell. How do I do that? By becoming active in the lives of those around me whose life is filled with hell. The downtrodden. The depressed. The broken. The addict. The homeless. The poor and even the rich. The person whose lifestyle or belief or whatever is unacceptable to me. Really, is all of my stuff acceptable to God? What must be acceptable to me is that every person is created in the image of God and if I want to profess Him as my Lord then I must love my neighbor as He does. Unconditionally! Totally! Sacrificially! Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, THE sinner!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

June 14, 2016

HUMILITY AND REPENTANCE


2 Chronicles 33:12-13

Now when he was in affliction, he sought the face of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him. And the Lord received his entreaty, heard his cry, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God.

Encouraging Words

God always responds to, and restores, those who come to Him with a humble and repentant heart. Why is it though that we so easily depart from His ways and His presence and go our own ways? When He created us He gave us the ability to choose. His desire is that we choose Him and His ways. But when sin entered the world we began to neglect Him and chose to put our own selves at the center of our universe. The only way to correct this choice is to return to Him as Manasseh did with a humble and repentant heart. He will do the rest. Glory be to God!

Monday, June 13, 2016

June 13, 2016

BEING POLITICALLY INCORRECT AND SAYING, "BULLSHIT!"


2 Chronicles 32:7-8

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid of the king of Assyria, nor before all the nation with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him are arms of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to save us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

Personal Challenge

When did we become a nation of "settlers"? And I do not mean the kind of settlers that pioneered and settled this great country by overcoming every obstacle that arose before them. I have been doing my genealogy over the last year and have found that over 90% of my ancestors in the late 1600 to early 1700's were here in this country as pre-colonials. My heritage is in men and women that wrestled this land from the oppression from overseas and the vast wilderness that lay before them here. And then the majority of them moved across this country creating and building settlements along the way.

The kind of "settler" that we have become just drives me crazy. I hear over and over again, from good, god-fearing, and intellectual people that theY abhor the two political candidates that they have to choose from, but rather than fight for a third party, which does exist, they just "settle" for the least of the two evils. Bullshit! Do something instead of settling.

I also hear how much everything is rigged and the media moguls of ABC, CBS, MSNBC, Fox, etc. are the ones controlling how we think and what we see. Again, bullshit! Turn off the television and do some real research. We have not watched any of these "mainline" channels for over 10 years now and have not missed a thing.

I also hear so often that we need a different political system and then get all of the diatribes of all of the theoretical systems that would be so much better. Once again, bullshit! We have the one that we have. First of all, if you are not willing to register to vote, and then exercise that right intelligently, then you don't have room to tell everyone how bad it is. It has built one of the most successful, prosperous, and free nations that the world has ever seen. Work within it if you want it to be different. Stop settling for things as they are and using your social media to bitch and pontificate about it, and do something to change it. I, for one, am going to vote for a different party...the two that we have are broken. If we would all join together and stop settling then maybe we can make a difference. Isn't this what Hezekiah was trying to tell his people when he told them to be strong and courageous? Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

June 12, 2016

PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE


Isaiah 58:9-10

Then you shall cry out, and God will hear you. While you are still speaking, He will say, ‘Behold, I am here.’ If you take away your fetter and the pointing of the finger, and the word of grumbling, and if you give bread to the hungry from your soul, and satisfy the humble soul, then your light shall rise up in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as midday.

Personal Challenge

To be able to someday live a righteous and holy life, one where my life shines as a beacon of Christ into the lives of everyone around me, I must life an active and participative life for my God. Righteousness, holiness, and salvation are not about a single point in time or a "sinners" prayer that I uttered some time in my past. Being godly, being righteous, being saved is a past, present, and future state in my life. I am to be doing the work of my Lord so that He can be doing His work within me. Glory be to God!

June 9, 2016

WHY DO WE FAST?


2 Chronicles 30:18-20


Most of the people from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun had not cleansed themselves, but they ate the Passover contrary to what was written.

But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, even though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary." And the Lord listened to Hezekiah and healed the people.

Encouraging Words

In the Orthodox Church, we practice fasting. We fast from meat, dairy, and various other items every Wednesday and Friday, during Lent, and other times throughout the year. We do not do this in a legalistic way...at least it is not intended to be that way. We go so far as to teach that I am responsible for my plate only and not my brother or sister's plate. We also teach that if a someone offers me something that would break my fast, I take it because the love for my neighbor is a high calling than keeping the fast. So, why do we fast? Just as an athlete exercises and practices to improve their skill at their game, so do we as we fast. Think about it. The original sin committed by Adam and Eve was breaking a fast. God told them to abstain from eating from the forbidden tree, and to this day we all have the challenge of putting things before God. Food can be one of those things. If I can develop my "muscles" of saying, "No!" to that which my body, or more likely my mind, craves, then I can begin to say, "No!" to the other passions in my life. By exercising one muscle I also exercise others. The fasting will not get me into the kingdom of God, only Jesus can do that. It will not earn me any brownie points with God, heaven knows that I am worthless in relationship to Him and only Jesus can host me into the presence of God. I fast so that I can focus more on my God than on me. I fast so that I have more that I can give to my neighbor who is in need. I fast so that I can sacrifice my desires and take up the cross of Jesus and glorify Him. God blesses us because of the state of our hearts, not the rules that we follow.

June 11, 2016

Saint of the Week
Elder Amphilocios Makris


We live in turbulent times. May the grace of our God be felt by those who need it this day and every day.


Friday, June 10, 2016

June 10, 2016

GOD AND HIS SAINTS


Isaiah 57:15

The Lord, the Most High who dwells on high forever, the Holy One among His saints, whose name is the Lord Most High, who rests among His saints, and who gives patience to the fainthearted and life to the broken-hearted,...

Encouraging Words

Our God, Our Father the Most High, does not sit on some throne somewhere separated from His subjects as is so often depicted in worldly images of Him or presented in earthly kingdoms. He is surrounded by His saints. Of course, they are worshiping Him along with the angelic hosts, but they are in His presence, which means that they are alive in the spirit. Glory be to God.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

June 8, 2016

WHAT DO I LONG FOR?


Psalm 84:1-2 (83:2-3 LXX)

How beloved are Your dwellings, O Lord of hosts.
My soul longs and faints for the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh greatly rejoice in the living God.

Personal Challenge

Is this truly the case for me? Does my soul long and faint for the courts of the Lord? Do I desire to be in His presence more than anything else in my life? Do my heart and flesh greatly rejoice in Him? Unfortunately, I must answer that this is not the case most of the time. I am so caught up in the trappings of this earth and the busy-ness of life that I have become distracted from Him and the blessings the He desires to bestow on me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

June 5, 2016

ALMSGIVING


Tobit 12:8-9

Prayer is good with fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. A few prayers with righteousness are better than many with wrongdoing. It is better to do almsgiving than to lay up gold. For almsgiving rescues one from death, and it will wash away every sin. Those who do almsgiving and are righteous will be full of life.

Personal Challenge

So, what exactly is almsgiving? One definition is, "to give of oneself above and beyond what is due." This is truly a concept that has been lost over time and definitely not practiced in today's modern culture...even by the Church. Isn't almsgiving something that our Lord Jesus Christ did? He owed His creation, that which He spoke into existence, nothing. Especially after we turned our back on Him and ate of the forbidden fruit. And yet He gave of His abundance, even to the point of His own life, so that we could have eternal life. So, if my desire is to imitate Him, to be like Him, to be called one of His followers, then should I not do the same? Almsgiving is not tithing. We tithe from our firstfruits as a way of saying, "Thank you!" for our blessings. Almsgiving is what comes after we have tithed. Tithing goes to the Church, to support it and to build it up. Almsgiving goes to those who need what I have more than I do, many of which have never been to church and may never go there. This type of giving does not just include my wealth. I can, and must, give my time, my words, my everything that I have in abundance, to those who are in need.

One area that has become so apparent to me where I can practice almsgiving is in the social media world. I can choose to sacrifice my personal agenda and opinions and give to those in my friend's list what they need. I can give words of encouragement. I can give blessings and make joyful noises unto the Lord. I can give of my time by listening to their stories and their passions and offering back to them words that are uplifting and free of sarcasm or innuendos or hidden (maybe not so hidden) putdowns. This too is giving out of the abundance that God has given me. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

June 7, 2016

WHO IS TROUBLING WHO?


1 Kings 18:17-18 (3 Kingdoms 18:17-18 LXX)

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, "Are you the one who is troubling Israel?" Elijah answered, "I have not troubled Israel, but rather you and the house of your father, in that you forsook the Lord your God and followed after the Baals.

Personal Challenge

We live in a period of history that is not all that different than the days of Ahab and Elijah. A nation of people had been set apart by God and blessed for their willingness and desire to follow and obey Him. Then they start desiring to be like the rest of the world around them. They stopped recognizing God as their leader and started putting into positions of leadership men and women that gave them what they wanted. Before long, God was just one of the many gods that they worshiped. Life became very corrupt and everyone became very self-focused and sought after the desires of their flesh. Then as God sent prophets to remind them of all that tey had under the leadership of God, how much He love them, and the blessings that they had when they followed Him, they accused the prophets of being the ones causing all of the problems that they had. We have reached this state again and our world calls those who follow Christ crazy, intolerant, mean-spirited, and so many other things. So who is really troubling who? Who is really causing the troubles of today? Is it those who humbly and lovingly follow the teachings of Christ or those who seek after their own desires? The more important question for me to answer, the one that indicts me the most, is, "Do I humbly and lovingly follow the teachings of Christ or do I seek after my own desires?" Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Monday, June 6, 2016

June 6, 2016

CITIZENSHIP?


Tobit 13:3-4

Give thanks to Him before the nations,
O children of Israel,
For He scattered us among them.
Make known His greatness there;
Exalt Him in the presence of all the living,
For He is our Lord and God;
He is our Father unto all the ages.

Personal Challenge


Which country, or domain, am I really a citizen of? Is it the United States? If I truly practice what the Apostle Paul taught about Christians being citizens of heaven and ambassadors of Christ here on earth, then the answers to these questions are clear. Just as God spread the Jewish nation, His called and set apart people, throughout the world in the day of Tobit, so has He done this with His Church of the new covenant. My citizenship is in heaven and I am a representative of God here on earth, here in the United States, and in my local community. I should be caught up in His affairs, living my life as His representative, and not all wrapped up in the things of this world. As His ambassador, I should perform my duties as a resident of this world with Him in my focus. I vote the way that He would vote. I pay taxes as He would. I support people around me in a godly and loving way. But I do not get wrapped up on all of the bitter fighting, conspiracy theories, or other earthly focused things that both distract my focus from God and cause a stumbling block for my neighbor. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Friday, June 3, 2016

June 3, 2016

PRAISING GOD...ALWAYS



Tobit 12:6-7

Then Raphael secretly called the two of them, and said to them, “Bless God and give Him thanks. Ascribe greatness to Him and give thanks in the presence of all the living for what He has done for you. It is good to bless God and to exalt His name. Make known the words of God's works honorably and do not delay to give thanks to Him. It is noble to keep hidden the secret of a king, but glorious to unveil the works of God. Do good, and evil will not find you.

Personal Challenge

It is never a good time to be quiet about God and all that He has done. He should always be on the tips of our tongue and proclaimed whenever possible. And when there is no one to hear our praises are to be directed at Him. I know that I seldom do this for my mind and heart are so easily focused on the things on this earth and on me. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

June 2, 2016

LIVING A GODLY LIFE


Tobit 4:5-7

My son, remember the Lord our God all your days, and do not desire to sin or to disobey His commandments. Do righteousness all the days of your life, and do not walk in the ways of wrongdoing. For if you walk in the truth, you will be successful in your works. Do almsgiving from your possessions to all who do righteousness. When you do almsgiving, do not let your eye be envious. Do not turn your face away from any poor man, so the face of God will not be turned away from you.

Personal Challenge

As I was reading this passage I got to thinking about my parents and how much they admonished me with words such as Tobit did for his son. The didn't! Honestly, I cannot think of once that my father (memory eternal) or my mother spoke words of wisdom like this to me. What I do remember is that my parents spent their lives showing me these truths by how they lived their lives. They always thought it was more important to live their lives in a righteous way and pray that their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, would do the same. I cannot thank them enough for showing me how to live my life in a Christ-centered, godly way. My only hope and prayer are that my children and grandchildren will someday look back at my life and see Christ in how I lived my life. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

June 1, 2016

EVEN TO THE DEPTHS OF HELL


Jonah 2:2-3

And from the belly of the sea creature, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God, and said:

"I cried out in my affliction to the Lord, my God,
And He heard my voice;
Out of the belly of Hades, You heard the cry of my voice."

Encouraging Words

The imagery of Jonah being in the belly of the sea creature calling out to his Lord for salvation is one that points to Christ and His time in the tomb. Christ answered the call of those who had died before His coming that were trapped behind the gates of hell. He destroyed those gates and the grip that death had on mankind and set the prisoners of hell free. No one can escape the love of our Lord for His love ever goes to the depths of hell. Glory be to God!