Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November 30. 2016

HEAVEN IN THE LAND OF THE LIVING


Psalms 27:13-14 (26:13-14 LXX)

I believe I shall see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living.
Wait on the Lord;
Be courageous, and strengthen your heart,
And wait on the Lord.

Encouraging Words

What did Jesus mean when He said that the kingdom of heaven is now? Many of our early church fathers believed, and taught, that the incarnation of Jesus ushered in the new age and brought us into the kingdom of heaven. Couldn't this be an answer to this psalmist's plea to be able to see the Lord's goodness in the land of the living? I, personally, like this teaching because following it forces me to my life, today and every day, as if I am living in Heaven. It means that I must always be looking for, and waiting for, my Lord to appear and show Himself, It means that I can go through my day being courageous and with a strengthened heart because I know that I am alive in Gods' kingdom. It also means that I must look at everyone around me as if they too have been invited into God's kingdom and treat them with the love and respect that my Father would want me to give to my neighbors in heaven. Can I do this? Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

November 29, 2016

SLAYING THE DRAGONS OF LIFE


Deuteronomy 31:6

Be valiant and strong, do not fear nor be afraid of them, nor be terrified before them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes before you and with you and among you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.

Encouraging Words

Life can be tough. At times it can feel like we are all alone standing before a mighty dragon that must be slain. But we who proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior know that He is on our side and will never forsake us. People sometimes challenge me and ask me how I can believe this stuff. My answer is always that I have seen God's presence in my life and the lives of others. As I continue to study the lives of the saints who have gone before me, the presence of God in His children's lives becomes more and more evident. This presence always gives the one who participates in it the strength and courage, even in the midst of the worst, life-threatening situations. We celebrate the martyrs of our church because they stood firm on their belief in God and their acknowledgment of the truth that they knew about spending eternity with their Lord. This is true faith, true belief in our Lord and His love for us. Glory be to God!

Monday, November 28, 2016

November 28, 2016

WALK ON WATER STORMS


Matthew 14:27

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

Encouraging Words

Every human life will encounter those situations where the storms ensue. Sometimes these storms are just small events that put out a few dribbles here and there but do not even rock the boat. Sometimes they are massive systems that last for long periods of time and threaten to sink the boat and carry us to the bottom of the sea. No matter what the extent of the storms that enter our lives, we, like the apostles in their boat on the storming lake with no Jesus as a passenger can call out to Jesus to save us from the waves, the raging winds, and the vicious downpours. Sometimes, like in this occasion, Jesus comes into the midst of our storm in some other-worldly way. He always starts by encouraging us, calming us down, and showing us that we have nothing to be afraid of. He then reaches into the midst of our storm and guides us, just as He did to Peter so that we can navigate through the storm. All of this needs us to be willing to recognize Him for who He is, to call out to Him, and to do what He tells us to do, even if it is to join Him by walking on water to Him. Glory be to God!

Sunday, November 27, 2016

November 27, 2016

SEEKING GOD


Psalms 27:8 (26:8 LXX)


My heart speaks to You; my face seeks You;
Your face, O Lord, I will seek.

Personal Challenge

David was considered a man after God's own heart. This verse gives us a glimpse into some of the reason for this. David loved his God beyond compare. He gave his all fort his God, and even when he sinned greatly, he always ran back to his God seeking forgiveness and restoration. So, why is this passage such a personal challenge for me? I know the true depths of my heart. I know that I so easily get caught up in the busy-ness of life and the attractions of this world, and so often turn my mind, my eyes, my ears, and my heart away from my Lord. I do this all too often and sometimes delay far too long, returning to Him for forgiveness and restoration. If God was truly the center of my life, my all, then I would spend more time speaking to Him, seeking Him, and fellowshipping with Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

November 27, 2016

Saint of the Week
St. Philotheos of Sinai

Saturday, November 26, 2016

November 26, 2016

MYSTERIES OF GOD


Deuteronomy 29:28

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.

Encouraging Words


One of the things about Eastern Orthodoxy that I immediately fell in love with is how we deal with the mysteries of God. So many Christian faith practices spend so much time trying to explain the mysteries that God has given us exposure to. How can God be three persons in one? How can God become incarnate in the womb of a virgin? Who does God really save? In Orthodoxy, we recognize that God is God and we are not. It is okay that there are mysteries that have not, nor never will be revealed to us because only God can comprehend them. I do not have the capability to understand these things. If we continually pursue trying to know and eventually "own" God's mysteries we take the chance of entering into, or worse yet. creating, heresies. The early church fathers were very comfortable leaving the mysteries of God to God and focusing on spreading His Gospel and love to their world. Should we not be doing the same today? Thank You, Father, for the truths that you have deemed me worthy to receive.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

November 23, 2016

GIVING OUR ALL, EVERY LAST BIT


Matthew 13:44

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field."

Encouraging Words

God created us, all of us, in His image. Part of the result of the fall of man into sin is the separation from God. This separation has created a hole in our soul that can only be filled by God. For some people, finding God and His Kingdom becomes a pursuit. They know that they need Him and pursue Him. For others, they wander through life with no inkling that the void that they keep trying to fill with earthly things can only be filled by God, Himself. These are the ones that this verse highlights. God, in His love and grace, hides in the paths of the lives of these people, great treasures that they might stumble upon and find God and the great treasure that He has to offer. The next step is the critical one for both of these people. Whether we pursue God or stumble upon the treasure that He set out for us in order to find Him, in both cases our only response is to give everything that we are or have in this world away so that we can seize hold of God and not have any obstacles between us and Him. He is the only treasure worth keeping. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

November 22, 2016

LIVING LIFE OUT OF THIS WORLD


Psalms 26:4

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.

Personal Challenge

We are taught so often that the kingdom of God is something that will be here at some future time. Maybe we will see it after we fall asleep in the Lord. Or maybe we will see it when Jesus returns. However, the early church fathers taught us that the kingdom of God is here, it is now. They taught this because it is what Jesus taught. So, if I believe that this is true, then I too can claim as the psalmist did so long ago that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. In order to do this, however, I must live my life according to His teachings and His precepts. I cannot be both in His house and the house of the world at the same time. They are not only mutually exclusive but they are diametrically opposed. To live this way means that I must continually strive to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, spirit, and body. It also means that I must love my neighbor, whether they are loved ones or enemies, as Christ does. This is indeed living otherworldly. Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have Mercy!

Monday, November 21, 2016

November 21, 2016

LOVING MY SPOUSE


Deuteronomy 10:12-13

"So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and His ordinances I command you today for your good?"

Encouraging Words

The concept of love has become so misunderstood and misconstrued in our society. In this age of broken marriages, non-committed relationships, prenuptial agreements, and the such, most people no longer value the concept of unconditional love. This passage was a clear statement by God as to how much He loved His people and it applies to His New Covenant people today. Here is what Saint John Chrysostom said about this passage:

“God needs nothing we have to give Him, and this especially proves sincere love, when one who needs nothing and is not in any necessity, does everything for the sake of being loved by us. So when He bids you to love Him, He then most of all shows He loves you. For nothing secures our salvation more than loving Him” Orthodox Study Bible
If we would all choose to apply this type of love to our spouses, or would be/could be spouses, then we would see a change in our lives and the lives of everyone around us that would change the course of history. It is our choice, not the other's that makes this happen! I choose to love my wife unconditionally for she deserves it.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

November 20, 2016

HIS BURDEN IS LIGHT


Matthew 11:28-30


Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Encouraging Words

The God that I follow, the God that I love, is a loving God. He asks me to come to Him and to submit my free will to Him. In doing this, He will give me rest, He will take off of my back the yoke that the world has put upon me and place upon me His yoke, which is easy so that my burden will be light. He does this because He is gentle and humble in His greatness. So, why does it seem sometimes that His yoke is heavy and burdensome? That is because it is both the world and my stubborn, hard heart that keeps piling on the burdens of the world. If I will continually turn to Him, every moment of every day, and purposely cast off the yoke of the world and put on the yoke of the King, I will see just how much rest He will give me. I will see how much I can learn from Him and begin to be like Him. I will see how light His burden is to carry and look forward to putting on His yoke. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Friday, November 18, 2016

November 18, 2016

NO FEAR!


Psalms 27:1 (26:1 LXX)

The Lord is my light and my savior; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defender of my life; whom shall I dread?

Encouraging Words

So many religions through the history of mankind have been based upon belief in a mean and vicious god. Our faith is not. We see our God as a loving and caring Father. He is our light in the darkness of this godless world. He is our salvation from eternal death. He is our defender against evil. We do not fear or dread Him. Our God is not judgmental as so many faith practices today base their doctrine on. He does not desire to have any of His creation separated from Him, which is most likely the reason Jesus has waited to return. He is the source and essence of love, which is why the only two commandments that He gave us are to love Him and to love our neighbor. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner and forgive me for not loving this way.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November 17, 2016

REMEMBERING OUR LORD


Deuteronomy 8:18

Then you shall remember the Lord your God, for He it is who gives you strength, that you may gain power, and He may establish His covenant the Lord swore to your fathers, as it is today.

Encouraging Words

I have had the opportunity, and blessing, to read through the Scriptures multiple times. One of the things blatantly apparent is that God never does the same thing, the same way, twice. He always shakes things up and often uses the strangest, most illogical (by human standards) to accomplish His miracles. For example, in the Old Testament, there are never two battles fought the same way. We have everything from marching around Jericho for seven days and then blowing the trumpets for victory to Gideon having to whittle his army down to a handful of men and then go into battle with horns and pitchers over torches in order to destroy the enemy. And in the New Testament, we have Jesus healing the blind in a myriad of ways. why? God does this for two basic reasons. First, so that we don't get haughty and think that we have Him all figured out. This can never be done. Second, so that both we and the world, will clearly know that only God can do what He can do. Only God can treat the blind and the crippled, feed the hungry masses and raise the dead, especially those of us who are the living dead. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

November 16, 2016

CHILDLIKE, NOT CHILDISH


Matthew 11:25

At that time Jesus answered and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes."

Encouraging Words

It is so refreshing to know that I do not need to be some grand theologian or sequestered monastic to have God reveal to me His hidden things. Now, having said that I must confess that God has not started revealing His secrets to me yet. The reason for this absence of revelation is that I have not truly approached Him on a consistent basis as a child, Jesus made it clear multiple times that the kingdom of heaven belonged to those who approached Him and His Father with a childlike attitude and demeanor. What is this way of being? This means that we live our lives in total trust of our Father, knowing that everything will be right and good as long as we stay in His arms. It means letting go of my preconceptions and personal expectations of what I think is intellectually accurate. It means living my life loving those around my unconditionally as a child does. This all was evidenced to me this last weekend as I was able to spend time with my two 3-year-old grandchildren and watch them exhibit all of these characteristics...childlike, not childish.

Friday, November 11, 2016

November 11, 2016

INTERACTIVE SALVATION


Psalms 25:8-11 (24:8-11 LXX)
Good and upright is the Lord;
Therefore He will instruct sinners in His way.
He will guide the gentle in judgment;
He will teach the gentle His ways.
All the ways of the Lord are mercy and truth
For those who seek His covenant and His testimonies.
For Your name's sake, O Lord,
Pardon my sin, for it is great.

Personal Challenge

This passage tells us so much about our God that is encouraging. He is good and upright. He instructs us in our ways, even when we live our lives in sinful ways. He guides us and teaches us. His ways are merciful and truthful. He pardons our sins. However, what this passage shows is how we should live our lives is what makes it a personal challenge. He is calling us to live gentle lives. This means humbling ourselves before Him, loving Him, and loving our neighbor. it also asks us to seek Him throughout our lives in order to receive all that He promises us. Once again, this reminds me that my salvation is an interactive journey including God, my neighbor, and myself. Glory be to God!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

November 10, 2017

LIVING WITH CONSEQUENCES


Deuteronomy 8:2-5

Now you shall remember the whole way the Lord your God led you in the desert, to deal harshly with you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He dealt harshly with you and weakened you with hunger, and fed you with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word proceeding from the mouth of God man shall live. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your feet become callused these forty years. You should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord your God chastens you.

Personal Challenge

The story of the Jewish nation after it was freed from Egypt is so full of messages for us today. After God has done so much to rescue these stiff-necked people and started leading them to their promised land, they continued to resist and reject Him. So what happens next? They have to deal with the consequences of their choices, and it is not fun. Why doesn't God just show His love for us when we screw up by taking away the consequences? Because if He did that we would never learn, we would never change. And that is one of the takeaways from this passage, First, there are consequences for my choices and often those consequences are very harsh. Second, these consequences are meant to teach me to make better decisions so that I live my life more the way that God wants me to. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

November 9, 2016

WHO AM I FOLLOWING?


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

Today we are all faced with another historical day. Our country has once again exercised our right to vote, and like every other post-election day that I have been blessed to live through (and there have been many), we are hearing that it is the end of the world or the opposite, that our country's savior just got elected. Either way, our process has worked again, as it has for 240 years. And I believe it is a good process compared to so many others out there. Is it perfect? Far from it. I have, however, had the opportunity to see up close and personal other ways to do this and I am not willing to give up what we have. I was in Thailand 2 months after the military coup in 2006 and praise God, we have never had a coup in this country. I was in Haiti in 2011 when the Martelly railroad ran through the country and once again, praise God that our leaders and system are not as corrupt as they are there. Debatable, I know, but you have to experience it to understand it. I can go on with other countries, but that is not the point. The point is that we have a system that is working better than many others out there. I, for one, believe that I have been blessed to be able to live where I do and when I do. And that blessing for me goes back many generations. As I have been working on my ancestry, I have found that over 90% of my 9th Great Grandparents were born here on this great pre-American soil. Their parents came here as the first settlers of this vast country. We are talking about the mid-1600's, 176 years before the foundation of our country. That is some pretty deep roots. What I am learning from this election cycle is to be thankful for the heritage that we have here and to trust the system, At least we have the opportunity to work within the system, even if it takes the rest of our lives to affect any change. The other and the most important lesson in all of this is that I must always remember that my true citizenship is not of this world and that my real responsibility in my life is to take up my cross, moment by moment, and follow my Lord. That is where I will find true life, true liberty, and true peace. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

November 8, 2016

ON THE TRUE PATH


Psalms 24:4-5 (25:4-5 LXX)

Make known Your ways to me, O Lord,
And teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation,
And on You I wait all the day.

Encouraging Words

I love how the randomness of how I choose the verse of the day never really appears to be random from where I see it. All too often the verse that comes up fits so well in the events that are going on, or that have just transpired. The Word of God is living and true and if we keep the eyes to our heart and mind open to our Lord we will see how His Word speaks into every aspect of our lives, every moment of the day. Today, as our country goes to the polls to elect our next president, this passage rings so true. It is our God, and only our God, that can make His paths known to us. He is our great Teacher. And if we submit our lives to Him, and more importantly our wills to His, then He will lead us in His truth. We are so blessed to live in a country and a time where we can express our opinion on who should lead our country, but no man or woman can truly lead us on the true path of righteousness and salvation. Only God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit can do that. Glory to Him and Him alone.

Monday, November 7, 2016

November 7, 2016

AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSE...


Deuteronomy 7:9-10

Therefore know, the Lord your God, this God, is a faithful God, who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments; and He repays those who hate Him to their face, to destroy them. He will not be slack with those who hate Him; He will repay them to their face.

Encouraging Words

I have always liked the first part of this passage because it promises that if I love my God and keep His Commandments, then not only will I be blessed with His mercy and love but so will by offspring, for a thousand generations. If nothing else, this gives me a reason to love and follow my God, so that my children, their children, and on and on will be touched by my Gods' love and mercy, Why would I choose to give the generations that follow in my footsteps any less? The second half of this passage also tells me a lot about my loving God. If anyone chooses to deny Him, He promises to deal with them on their own decision. He does not visit this error on the offspring of the defiant one. However, as with everything in our lives as parents, we play a significant role in the formation of our children. Choosing to live a life defiant of God sets our children up to do the same, just like choosing to live our lives full of negative and destructive behaviors sets our children up to do the same. For me, I choose to live for the Lord, for Him and for my children.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

November 6, 2016

PROFESSING OUR KING


Matthew 10:32-33

"Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven."

Encouraging Words


Confessing our Lord before those around us is such a blessing because it is one of the ways that we can share how much He loves us and cares for us. But it is also a great challenge and sometimes very painful. It seems that more and more, people do not want to have anything to do with God. So because of this, they become very harsh, and even sometimes become vicious with those of us who choose to strive to live godly lives. We are often labeled as rude or arrogant, haughty or demeaning, even judgmental. I know that this should not surprise me, for my precious Lord made it very clear that even His people who had waited thousands of years for Him, turned on Him and crucified Him, so too would people in our lives persecute me if I live my life for Him. So be it! I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt how much He loves me and will hold onto Him throughout my days here on earth. Glory be to God!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

November 5, 2016

Saint of the Week,
St. Ephraim the Syrian 


November 4, 2016

STAYING ON THE PATH


Psalms 23:6 (22:6 LXX)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord to the end of my days.

Encouraging Words

This is the conclusion to the famous 23rd Psalm that so many of us are aware of. What this tells me is that if I strive to live my life walking along the path of my Lord, then His goodness and mercy will be poured out upon me all the days of my life. This path will be filled with mountains and valleys, rivers of torrent and streams of peace, rough times and easy times. But God will be with me all of the time. Often, this journey will require that I separate myself from those around me who are not interested in being a part of this kind of journey and who will do whatever they can to pull me off of the path of my Lord. What does He expect me to do in these situations? First, He wants me to love these people as He does and to pray for them. But it then sometimes becomes necessary to continue on His path and to let these people go their way. It is between them and God as to whether or not they want to hear and heed His voice. This is never easy but is the kindest and most loving thing to do. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner?

Friday, November 4, 2016

November 3, 2016

HARD HEARTS


Deuteronomy 5:29

Would they had such a heart in them so as to fear Me and guard My commandments all the time, that it might be well with them and their sons forever.

Personal Challenge

It is so easy to become self-righteous in our attempts to be godly people and then look around us and accuse everyone else of being self-righteous and ungodly people. Unfortunately, entire faith practices have developed doing this and accusing everyone that does not believe what they believe unsaved. This is not the first time this has happened. This behavior goes all the way back to the day of Moses when God gave us the ten commandments so that we would be constantly reminded to look to Him. He makes it so clear in this verse that the problem exists within our hearts. We continue to shift our focus off of God and onto us and our own desires. We are the ones with the hard hearts that God desires to soften. He is the one that has continually pursued us and poured out His love on us. He is the one that gave His Son up for us so that we could have Him live within us rather than having to be continually driven by the law. My response to all of this must be to humble myself before His greatness and submit my all to Him. Only then can He soften my heart. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November 2, 2016

NO FEAR


Matthew 10:28

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Encouraging Words

How is it possible to go through life with no fear? It is only possible to do this through faith. If we truly believe that God is the creator of the universe, that He holds eternity in the palm of His hand, that He sent His only son to live and die for us, and that He will keep His promise to never leave us or to forsake us, then we can the our lives without fear. As I have been on a journey for the last year reading through the early church fathers and the writings of our early church, it has become so clear to me that our church ancestors had no fear for their physical lives because they knew that their spiritual lives were safe and secure in Gods' hands. We see this today with our Orthodox Christian brothers and sisters in the middle East who are willing to give up their lives rather than denounce their God. This kind of faith does not come from a feel good kind of religious practice. It does not come from religious voodoo and hocus pocus. It only comes from the object, the person, in whom we put our trust. Glory be to God, and God alone!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

October 31, 2016

SWEETER THAN HONEY


Psalms 19:7-11 (18:8-12 LXX)

The law of the Lord is blameless, converting souls;
The testimony of the Lord is trustworthy, making children wise;
The ordinances of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is bright, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring unto ages of ages;
The judgments of the Lord are true, being altogether just.
More to be desired are they than gold and a very precious stone,
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
For indeed Your servant keeps them;
In keeping them there is great reward.

Encouraging Words
Living in the society that we do today, the concept of value, especially as it relates to gold and precious stones is so much different than what the psalmist is talking about. Only after you have given your life over to God and put all of your trust and hope in Him can you begin to see all of the promises and praises of this passage become manifest. The important thing to remember in all of this is that the focus has shifted from how important we think we are or how much we elevate the things of the world to who God is and what does and has done. When we shift this focus in our lives we definitely begin to see these verses become manifested in our lives and our desires shift from the riches of this world and we begin to taste the glory of our God that is sweeter than honey a honeycomb. Glory be to God!