The Doors of Mercy Now Opened Wide (Fri. March 12)

The word of the day is “purpose.”  Today, like Wednesday, there is no Liturgy, Epistle, or Gospel today.  Rather, we read a passage from Zechariah, the prophet.  The core of the reading from Zechariah 8:7-17 is the promise of verses 14-15: “As I purposed to afflict you when your fathers provoked me to anger, says the Lord Almighty, and I did not relent, so now in these days I have prepared and purposed to do good to Jerusalem…” (vs. 14-15).  Today we apply this assurance to ourselves and the impending season of prayer and fasting. We often think that Great Lent is a time of the sorrow for our sins and the dread of the judgment of God.  Who would…

How to Keep from Spiritual Stumbling (Thurs. March 11)

The word of the day is “stumble.”  As we begin our Lenten journey, we know our sins and failings that need forgiveness and healing.  But as we set out toward the goal of returning to the Lord,  we are aware of the spiritual dangers and difficulties ahead.  Therefore, we need to look to the God of grace to protect us from falling into the traps of the Evil One.  In this respect, the teachings of today’s reading of Jude 1:11-25 are helpful.  For instance, Jude 1:24  speaks about “Him who is able to keep you from stumbling…” (vs. 24). Our reading suggests that we treat this thought as an assurance that the Lord will protect us from faltering as we…

Turn to the Lord with All Your Heart (Wed. March 10)

The word of the day is “turn,”  Today we observe a “little Lent” before Great Lent.  No liturgy is celebrated today, and there is no Gospel or Epistle reading.   Rather, in our reading of Joel 2:12-26, we hear the urgent cry, “Turn  to me with all your heart with fasting and wailing and with mourning…” ( vs. 12).  Our reading admonishes us to take the upcoming Lenten season with ultimate seriousness.  There is no time to delay.  There is no more room for spiritual laxity.  The prophet announces the time of grace and judgment has come upon us. Today our reading goes back to the 700 years before Christ.  The People of God are facing two catastrophes, a plague of…

Keeping the Faith Delivered to the Saints (Tues. March 9)

The word of the day is “delivered.”  Nowadays, the new takes precedence over the old.  Most advertising claims that its products are “new,” “improved,” and “changed” for the better.  Much scholarship also offers what is novel.  It presumes that new discoveries, approaches, methods, and technologies will advance human knowledge and improve living standards.  In theology, also, the quest to keep up with contemporary trends drives scholarly investigation.  At all costs, researchers and writers strive to avoid the fearful judgment that their work is irrelevant and out of touch with today’s world. Yet today, in our reading of Jude 1:1-10, we hear a warning against novelty in the teaching and understanding of the faith.  The apostle writes, “I found it necessary…

Hospitality: A Way to Love Our Neighbor (Mon., March 8)

The word of the day is “receive.”  Throughout the Scriptures we find that Lord expects His People to extend hospitality to others, especially strangers. Today our reading of 3 John 1-13 gives the example of two church leaders who are measured by their willingness to welcome others with generous charity.  The apostle writes Gaius, the recipient of this letter, “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers who have borne witness of your love before the church” (vs. 5).  Today we learn to add hospitality to the virtues that we should cultivate as “children who walk in truth” (vs. 4). The Contrast of Two Church Officials Today’s reading contrasts two church leaders, giving praise to…

On Lenten Fasting: Food and Prayer

The word of the day is “food.” Today on Meatfae Sunday, we eliminate meat from our diets as we ramp up for the Lenten Fast.   But dairy products are allowed until next Sunday, Cheesefare Sunday.  These prescriptions of Orthodox tradition might give us the wrong impression.  We might think that the focus of fasting should be on the abstinence from special foods. But if this is our emphasis in Lent, we should reread Paul’s words in our reading of 1 Cor. 8:8-9:2.  The apostle writes, “But food does not commend us to God; for neither if we eat are we the better, nor if we do not eat are we the worse” (vs. 8).  From the Lord’s teaching, we should…

Learning Moderation in Eating: the Lenten Fast (Sat., March 6)

The word of the day is “eat.”  On this eve of Meatfare Sunday, in our reading of 1 Cor. 10:23-28, we hear Paul’s teaching about eating meat offered to idols.  This issue might seem to be irrelevant to us.  But the principle still holds.  The apostle writes,  “All things are lawful for me but not all things edify” (vs.  23).  This maxim speaks of “edification,” the building up of spiritual character (Strong’s #3618, 176).  From this counsel, we learn that in what we eat and whatever we do, we should seek to do what is constructive for the well-being of others.  However, given that we are starting our Lenten fast by abstaining from meat this week,  today’s comments will apply…

Don’t Be a Loser: Guarding What We Have Been Taught (Fri., March 5)

The word of the day is “lose.”  Scripture is full of instances of persons who lose something of great spiritual worth. In today’s reading of 2 John 1:1-13, the Elder writes, “Look to yourself that we do not lose those things we worked for, but that we may receive a full reward” (vs. 8).  With this admonition, we hear the warning that we should be on guard against losing the doctrine, that is, the teachings on which our faith rests. The Danger of Losing What are we in danger of losing, according to our reading?  We discover the answer when we consider that the Elder warns against the deceivers that are rising up against the faithful.  Their threat to believers…

Peace in Christ: Tribulation in the World (Thurs., March 4)

The word of the day is “overcome.”  At the Last Supper on the night of His betrayal, the Lord Jesus assured His disciples of His victory over the world that He gave Himself up to save. He said, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  In our reading of 1 John 4:20-5:21, John echoes this reassurance: “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world, our faith” (vs. 4).  In today’s study, we learn the source and nature of tribulations and how faith overcomes…

A Hearing Test: Listening to the Spirit or the Antichrist? (Wed., March 3)

The word of the day is “hear.”  If you want to know the true character of a leader, look at those who are following him or her.  Leaders will attract adherents who appeal to them, and over time they will mold their flocks after their teachings and example.  In our reading of 1 John 3:21-4:6, the apostle contrasts those who are “of the world” and those who are “of God.”  Those who are “of the world” pay attention to worldly things.  Those who are “of God” are attentive to godly things. Thus, the apostle writes, “We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us” (vs. 6). The book of…