Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 28, 2017


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.

Encouraging Words

There is so much more going on around us than what we can see, hear, taste, or feel. We are finite creatures and we live in a finite, physical world. But there is so much more to it than that. We also are spiritual creatures because God created us in His image and that image includes or soul. God's realm is both the physical and the spiritual. Therefore we also are living in the midst of this spiritual world. It is all around us all of the time and there are armies waging war in that realm. These wars are spiritual and are of good fighting against evil. That it why Hezekiah confidently proclaims that he has the spiritual armies of God aiding in his physical battle here on earth. In the Eastern Orthodox church, we venerate the Saints that have gone before Us. We do not worship them. We do not treat them as gods. But we do believe that they are in the presence of our God and can serve as intercessors for us just as we would ask a friend to intercede for us here on earth.

Today would be my father's 90th birthday. He reposed three years ago. I was blessed to inherit the contents of his workshop that he spent his whole life building. The turquoise beads on my prayer bracelet in the picture above came from his collection. Every time I pray through these beads I close my eyes as I pass through the seven turquoise beads and can see my father and so many more of my family members that have gone before me worshipping and honoring our God in the heavenly, spiritual realm. Glory be to God! Happy Birthday, Dad! Thank you for interceding for us.

Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27, 2017

Lenten Prayer of St. Ephraim

O Lord and Master of my life, do not give to me the spirit of laziness, faintheartedness, lust for power, and idle talk.

But give to me Your servant the spirit of purity, humility, patience, and love.

O Lord and King, grant me to see my own faults and not to judge my brother, for blessed are You unto ages of ages. Amen.

O God, cleanse me, the sinner. O God, cleanse me, the sinner.
O God, cleanse me, the sinner. O God, cleanse me, the sinner.
O God, cleanse me, the sinner. O God, cleanse me, the sinner.
O God, cleanse me, the sinner. O God, cleanse me, the sinner.
O God, cleanse me, the sinner. O God, cleanse me, the sinner.
O God, cleanse me, the sinner. O God, cleanse me, the sinner.

Encouraging Words

Today we continued our journey into the season of Great Lent with the Canon of Saint Andrew. I must admit that this has become one of my favorite services of the liturgical year and the Lenten prayer of St Ephraim is one of my favorite prayers. This Canon and prayer force me to prostate myself before my Lord because I am the worst of sinners and that the only proper place for me in the presence of my God is flat on my face begging for His mercy. I do not deserve the love that He has for me. I do not deserve His mercy. And yet He lavishly pours both out upon me! Glory be to God!

February 26, 2017


Mark 10:24-25

And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Personal Challenge

This passage is not really about how hard it is for a rich person to enter into Heaven. What it is talking about is how those who trust in riches will have a hard time entering into the kingdom of God. When we put our trust in riches we take our trust off of God. So, what kind of riches is Jesus talking about? Is it just financial stuff? No! It could be the finances that we put our trust in, but it is also those things that our finances can buy for us that get in our way of trusting God. As we start our 40-day journey of Great Lent toward Pascha, this becomes a great time for me to search my heart and my mind to better identify those things that are standing between me and God, especially those things that turn out to be my passions in this life. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

February 24, 2017


Psalms 46:1 (45:2 LXX)

God is our refuge and power;
A help in afflictions that severely befall us.

Encouraging Words

This seems to be a much-needed theme lately. Life in this fallen world does not always go as smoothly as we would like. There are always ups and downs, challenges and difficulties, and just plain resistance to our attempts to live godly lives. But we are not alone on our journey through this temporal life. Our God is there as our refuge, our power, and our help. He also has placed our loved ones in our lives to make it through each day. He has given us His Church to surround us, even though sometimes we mess that up a bit. But our God is both consistent and persistent at loving us and being there for us. If we look at the rest of eternity as the timeline of our lives, then the challenge of the day become minuscule compared to the magnitude of our God. Glory be to God!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 23, 2017


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

So, what is more important, keeping a bunch of rules or having a heart that is prepared for God? Throughout our Holy Scriptures and the teachings of our church fathers, the answer is always a resounding claim that God desires our heart more than our actions. Then one might ask why we were given the laws, to begin with. The laws are there to point us to God, to remind us how inadequate our works are before the awesome and Holy God, and to lead us to the fulfillment of the Law, Jesus Christ because it is only His works that can bring us back into communion with God. Jesus is our intermediary and our intercessor. He is our salvation, our refuge, and our hope. What more can we ask for than this? Glory be to God!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 22, 2017


Mark 9:49-50

“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”

Personal Challenge

Oh my God! Do I really need to go through that fire one more time? Do I really need to be buried under that pile of salt again so that I can be seasoned to Your taste? In our Eastern Orthodox faith, we call this theosis or growing in the image of God. If we do not have challenges in our likes that are forcing us to exercise our faith and to sluff off the ways of this world then we become stagnant in our relationship with our God. Is it fun? No, it never is. Is it something that we look forward to? No, not really. However, if we want to grow in the image of our Lord then we must look at every entry into the furnace, whether at work or at home, whether with a loved one or someone that we don't even know, as an opportunity to submit to the Master Forger who has an image in mind that He wants us to become. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me the sinner and please give me what I need to make it through the fire.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

February 21, 2017


Psalms 42:11 (41:12 LXX)

Why are you so sad, O my soul? And why do you trouble me?
Hope in God, for I will give thanks to Him.
My God is the salvation of my countenance.

Encouraging Words

It is so easy nowadays to get down or depressed. The world appears to be rapidly circling the drain. People are becoming more and more self-centered and hostile towards each other. Our society is becoming more godless every day as we kill each other with our sarcastic words and so called humor. And the list goes on and on. And then we encounter this cry for help from the Psalmist of old. Our souls have become sad and troubled. But we do have a way out. That way is hope in the Lord. He is our rock. He is our refuge. He is our salvation. It is not always easy to do this, but it only takes one step at a time to start moving away from the pit of despair. Our Lord, our Living God, and Creator is there to help us along the way. As those of us who practice Eastern Orthodoxy are beginning our journey into Great Lent we know that we will have days of despair before us, but we will focus our eyes on the Paschal Lamb and the bright light of His resurrection. Glory be to God!

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 20, 2017


2 Chronicles 16:9

For the eyes of the Lord look over the whole earth and strengthen every heart that is loyal to Him. In this you did foolishly, and from now on you shall have wars.”

Personal Challenge

It appears to me that loyalty is a concept that has fallen by the wayside. We live in the age of "self". Our culture teaches us that the World revolves around ourselves and that all exists for our satisfaction. Even our Western Christianity believes that I alone can interpret the scriptures of God as long as I am reading them. This way of thinking generates in people an attitude that there is only one person that we are loyal to, "ourselves. This makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to live our lives the way that Jesus expects us to. Love God! Love my neighbor! Put others before me? Take up my cross and follow Him! No way! I cannot do that and be loyal to me. well, it doesn't matter what the culture is telling us to do. God is looking for those of us who desire to live our lives loyal to Him, centered on Him, and not focused on ourselves. This is indeed countercultural and is becoming harder every day. But we must press on? Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have Mercy!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19, 2017


Mark 9:33-35

Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”

Personal Challenge

Don't we all like to be first? First in line. The first one to be served. The first one to be recognized. In our fallen state, this is our "natural" desire. But Jesus tells us that this is not the way that God wants it to be. His expectation is that we put others before ourselves and actually be servants to them. Isn't this what Jesus did? He was with God in all of His glory. He had been here on earth multiple times in His pre-incarnate body. He knew the limitations and frailties of humanness. And yet, He chose to become human, He chose to be born of a woman like every other human being. He chose to go through the growth pains and challenges of infancy, the toddler years, being a pre-teen, a teen, and then a man holding down the job of a carpenter. He chose to suffer and die for those who hated Him. And He chose to rise again, victorious over death. And to top this all off, He did this for people like me. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner and teach me to be last!

Friday, February 17, 2017

February 17, 2017


Psalms 40:4-5 (39:5-6 LXX)

Blessed is the man whose hope is the name of the Lord,
And who did not look into vanities and false frenzies.
Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders You performed,
And in Your thoughts there is no one who shall be likened to You;
I declared and said, “They are multiplied beyond number.

Encouraging Words

I have been blessed to have been able to spend the past 52 years of my life attempting to walk in the footsteps of the Carpenter of Galilee. In those years I have learned that there is no value to life to pursuing vanities and false frenzies, those things that so many people chase after, looking for the spectacular or extraordinary and claiming it to be a sign from God. What I have seen are many small, yet significant, miracles that always prove to me that not only does my God exist, but that He is active in my life and in the lives of all who desire to know Him. All that I need to remember is that God is God, and I am not! And that is okay with me.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

February 16, 2017


2 Chronicles 14:11 (14:10 LXX)

And Asa cried out to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, with You it is not impossible, whether with the many or with the few. Strengthen us, Lord our God, for we trust in You. And in Your name we go against this multitude. Lord our God, do not let man prevail against You!”

Personal Challenge

Life is full of challenges and difficulties. If we try to live our lives in a way that glorifies and honors our God, then these challenges and difficulties often expand exponentially. But Asa, the king of Judah reminds us here as to how insignificant these challenges and difficulties are to our God. Here he is with a small army facing the Ethiopian army. He has 300,000 men and the enemy has 1,000,000 men and 300,000 chariots. And what does he do? He proclaims that this is not his battle to fight. but his God's. He knows that with his Lord and God absolutely nothing is impossible. He proclaims that our struggles against the challenges and difficulties of this world are not just earthly battles but spiritual battles as well and that his God, my God, our God is right there beside us and strengthening us. What a great reminder as I head out the door for another day in a world that is full of challenges and difficulties. Glory be to God and may no man prevail against You!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

February 15, 2017


Mark 9:23-24

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

Encouraging Words

I think that this is one of my favorite passages. I can definitely identify with this father and his expression of faith. He knows who Jesus is. He has seen with his own eyes the miracles that Jesus has performed. And here he is with his own son who is possessed by an evil spirit and very sick. He comes to Jesus to have his son treated. That is an expression of his faith. And here Jesus asks him if be believes. It is almost as if Jesus is telling him that if he believes enough, then that belief will be what heals his son. Jesus is telling this father, and all of us, that the power of healing, the power of everything, comes from God, through Jesus, but that we are the ones that direct that power through our belief in Him. It is the cry of the father that touches me so deeply. "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief?"' I too believe that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. I too believe that He destroyed death! But I still need His help in the replacement of my unbelief with true belief. Glory be to God! Lord, have Mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have Mercy?

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

February 13, 2017


Psalms 40:1-3 (39:1-4 LXX)
I waited patiently for the Lord, and He heeded me;
And He heard my supplication,
And brought me up out of a miserable pit
And from miry clay;
And He established my feet on a rock
And kept straight my steps.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn to our God;
Many will see and be afraid,
And shall hope in the Lord.

Command with a Promise

Talk about a long list of rewards that we receive for doing just one thing...waiting patiently for the Lord. The psalmist proclaims that our Lord will heed us, He will hear our supplication, He will bring us up out of our miserable pit in life, He establishes our feet on a rock and keeps our path straight, He puts a new song in our mouth that will draw others to Him. He does all this when we wait patiently for Him, So, what does that mean? It means that we trust Him to do what is best for us. It means we stop jumping in the driver's seat and taking over. It means we stop throwing fits when things aren't going our way or moving along fast enough for us. Patience is never a virtue to be asked for, but always one to pursue. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the impatient sinner!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

February 12, 2017


2 Chronicles 7:14

if My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will be merciful to their sins and heal their land.

Personal Challenge

There have been many times that I have seen this verse as a cry for our nation to be a Christian nation and to practice this verse so that God will make us a better nation. That is not how God works. Our nation was founded on Christian principles but it was never meant to be a place only for Christians. We were always meant to be a place where people of all nationalities, all beliefs, all backgrounds could come and live lives free from oppression in any of these categories. It is our responsibility as Gods' children, His ambassadors in this world to live our lives in such a way that people will be drawn to Him. This way of living is to be humble before Him as well as our fellow mankind, to be praying and seeking His face at all times, and to turn from our wicked ways. If we do this then He will show mercy and give healing to everyone in the land that we live in. Glory be to God!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Friday, February 10, 2017

February 10, 2017


Mark 8:34-35

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it.

Personal Challenge

In the Eastern Orthodox church, we have just started our journey into the lenten season. Our liturgies have started to focus more on the upcoming darkness of the death of our Lord on the vicious Roman cross. We have been here year after year, and yet we begin this journey knowing that this will be a time of personal sacrifice and the taking up of the cross for our Lord. I am sure that when the disciples first heard Jesus make this statement they were a little confused, The image of the cross for them was not an image of joy or peace or glory. In their day the Romans put many people to death on the cross. Jesus had not yet given up His life to the crowds, later to be beaten and crucified on the cross, later to arise from the grave victorious over death. So for them, I am sure they were wondering what cross Jesus was referring to. But we know! And we know that Jesus is telling us to lay aside everything that we hold dearly in this world and take up His cross, His passion, His expectations, and follow Him on the journey that He has planned for us. He is telling us that if we want to be like Him then we must die to this world and the things of this world. Only through that death can we begin to receive His life. And so, we enter into Lent, following in His footsteps, step by step shedding the things of the world so that we can enter into the brightness and joy of Pascha (Easter) unencumbered by the things and burdens of this world. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the Sinner!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

February 8, 2017


Psalms 39:7 (38:8 LXX)

And now what is my patience?
Is it not the Lord?
And my support is from You.

Encouraging Words

Oh God, my God, who can I count on more than you? No one or no thing is more reliable than my God. As the Psalmist cries out in this Psalm in praise to our Lord so can I for I know that my patience with this life comes from my Lord. He provides all of the support that I will ever need to make it through each and every day. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

February 7, 2017


2 Chronicles 1:10-12

Give me wisdom and understanding, so that I may go out and come in before this people, for who can judge this great people of Yours?”

And God said to Solomon, “Because this was in your heart and you did not ask for riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor did you ask for long life, but you asked for wisdom and understanding for yourself, that you might judge My people over whom I made you king, now I will give you this wisdom and understanding. I will also give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings before you possessed, nor shall any after you possess.”

Personal Challenge

What would I ask for if I was granted the opportunity to ask for anything that I wanted? Would I ask for great wealth? Would I ask for power? This is a question that mankind has wrestled with since the beginning of time. Here we have Solomon who is given the opportunity by the God that he loves and that many generations before him have loved and served. He could ask for anything, but he asks for wisdom. He had come to know that the most important gift that we could ever ask for is God's wisdom. As a reminder, the early church fathers equate wisdom in the Old Testament with Jesus Christ. So, indeed, the most valuable gift any of us could ask for is Jesus Christ, for through Him and the wisdom that He gives us we can thrive in our life here on earth. Glory be to God!

Monday, February 6, 2017

February 6, 2017


Mark 8:11-12

Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.”

Personal Challenge

"Why does this generation seek a sign?" The Pharisees would have had plenty of time to observe Jesus perform many of His miracles. They had every opportunity to know, not only what He was capable of doing, but also what He had done. Then why were they demanding that He show them a sign? They did not want to believe that He was the Messiah. They wanted to have a Messiah that fit their expectations. They did not want to give up their preconceptions and assumptions. Isn't this very similar to what goes on today? So many people seem to be quite okay with fitting Jesus, our Messiah, into their own box and when they are pointed to the truth about who Jesus really is they get offended and start pushing back or calling us intolerant or obnoxious. The truth is, that we do not, and cannot, create our own definition of who Jesus is. It is our responsibility to yield to God and His definition of who He is. This is why He has given us the Church to do this for us. Glory be to God!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 5, 2017


Psalms 37:23-24 (36:22-24 LXX)

For those who bless Him shall inherit the earth,
But those who curse Him shall be utterly destroyed.
The steps of a man are guided aright by the Lord,
And he shall desire His way.
When he falls, he shall not be broken to pieces,
or the Lord supports him with His hand.

Encouraging Words

So many people wonder why those of us who put our trust and our hope in our Lord do what we do. From a worldly point of view that makes a lot of sense. We would all be so much better off in this world if we did not give our tithes and offerings to our church. We would have so much more time in this world if we spent less time at church or in prayer and meditation. We would have so much more fun if we did the things of the world. But that is the entire point. When we chose to follow in the footsteps of our Lord, we left this world behind. Our eyes and heart are set on the kingdom to come. We are in the presence of our Lord and He is now guiding our paths. Glory be to God!

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

February 3, 2017


1 Chronicles 28:9

"And now, my son Solomon, know the God of your fathers, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing soul; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every thought. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you forever."

Encouraging Words

The belief that we have in our God is not some new religion or passing fad. Our God, Himself, goes back to the beginning of time, in other words, forever. The roots of our belief in Him, our faith in Him, goes back to the beginning of mankind, Adam and Eve. Our practices of worship, the teachings of our forefathers, and all that we follow comes from our fathers and the one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that they worshiped. With this as our history, we too can pick up where our ancestors left off and serve our God with a whole heart and a willing soul. By doing this the Lord will find our heart and souls focused on Him and as we seek Him, we well find Him. Glory to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

February 2, 2017


Mark 2:27-28

And He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.”

Personal Challenge

People are always looking for a concrete set of rules to follow. This way, we know where the limits are and also know what we can do that is not included in the rule set. It is so much easier to try to follow a clearly defined set of rules than it is a guideline such as, "Love your neighbor." With something ambiguous like that we start asking all kinds of questions. Who is my neighbor? How much do I need to love them? What if they offend me? We so often seek the clarification to the point where we end up ignoring the original rule. In Jesus' day, the leaders of the Jewish religion had taken this to the ultimate and set up so many rules. So many rules that no one could ever follow them. In this passage, they start throwing these manmade rules at Jesus and accusing Him of not being from God because He does not follow their rules. Jesus reminds them that He is the Creator. He was the one that originally gave the ten commandments to Moses. And as such, He is above all of these rules. It is His two commandments that we are now bound by. Love your God with all of your heart, soul, and body and love your neighbor as yourself. Our duty, my duty, is to put this into practice. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have Mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 1, 2017


Psalms 37:16-19 (36:16-19 LXX)

Better the little with the just man
Than the great riches of sinners;
For the arms of sinners shall be shattered,
But the Lord supports the righteous.
The Lord knows the ways of the blameless,
And their inheritance shall be forever.
They shall not be ashamed in an evil time,
And in days of famine they shall be filled.

Encouraging Words

The Psalmist proclaims the promises of or Lord in this passage and reminds us that we too can proclaim our Lord and His blessings. Our Lord lifts up and supports those who strive to live righteous lives. He is active in the lives of those who desire to live blameless lives and try to follow in His footsteps. He gives to His children, an everlasting inheritance in His kingdom as He adopts them into His royal family. As His children pursue Him and attempt to follow His pathways, they will not be ashamed by the evil around them nor be affected by the famine of the land, the famine not only of our physical needs but of spiritual deserts of this fallen world. Living our lives this way shows us that it is better to live just lives and receive little from this world than to live sinful, worldly lives and receive much from the world in return. Our Father's way of doing things, His economy, is so much different than the world's. Glory be to God!

January 31, 2017


1 Chronicles 16:34 (16:33 LXX)

And say, “Save us, O God of our salvation;
And deliver us from the Gentiles
To praise Your holy name,
And boast in Your praises.”

Personal Challenge

Oh, how many times I have called out to my God in times of need and have had Him do things to guide me through the challenges, and then turn my back on Him and go back to doing whatever I want. The response that I am slowly learning to give in these instances is to stay close to Him and praise Him for what He has done. God is so good to us. He created us in His image. He desires that we live our lives in a relationship with Him just as every parent desires to hear their child's voice. It is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of our lives and our world and miss the many opportunities to "walk in the garden" with our Father, our Creator, and our Benefactor. And yet, even though we so quickly run back to doing our own thing independent from our Father, He remains constant. He is continually our rock, our shelter, and our salvation. How much more we can experience His love and blessing if we choose to stay close to Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!