Tuesday, January 31, 2017

January 30, 2017

HEALING IN COMMUNITY


Mark 2:5

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

Personal Challenge

One of the fundamental beliefs of the early Church that we have lost in modern Christianity is the need and power of community. The church of the West has embraced the age of enlightenment and has created an environment and a religious institution that revolves around individualism, Me and my Bible! Me and my salvation! Me and my worship! Me and my...! The early Church and the church of the East have taught and continue to teach, that our salvation is worked out in our community. That is why so many of our prayers use terms such as, "we," "us," and "our". Jesus commends the friends of the paralytic for their faith. He claimed that it was their faith, and the subsequent action that they took because of that faith, that produced the healing and the forgiveness of the sins for their friend. The paralytic had to humble himself and submit to his friends and their belief that Jesus would heal him. So many people that I know, dear friends and acquaintances, often complain that their church does not provide the community that they desire, the desire that God built into each of us. Come and see another way to worship!

Monday, January 30, 2017

January 29, 2017

DO NOT BE ENVIOUS...


Psalms 37:7 (36:7 LXX)

Submit to the Lord, and supplicate Him;
Do not be envious of him who prospers in his way,
Nor of him who transgresses the law.

Personal Challenge

If I live my life with my heart and mind constantly focused on my Lord, then my eyes will not be focused on those around me. It is when I take my eyes off of my Lord, such as Peter did when he was walking on the water to meet his Lord, that I begin to sink into the inclination to be envious of my brothers and sisters around me, There is truly a reason why others in my life are prosperous in their ways or who seem to go through life transgressing against our God and get away with it, but as this verse says, that is none of my business. My own heart, my own mind, and my own actions and thoughts are my responsibility and the consequences of what I do, or don't do, are mine to bear. If I am truly submitting to my Lord and supplicating Him to be the Lord of my life, then I will stay focused on Him and strive to be like Him.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 28, 2017

Saint of the Week
St. Caesarius of Aries



January 26, 2017

SEEING WITH SPIRITUAL EYES


2 Kings 6:16

So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are greater in number than those who are with them.”

Encouraging Words

I have always loved this story in the old testament. Elisha, a prophet of God, and his servant have been pursued by the Syrian army. When his servant looks out of the place of refuge that they have been staying at he sees thousands of soldiers surrounding them and calls out to Elisha in fear and trepidation. Elisha responds with this statement. Elisha sees his world, the servant's world, our world through different eyes, spiritual eyes. What Elisha sees is a host of heavenly soldiers that far outnumbers the physical soldiers. His eyes have been opened to the realm that surrounds us all every moment of every day. My desire in life is to be able to live my life in such a way that my eyes are opened as Elisha's were, to be able to see, and hear, and smell, and touch the spiritual realm around me. This is part of the destination through the journey through life towards theosis. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have Mercy on me, the sinner for I do deserve to be called, a child of God.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January 25, 2017

SOLITARY TIME


Mark 1:35

Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.

Personal Challenge

Here we have the example of Jesus taking time out to do what was most important to Him, isolating Himself from the busy-ness of life and spending time with His Father in meditation and prayer. How can this be? He was fully God and fully man, If He was fully God was He not always in fellowship and communion with the Father? Yes, He was! Then why the need to go off to a solitary place and pay? Because Jesus was also fully man, and that man lived in a fallen world, Jesus still needed to discipline His body to yield to His spirit. Jesus dwells within us when we receive Him and are anointed with the holy oil through our baptism and Chrismation. However, we still have a fleshly body that lives in a fallen world and is driven by the free will that God has created us with. We need these times alone with God in order to commune and fellowship with Him. I regret that I have allowed, and often create, so much busy-ness in my life that I do not spend this kind of time with my Father. I need to make this a priority in my life. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 24, 2017

HOPE, WORK, DWELL, DELIGHT


Psalms 37:3-5 (36:3-5 LXX)

Hope in the Lord, and work goodness;
Dwell in the land, and you shall be nurtured by its riches.
Delight in the Lord,
And He will give you the requests of your heart.
Reveal your way to the Lord,
And hope in Him; and He will do it.

Commands with Promise


Sometimes we are given things to do in the scriptures that also tell us what we can expect to see God do if we are obedient. If we put our hope in our Lord, and through that hope permeating us to the point where the things that we do are His works of goodness, all the while doing this in the land that He has given us to dwell in, then we will be nurtured by the riches of that land. This nurturing by the riches of the land does not necessarily mean wealth and prosperity. It may mean peace and joy in our lives. It may mean that our basic needs are being met by God taking care of us. The psalmist goes on. If we put our delight in the Lord, then He will give us the requests of hearts. Once again, though, if I am truly centered and focused on Him then my requests will be for those things that He would want me to have. Finally, if I reveal my desires, my hopes, my wants to Him, then He will guide me on my journey through life to be more like His son. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

January 23, 2017

WHO TO LISTEN TO


1 Kings 22:5

Also Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, "Ask the Lord today."

Personal Challenge

So, who is this Jehoshaphat and why is he important to me? At this time the people of God had been split into two separate and sometimes warring nations, Israel and Judah. Jehoshaphat was the king of Israel and Ahab was the king of Judah. Bottom line, Ahab was not a good guy. He was a really mean leader. At this point in time, the two kings have come together to join forces against common enemies. Jehoshaphat starts this relationship off by suggesting that Ahab should inquire of God on whether or not they should enter into the battle. Ahab has surrounded himself with a host of prophets that all say what he wants to hear. They would never give him advice that might displease and consequently anger him. These are the guys that he used to inquire of God. And of course, they agreed with Ahab's desire to go to war. There was, however, one prophet whom Ahab hated who told them that they would lose the battle and to not go. He was immediately thrown into jail, they went into battle, and Ahab was eventually killed. It does us no good to only listen to those who would always affirm us, especially when we are making bad decisions. This is not asking the Lord! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

January 22, 2017

OUR CHARTER


Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.

Personal Challenge

Go! Make! Baptize! Teach! These are not passive, couch-potato words. Our Lord finishes His time here on earth with a command to be actively pursuing those who do not know Him before He returns. Jesus came so that all might be saved, He gave up His life so that mankind would be able to live their lives fully as we were meant to. Now for those of us who have chosen to follow Him, He is giving us the charter on how to live our lives. We are to be actively going outside of the walls of our churches and homes, sometimes outside of our own countries, and strive to spread His gospel and make disciples of those who do not know Him. We are to lead them to the foot of the cross and baptize than when they come to their senses of who they are and why they need Him. And we are to teach them how to grow in the likeness of Christ and to do these same things. Jesus then promises to us that He will be there with us as we do His work. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have many on me, the sinner!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Friday, January 20, 2017

January 20, 2017

UNDESERVED MERCY


Psalms 36:7 (35:8 LXX)

How You multiply Your mercy, O God!
The sons of men shall hope under the shelter of Your wings.

Encouraging Words


I am so thankful that I have been freed from the doctrine that our God is an angry, vengeful, judgmental God. We still believe that scripture teaches that we will all stand before our God at the day of judgment and we will know of our sins that have separated us from our God. As a matter of fact, we also believe that this is already an ever present part of our everyday journey of theosis. As we learn more about God and grow more in the image of His son, the more we realise just how undeserving of we are of His mercy and grace, This all makes this verse read so much more alive as the psalmist proclaims how much God multiplies His mercy upon His children and how much His children can hope for and live under the wings of shelter of on Land. Glory be to God!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

January 19, 2017

NO GRANDCHILDREN


1 Kings 8:22-24 (3 Kingdoms 8:22-24 LXX)
You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth, and fulfilled it with Your hand, as today. Now, O Lord God of Israel, keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, so long as your people guard and keep their ways to walk before Me, as you walked before Me.’ So now, O Lord God of Israel, let the word be confirmed You spoke to Your servant David my father.

Encouraging Words

Solomon, the son of David, had probably grown up with many stories from his father about all of the things that his God had done throughout his life. Now it is Solomon's turn to begin engaging with his father's God, and now, his God. Solomon starts by reminding his God of the promises that had been made to David, Isn't this the same for all of us? I still teach high school students at my church and love it dearly. One of the things that I often tell them is that God does not have any grandchildren. Even though they may have spent their entire life coming to church on Sundays in tow behind their parents, their relationship with God does not come to fruition through someone else, even their parents. We all must come to the place like Solomon where we reach out to our God and build our relationship with Him. God always keeps His promises especially when we grow into them. Glory be to God!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

January 18, 2017

INTENTIONS OR ACTIONS


Matthew 26:41

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Personal Challenge

Intentions are always a great thing, but unless my intentions are followed up by actions they really mean nothing. Jesus points this out when He reminds His disciples that their spirit may be willing to follow Him, but that their flesh is weak. In His last moments of physical life here on earth, He is in the Garden of Gethsemane praying to His father to lead Him through the final steps of His journey to the cross. It is obviously a difficult time and He knows that His own physical flesh is pulling at His spirit to turn away from the path that He is on. He is demonstrating to His disciple how to watch for and pray to His Father for the support that He needs. And what are the disciples doing? Falling asleep. They have spirits that desire to follow their Lord. They have demonstrated that for the past three years. But they are still being driven by their weak flesh. Aren't we all? Here is where we can learn much from our Lord. The times that we need to keep the most watch out for our Lord and seek Him in pray are those times when we are the weakest. Praying without ceasing, even if it is only, "Jesus!',' helps us through these times. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

January 15, 2017

OUR LORD IS ALWAYS NEAR


Psalms 35:22-23 (34:22-23 LXX)

You saw this, O Lord; do not keep silence;
O Lord, do not be far from me.
Arise, O Lord, attend to my judgment,
My God and my Lord, to my cause.

Encouraging Words

Since our God is always present in our lives He knows everything that is going on, both good and bad, whether done by us or by others to us. Because of this, we can always call out to Him to walk through the outcome of these events as our friend and comforter. We may never see Him correct those who perpetrate a wrong against us, but just the truth of knowing that He is there with us gives us comfort, peace, and joy. And the more that I come to know Him, and grow in the image of His Son, the less that I want Him to correct those offenders because they have become objects of my prayers as we pray for those who love us as much as we do those who hate us. Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have Mercy!

Janaury 14, 2017

Saint of the Week
St. Porphyries

Friday, January 13, 2017

January 13, 2017

THE BLAME GAME


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

Ahab, a corrupt king in the early days of Israel had made some pretty bad choices leading the country into some difficult situations. Since the people had been led so far away from God's path, Elijah was sent as a prophet to preach about their error and show them the right way. When king Ahab finally met up with Elijah, he, of course, blamed Elijah for his troubles. However, Elijah reminded Ahab that it was his choice and his leadership that was causing the issues. Isn't this often the way that it goes with most, if not all, of us? We make choices in our lives. Often they are choices that neglect God and His teachings. Then when the consequences begin to settle in around us, we blame God or someone else for our challenges. The truth is that we should have made better choices, to begin with. For every choice, whether good or bad, there is always one or more consequence sometimes good and sometimes bad. And many times the consequences impact so many other people. Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have Mercy!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

January 12, 2017

TAKING CARE OF JESUS


Matthew 25:34-40

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Personal Challenge

Honestly, our entry into the kingdom of heaven has little to do with how many books about God or our religion that we have read, or with how many different positions that we have held in the leadership of our church, or in how much we tithe, or how well we fast. Jesus makes it very clear that what is important to Him is how much we do for our brother, sister, or the stranger in need around us. He also points out that if we are doing these truly from our heart and not as acts seeking praise and affirmation, then we will not even recognize that we have been doing these things. We do not earn His favor by our works but we do His works because of the favor that He has bestowed on us. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

January 11. 2017

NEARNESS OF GOD


Psalms 34:18 (33:19 LXX)

The Lord is near those who are brokenhearted,
And He will save the humble in spirit.

Encouraging Words

How wonderful it is to know that our God cares for us, especially for those who are brokenhearted. Life can be very difficult and sometimes we may feel all alone in the midst of our struggles. But we can always rest assured that God keeps His promises and here He promises to be near to those who are brokenhearted. Jesus taught us that there are two commandments for us to follow. They are to love our God with all of our heart, soul, and spirit and to love our neighbor. Is it not possible that as we love our neighbor we become God's presence in their lives, especially when they are brokenhearted? Once again, our relationship with God plays out by what we do with our lives. When we live our life with humble spirits it becomes easier to invest in the lives of our neighbors. As we invest in the lives of our neighbors as loving representatives of God, we bring Him into their lives as well as our own. What a powerful way to get to know God deeper and to grow in our own theosis. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

January 10, 2017

WILLINGNESS TO SACRIFICE


2 Samuel 24:24 (2 Kingdoms 24:24 LXX)

Then the king said to Orna, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God with something that costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.

Personal Challenge

David points out to us here a challenge faces many modern day Christians have become accustomed in our lives to having everything so easy and so instantaneously. But if we are to truly worship our God and glorify Him with our lives, then there will be work and sacrifice involved. David had just been confronted about a sin that he had recently committed. Part of his penance after his confession and repentance was to build an altar to his God and to worship Him there, The owner of the land where David was offered to give him a piece of the land so that David could build the altar. But David refused because be knew that if he took the easy way out and did not sacrifice personally for his God that he would quickly forget his sin and do it again. It is not that God needs or expects us to sacrifice for His gain. He owns everything. The sacrifice is for our own benefit. So, the question to ask is how much am I willing to give up for my God? Is my relationship with Him more valuable than everything in my life? Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Monday, January 9, 2017

January 9, 2017

FOREVER


Matthew 24:35

Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.

Encouraging Words


Jesus is eternal. He has been since before the beginning of time and He will be forever. The Jesus that became incarnate was, is, and will always be that same Jesus that was begotten by the Father. There is no way that I, a finite human being, will ever be able to comprehend what this means or how it works, but that is okay. In Orthodoxy, we believe that there are many mysteries of God that only He has the answer to, and that is okay. What is most important here is that Jesus, who is the Living Word, will never pass away, no matter what happens to me or the heavens and earth that I live in. Jesus was there when all that we know as our physical heavens and earth were created. He was there when Adam and Eve were created because it was His image that they took on. He was there when Noah was told to build the ark; when Moses talked to the burning bush and received the ten commandments, and this list goes on and on. Jesus is here with us now and promises to be here always. What more do I need to press through each day? Nothing more than faith in Him. Glory be to God!

January 8, 2017

DESIRING LIFE


Psalms 34:12-15 (33:13-16 LXX)

Who is the man who desires life,
Who loves to see good days?
Keep your tongue from evil,
And your lips from speaking deceit.
Shun evil and do good;
Seek peace and pursue it.
The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous,
And His ears are open to their supplications.

Personal Challenge
Don't we all have a desire deep in our hearts to have God hear our prayers and to be open to addressing our supplications? The Psalmist provides for us here some things that we can do in our lives that will help this to happen. The first is to watch our tongues and keep it from speaking evil and our lips from uttering anything that is deceitful. The next is to shun evil, which is really much more than just avoiding it and to strive to do good with our lives. We are often told that all that we need to do is pray to God and then He will do all of the work, but the truth is that if I desire a full life and would love to see good days then I must live my life in a way that encourages this towards those around me. God's involvement in my life requires my involvement in His kingdom. As I do this and live my life this way then the petitions that I make to Him will be in alignment with what He would typically want for me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Friday, January 6, 2017

January 6, 2017

A MAN AFTER GOD'S HEART


2 Kingdoms 22:2-3 (2 Samuel 22:2-3 LXX)

And he sang: "O Lord, my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
My God will be my guardian, in whom I will trust;
My defender and the horn of my salvation,
My protector and the refuge of my salvation;
You will save me from unrighteousness."

Encouraging Words

David was referred to as a man after God's own heart. This passage gives us a glimpse into David's heart and mind and how he viewed his God. An attempt by King Saul to kill David had just been averted as well as he was just delivered from an attack by his enemies. And this was David's response. He attributed all of this to the work of God. He lived his life in a way such that he believed that everything good that happened to him came from the hand of his God. He saw God as his rock, his fortress, and his deliverer. He ran to God as his guardian in whom he put all of his trust. He even saw his God as the only way that he would be protected from his own unrighteousness. Maybe this is why he was called out as a man after God's own heart. Surely, this is a way of life to be emulated. Glory be to God!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

January 5, 2017

ONLY TWO COMMANDMENTS


Matthew 22:37-40

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Personal Challenge

People have challenged me before that they do not want to be a Christian or go to a church because it is all based on rules of what I can do or not do, what I can believe or not believe, or that is so judgmental. My only answer to that is, "Hogwash!" Jesus clearly states to the young, rich man here that there are only two rules that we must follow if we are to claim to be Christians. They are to love God...completely, and to love our neighbor...unconditionally. If we live our lives this way then everything that we do in our journey of faith is not rules or commandments to follow but joyful sacrifices that we choose to offer up to our Lord and for our fellow man. We tithe and give offerings because we are so blessed. We fast and do almsgiving because it helps us to take our eyes off of ourselves and focus on God and our neighbor. We attend liturgy and vespers so that we can be in the presence of our Father and in a relationship with the people in our community of believers. This is what being a Christian is all about.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January 4, 2016

WALKING WITH GOD


Psalms 34:7-11 (33:8-12 LXX)

The Angel of the Lord shall encamp around those who fear Him,
And He will deliver them.
Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good;
Blessed is the man who hopes in Him.
Fear the Lord, you His saints,
For there is no want for those who fear Him.
Rich men turned poor and went hungry;
But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
Come, you children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.

Encouraging Words

Our loving and merciful God does not just lay down a whole bunch of laws for us to follow and then withdraw from us knowing that we will never be able to measure up to His expectations. God created mankind in Adam and Eve so that He could walk with them and commune with them in the garden. He only had one rule to follow and when that was broken so was the opportunity to have this intimate communion with God. Jesus, the Son of God, one third of the Trinity, restored the ability to commune with God once again. This passage of the Old Testament points forward to the time that Jesus would come and reestablish our relationship with God. So, why would we not, as children, run to Him, listen to Him, and learn as He teaches us how to fear our Lord and be in relationship and communion with Him once again? Glory be to God!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January 3, 20127

INWARD VERSUS OUTWARD APPEARANCES


1 Samuel 16:7 (1 Kingdoms 16:7 LXX)

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his outward appearance, nor for the maturity of his stature, because I have refused him. For man does not see as God sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord sees into the heart.”

Encouraging Words

God's way of doing things is so different than how we do things. We always look at the outward appearances of people to make judgments of who they are. God always looks at the heart of people for He knows that is what represents our true nature. In this situation, Samuel has been told to go to Jesse and crown one of his sons as the next king. Jesse had eight sons. Seven of them were stout, strapping men who surely met the qualifications of being a king. And Samuel even kept trying to choose one man after the other with God telling him each time that the selected man was not the one chosen by God. When Samuel and Jesse ended with these seven men and none of them were chosen they were extremely frustated. As Samuel was getting ready to give up he asked if there were any other sons. Reluctantly David was brought forth. He was the youngest son, a shepherd, and definitely not someone that looked like kingly material. But God knew Davids' heart and chose him as the king and the rest is history. The moral, look for people's hearts and not the external appearances.

Monday, January 2, 2017

January 2, 2017

ALIVE, NOT DEAD


Matthew 22:31-32

But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Encouraging Words

Recently I wrote about hope and how I choose to put my hope in a loving and merciful God. I love how this passage ends with Jesus telling us that our God is a God of the living and not a God of the dead. All life is very precious to Him. My life is precious to Him. Your life is precious to Him. We must remember that when Jesus was saying this He was on His way to what He knew was going to be His certain death, He knew that those very same people that He had healed, fed, and brought back to life would soon be calling out, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him?" And yet He is telling us that God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. He knew that God would be raising His physical body from the grave. He know that He had to voluntarily give up His life so that He could destroy death by His own death. How awesome is that? So, if we keep this in mind while we strive to put our flesh to death, we can know that our God will breath His life into us for our sacrifice. Glory be to God!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

January 1, 2017

PRAISING MY LORD


Psalms 34:1 (33:1 LXX)

I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Personal Challenge

Now this is the ultimate New Years' resolution. If I could live my life this year following this one practice of the psalmist, then there would be no need for any other resolutions. Why is that so? In order to truly bless the Lord at all times and to have His praise continually in my mouth then I must have Him on my heart and on my mind, not just occasionally, not just on Sundays, but every moment of every day whether awake or asleep. If this is how I lived my life then all other things that I would like to improve on throughout the year would either come very easily to me or be determined as not really that important. This is probably the reason why so many resolutions go unfulfilled, because the Lord is not in the middle of them. Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner and show me how to bless You at all times, keeping praise for you continually in my mouth.