Wednesday, May 31, 2017

May 31, 2017


Psalms 84:1-2 (83:1-3 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.

Encouraging Words

No matter how blessed we are in this present life. No matter how much wealth we may have accumulated. No matter how spectacular our home or other earthly possessions may be. None of this compares to the majesty and beauty of that which is God's. For those who have given their lives, their minds, their hearts, and their all to our Lord, that which is God's becomes ever present in their thoughts, their hopes, and their desires. Our souls begin to long and faint for that day when we will enter into the courts of our Lord to spend the remainder of our eternity with Him. Eventually, that longing that starts with our soul begins to permeate our heart and flesh until that point when our entire being desires to be in the presence of our Lord. It is at this point that we can taste and see our Lord God in every created thing touched by His magnificent hand and filled with His love, grace, and mercy. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

May 30, 2017


1 Maccabees 2:50-51 LXX

Therefore, children, be zealous for the law, and offer your lives for the covenant of our fathers; and remember the deeds our fathers did in their generations, and receive great honor and an everlasting name.

Personal Challenge

The Maccabees are facing a period of time in the history of their people where they are being oppressed and abused, not unlike many of our Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East. In this passage, the people of Israel are being called to stand firm in their zealousness for the truths of the God that they worship. They are being challenged to give their lives for their God as their fathers before them did. And they are being encouraged to remember how the fathers of their faith lived their lives for their living God. We too, can apply these steps to rise up against that which is attacking our Church today, whether it be from the culture that hates God, or passivity and busyness in our lives, or physical threats to us and our loved ones. In order to do this we must know the truths of our God, We must study and follow the teachings and lives of the fathers of our faith, and we must be willing to give up our lives for Him. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Monday, May 29, 2017

May 28, 2017


Luke 6:45

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Personal Challenge

The world continually tells us that our appearances and the stuff that we possess are what defines who we are. However, our Lord tells us that it is what we have in our heart that truly defines us. I can only keep up a facade for so long before it fades and crumbles. I can only project an image for so long before the light behind it dims and then the image begins to show through. Jesus tells us that we must fill our hearts with Him, with love for Him and His Father, with love for our neighbor, in order for abundant treasures to flow forth from my heart. My heart drives what I think, what I speak, and what I do. If my heart belongs to my Lord then His abundance will flow from it. If my heart belongs to me then my abundance will flow from it and that never ends up good. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

May 27, 2017

Saint of the Week
St. Isaac the Syrian

May 25, 2017


Psalms 73:26-27 (72:26-27 LXX)

My heart and my flesh fail,
O God of my heart; and God is my portion forever.
For behold, those who keep themselves far away from You shall perish;
You destroy away from You all who act unfaithfully.

Personal Challenge

My heart and my flesh do fail me as well. I do slip and fall along this journey of life and betray my Lord. And yet, He remains faithful, He picks me up, He pours out His love upon me, He is my refuge forever. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have Mercy on me, the sinner!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

May 24, 2017


Esther 4:13-16

And Mordecai said to Hathach, “Go and say to Esther, ‘Do not say to yourself that you alone will be saved in the kingdom apart from all the other Jews. For if you choose not to heed this request at this time, help and deliverance for the Jews will arise elsewhere, but you and your father's house will perish. Besides, who knows whether it is for this occasion you reign as queen?’ ” Then Esther dispatched the one who came to her to Mordecai, saying, “Go and assemble together the Jews in Susa. Fast for me; do not eat or drink for three full days and three full nights. I and my maids will also fast. Then I will go to the king, contrary to the law, even if I am to perish.”

Encouraging Words

God has a plan! He always has a plan! However, just because God has a plan, that does not mean that He will force us to participate in His plan. God created us with free will, the ability to choose for ourselves. Anyone who has raised a child understands this very well. Since God created us with this free will, and He is perfect, He will not force us to do something that we do not want to do, even if it fits His plan. In this passage, Mordecai makes it very clear to Esther, his niece, that God had a plan to protect the Jews from annihilation. This plan involved Esther doing something that could mean her own death. When she expressed that concern, Mordecai gave her the response in this passage. He knows that God will execute His plan and that Esther could choose to be a part of that plan or not to. Either way, God's plan would still be carried out. Every day we also have the opportunity to make these kinds of choices. Here is how the Orthodox Study Bible explains this passage:
4:13-14 God's plan of salvation involves the cooperation of His people. If someone God calls is unwilling to cooperate, two things will happen: (1) God will find willing participants elsewhere, for God's plan can never be thwarted; and (2) those who were not willing will perish with the unfaithful (see Mt 21:41). Mordecai's question, who knows whether it is for this occasion you reign as queen? is a call to all believers to courageously discern the will of God for their particular moment in life in order to fulfill God's plan. Note Mordecai's unswerving trust in God in spite of the seemingly hopeless circumstances.
It is encouraging to know that God can, and will, use me in His plans, but He will never force me. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

May 23, 2017


Luke 6:41-42

And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye.

Personal Challenge

One thing that I do know about myself is that I am not a doctor. I am not authorized or trained to fix someone else's maladies, whether they be of the physical nature or of the emotional, mental, or spiritual nature. God knows I can barely manage my own issues. And yet, I find it so easy to look at everyone else and the issues in their lives and act as if I have the answers to their issues. Jesus is teaching me here that my job in life is to be a physician to myself. When I reach a point where every issue is dealt with and under control, every sin is eliminated and I sin no more, then maybe I can start turning to my brother or sister and coach them on their issues. I sure do not see this happening in my lifetime, so that tells me that I need to stop focusing on everyone else's issues and deal with my own. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Monday, May 22, 2017

May 22, 2017


Psalms 73:24 (72:24 LXX)

With Your counsel You guide me,
And with glory You take hold of me.

Encouraging Words
Why do some Christians follow their Lord to the ends of the earth? Why do some accept martyrdom, whether it be the loss of their life or the loss of their reputation to those around them? Part of that answer lies in the second half of this verse. We do not serve or worship a God that is a mean spirited bully. We do not see Him as a harsh, judgmental overlord. Our God is a loving, merciful, caring Father who loves us, all of us, whether we love Him back or not, more deeply than any human can ever understand. With all of His glory, He holds us in the palm of His hand and counsels and guides us. We do not do what we do or go where we go for Him out of fear or servitude because we believe that He loves is as His child. When we come to the place in our lives where we truly understand how much God loves us then we become eager to give up everything of this world so that we can be closer to Him. We serve Him from that position. We go anywhere for Him. We do anything for Him. We cherish His glory and not ours. Glory be to God!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

May 21, 2017


Judith 9:11

For Your might is not in numbers, nor Your power in men who are strong, but You are the God of the lowly; You are the helper of the oppressed, the defender of the weak, the protector of those who are forsaken, the savior of those without hope.

Encouraging Words

If you were to take some time and study the scriptures, both old and new, to see how God works out His plans, you would see a consistent pattern. God does not count on those who are mighty or in positions of great power or wealth to do His work. He chooses those who are lowly and humble. He used Judith, a beautiful woman to slay Holofernes, the leader of a grand and feared army. He used David, a shepherd boy, to slay Goliath and free His people. And the list goes on and on. He even came to free us all from death by becoming a newborn baby in a manger. The essence of this is that God's ways are not our ways and that if we submit to Him and humble ourselves before Him, He will use us in mighty ways to build his kingdom. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

May 20, 2017

Saint of the Week
St. Theodoros the Great Ascetic

Friday, May 19, 2017

May 19, 2017


Luke 6:38

Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.

Personal Challenge

Jesus wants to make sure that we understand the magnitude at which He wants us to love our neighbor. It is so easy to give that token smile to another or to say something kind of nice all the while mumbling under our breath how much disdain we have for the other person. Here, Jesus tells to not just give from a superficial level, but from a deep and complete level. We are called to give to others in ways that it far exceeds what they could give in return. We do this because this is how God has given to us. And our God will not let us give this way without taking care of us and meeting our needs. This is not some kind of prosperity gospel. When God meets my needs it is based on His perception of what my needs are, not mine. And some­times that which I receive will not be in this life but the one to come. The bottom line is that Jesus wants us to give abundantly of our possessions, our time, and our love to others. Glory be to God!

May 18, 2017


Psalms 71:5 (70:6 LXX)

By You I have been supported from birth;
From my mother's womb You have been my protector;
My song shall be always of You.

Encouraging Words

There are so many religious practices throughout the history of man, and still many today, that teach that we must do certain things to win the favor of God. In some of these, we cannot even get God to recognize us until we reach a certain level of works. In some, it does not matter how much we do, we can never catch God's eye. This is not what my faith practice believes. We agree with the psalmist as He proclaims the truth of God here. God knows each and every­one of us before we are born, indeed He knows us before we are even conceived. He protects us from that moment of conception through to the point in time that we take our last breath. Most importantly, through that entire life cycle, He allows us the ability to choose or reject Him, never stopping from loving us. This is my God! This is my protector! He is who I choose to put my trust and hope in. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

May 17, 2017


Judith 8:24-25

Now my brothers, let us set an example for our people, for their very lives depend upon us. Furthermore, the sanctuary, the temple, and the altar rest upon us. Besides all this, let us be thankful to the Lord our God, who is testing us just as He did our fathers.

Personal Challenge

Judith makes it clear to the leaders of her community, as well as to us, that all of us have a part to play in the representation of our Lord. If we proclaim Jesus as our Lord, we then become His representatives amongst those around us and they will often form their opinion of who Jesus is by our behavior. In a sense, the very essence of the Christian faith rests upon us and how we show Christ in our actions. This is true for those around us who may have no other view into Christianity besides what they see in us. This is a significant responsibility, but this is how God has chosen to reveal Himself to the world. This also presents to each of as an opportunity to grow in the image of our Lord, which is what we often call being tested. As the silversmith heats up the batch of metal to boil out the dross, so too does our Lord put us in situations where we can reflect Him to those around us, to boil out the dross in our lives. Glory be to God!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

May 16, 2017


Luke 6:37

Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

Personal Challenge

Wait a minute, God! Just yesterday you were telling me that You are my rock and my salvation, my foundation and my refuge, and now you are telling me not to judge or condemn, but to forgive. Why is that? Why can't I act as Your own personal righteous judge and shame everyone around me into submission to You (and me, of course)? If You were the vengeful, angry God that so many people make You out to be, then maybe this would be so. However, You are love! You are grace! You are Mercy! So why wouldn't you expect me to not be judgmental or condemning? You have not judged or condemned me, so You desire that I behave in a similar way to those is my life. You have Forgiven me of so very much, asking nothing in return, so why wouldn't you expect me to do the same with everyone around me. I know that this is what You want from me. I know that this will please and glorify You. Help me to set aside my personal agenda, my self-centeredness, and selfish desires, and live this way for You. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

May 15, 2017

O, GOD...

Psalms 71:1-3 (70:1-3 LXX)

O God, in You I hope; may I never be put to shame.
Deliver me in Your righteousness, and set me free;
Incline Your ear to me and save me.
Be to me a God for protection
And a strong place for salvation,
For You are my foundation and my refuge.

Encouraging Words

Once again, the Psalmist captures the essence of a life-long relationship with our living God. Someone who has spent their life in the hands of God always begins by acknowledging that it is Him that we put our hope in. That person acknowledges that it is God alone who is righteous and that only He can deliver us and set us free, This person knows from experience that God inclines His ear to His children and saves us, that He is our protection and a strong place for salvation. Our God, the creator of all, the benefactor of all, our source of life, love, and mercy is our foundation and refuge, There is none other that we would choose to put our hope in. There is none other that I will choose to put my hope on, for I have seen the works of His hands over, and over, and over again. Glory be to God, our Hope, our Protection, our Strong Place, our Foundation, and our Refuge.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

May 12, 2017


Luke 6:32-36

But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Personal Challenge

Mercy! It is something that we all want to receive from another, but something that we often do not want to give to others, especially if we do not like them, or what they do, or what they stand for. Jesus teaches us that it is easy to show love and mercy to those who do the same to us. It is not even that hard to do it to those who match our concept of nice and lovable people. But He wants us to show love and mercy to our enemies, to those who are rude, obnoxious, hostile, or mean to us. He wants us to love the unlovable, to take care of those who either can't take care of themselves or are unwilling to. He wants us to love those who take advantage of us or those whom we love. Jesus teaches that by doing this we are showing our love for Him. How can I do this when I have my thoughts on me and what I want? I can't by myself. I need His help. Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy! Lord have mercy!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

May 11, 2017


Psalms 63:8 (62:9 LXX)

My soul follows close behind You;
Your right hand takes hold of me.

Encouraging Words

One of my favorite things to do in life has been to take hold of one of my children's hands and lead them to where I want them to go. And now I have the privilege to do this with my grand­children. Sometimes this leading is to walk my child or grandchild through some scary situation. They know that I am there to protect them, to guide them, and to comfort them. Sometimes it has been to lead them to something new and exciting that they have not yet experienced. Life cannot be much better than doing this in the life of someone you love and care for, whether it be a child, a grandchild, a spouse, a friend, or anyone else. This is the image that comes to my mind when I read this verse. I visualize my Lord, my Father, my Abba, reaching to take hold of my hand and saying, "Follow me! I will walk through this with you! I have some­thing wonderful to show you on the other side!" That is how He treats us, with love, grace, compassion, and mercy. Glory be to God? Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, the sinner... and Your child?

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

May 10, 2017


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 are often so arrogant in the midst of our earthly wisdom and intellect. That arrogance usually plays out by acting as if we know the mind of God and speak as if we are His personal spokesperson. I have been attempting to live a Christian life for more than half a century. That is a long time, I remember those days when I practiced my faith with others who prided themselves on how many books by the right Christian authors they had read, or how many scriptures they had memorized, or whatever earthly measurement was used to assess one's understanding of God. This has never worked for me and now works even less as I strive to live as an Orthodox Christian. I have come to the point where recognize that the closer I get to my Lord, the more I learn about Him, then the farther from Him I am, because I am a sinner, and the less I know about Him because He is unknowable. This truth is humbling! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

May 9, 2017


Luke 6:27-31

"But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise."

Personal Challenge

Are You kidding me, God? Do You have any idea how hard it is to live this way? The answer to the first question is, "No!", God is not kidding here. And the answer to the second question is a resounding, "Yes!" Of course, Jesus knows exactly how hard it is to love this way because He did it! Jesus also knows that we cannot do this on our own. That is why He sent the Helper, the Holy Spirit, to live within us and to empower us to live this way. If we go back to the two core commandments that we are asked to follow, then we will see both why and how we are to do this. We are to live our lives loving God and loving our neighbor. It is from this life lived in love that we begin to understand how to sacrifice our wants and needs for others. It is not easy, but it is what we are to do. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Monday, May 8, 2017

May 8, 2017


Psalms 63:3 (62:4 LXX)

Because Your mercy is better than life,

My lips shall praise You.

Encouraging Words

Why do those of us who choose to call Jesus our Lord look forward to a better life after our death than what we have here during our earthly life? Why do we choose to live our lives so contrary to so many around us and many times in opposition to what the world claims as the optimum way to lives? How can we go through so many of the dire and painful situations that life throws at us with joy and peace? It is all because we believe and we put our hope in the mercy of our God. We trust that God loves us so much that all of His promises to us are true. We believe that our time here on earth in this temporal tent, as Paul calls it, is temporary and is preparing us for an eternity in the kingdom of God with new, incorruptible bodies, living in the presence of our God. This is where we put our hope and our trust. This is why God's mercy is better than life, for His mercy is our gateway to real life. This is why our lips shall praise Him. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

May 7, 2017


Judith 8:11-13

They came to her, and she said to them, "Listen to me now, rulers of the people of Bethulia! Your words spoken today to the people are not right, nor is the oath you have sworn and pronounced between God and yourselves, promising to surrender the city to our adversaries unless the Lord turns and helps you in so many days.

Now who are you to have put God to the test this day, setting yourselves up as God's equal among the sons of men? You are testing the Lord Almighty, but you will never come to know anything!"

Personal Challenge

Judith is admonishing the rulers of her community for doing something that we all do at one time or another in our lives. Since they are under attack by the massive army of Holofernes they have resorted to bargaining with their God. "If you do this God, then I will do this." "If I do this, God, then I expect you to do this." God does not work this way. God does what He does and it is our responsibility to trust and obey Him. We need to act in the situations that we find ourselves in ways that honor Him and demonstrate our trust in Him. He will not be manipulated. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

May 6, 2017

Saint of the Week 

St. Isaac the Syrian 

Friday, May 5, 2017

May 5, 2017


Luke 6:20-23

Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said:
"Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.
Blessed are you who weep now,
For you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men hate you,
And when they exclude you,
And revile you, and cast out your name as evil,
For the Son of Man's sake.
Rejoice in that day and leap for joy!
For indeed your reward is great in heaven,
For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets."

Encouraging Words

The beatitudes are such a powerful part of Jesus' sermon on the Mount. So many practical life applications are in here and most, if not all of them, are completely opposite of what our world would like us to do. How can we be blessed if we are poor, or hungry, or weeping, or hated because we love Christ? This is truly a mystery, but if we always remember that as children of the Living God, our home is not of this world, but of the heavenly kingdom of God, then we begin to see that our blessings are being piled up in our the home as we deal with the issues of this temporary dwelling. Glory be to God!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May 4, 2017


Psalms 62:8 (61:9 LXX)

Hope in Him, all you congregation of people;
Pour out your hearts before Him;
God is our helper.

Encouraging Words

God is our helper. Do we really believe this? Do we really understand the depth of this? God promises us that He has sent us a Helper to guide us through our lives and yet we continually live our lives the way that the world tells us to. God promises us that He will meet our needs and yet we spend so much of our time and resources planning for retirement that we miss the opportunities of everyday life to invest in those around us. When it comes down to the bottom line of our faith, it can all be encapsulated in two things that God wants from us. These are to love Him above all else and to love our neighbor. We cannot do this unless we put our hope in Him. We cannot do this without a community of other believers around us encouraging us in this choice. We can do this through Him because He is our Helper and has led the way by loving us enough to die for us. God is our Helper. God is my Helper.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

May 2, 2017


Judith 5:20-21

“Now my lord and master, if there is any sin of ignorance in this people and they sin against their God, then we will identify their offense and will go up to defeat them. But if there is no lawlessness in their nation, then let my lord leave them alone, lest their Lord shield them, and their God defend them, and we will become a reproach before the whole earth.”

Encouraging Words

Here in Judith, one of the Old Testament
apocryphal books, we have Achior, an Ammonite, informing Holofernes, the commander of the Assyrian army, about the nation of Israel. The Ammonites were neighbors to Israel and had seen many of the mighty things that their God had done in their history. The Assyrians were conquering the known world and now had Israel in their sights. In this short passage, Achior is warning Holofernes to be careful with the Israelites. If they have not been sinning against their God then they will be a formidable force because their God will be commanding their puny army and He never loses a battle. Is this not a powerful message for us today? If we are striving to live our lives for our God, submitting our wills to Him, and obeying His precepts, will He not protect us as He did the nation of Israel? He keeps his covenants! Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May 1, 2017


Luke 5:31-36

Jesus answered and said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”

Then they said to Him, “Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise those of the Pharisees, but Yours eat and drink?”

And He said to them, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them; then they will fast in those days.”

Then He spoke a parable to them: “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.”

Encouraging Words

There is so much that could be unpacked from this passage. The one consistent thing across these three scenarios is the reminder that God does not do things the way that we expect Him to. We always forget that He has the whole picture in His view, past, present, and future. He knows the conditions of everyone's heart as well as the intentions of their wills. That is part of the reason that while He walked here on this earth, so many of the things that He did caught everyone off guard. And many times I believe that is what He expects us to do, especially if we are to walk in His footsteps. Lord, have mercy! Lord, have many! Lord, have mercy!