“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4: 10-13) I have learned “how” to abound/be full, says the Apostle, and “how” to be abased and to suffer need. How, exactly? Through the strength of Christ. So, the “how” of going through both the ups and the downs in life is someth


“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal (κατὰ σκοπὸν) for the prize of the upward call (εἰς τὸ βραβεῖον τῆς ἄνω κλήσεως) of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3: 12-14) Keep going, and keep growing in Christ, also today, St. Paul is telling me here, lest I become a complacent and/or self-righteous Orthodox Christian. We often talk about the Church as the “fullness” of Christ, or the “fullness” of gr


“’Watch yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.’ The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’ And the Lord said, ‘If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this sycamine tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.’” (Lk 17: 3-6) The apostles think they don’t have enough faith, to forgive so many times a day. So they appeal to the Lord: “Increase our faith!” And He responds with this perplexing lesson about a mustard-seed-sized faith, which can uproot “this sycamine tree,” a fa


“Now the parable is this (Jesus explains): The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. But the ones on a rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patienc


“Now the day began to wear away; and the twelve came and said to him, ‘Send the crowd away, to go into the villages and country round about, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a lonely place.’ But he said to them, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said, ‘We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.’ For there were about five thousand men. And he said to his disciples, ‘Make them sit down in companies, about fifty each.’ And they did so, and made them all sit down. And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And a


“Blessed is the man that has not walked in the counsel (ἐν βουλῇ) of the ungodly…” (Ps 1: 1) It’s tricky to discern what is “the counsel of the ungodly,” particularly when it is offered to us by friends. This often happens at times when we are especially vulnerable and disoriented by our own shortcomings, like a long-standing resentment against a problematic colleague, boss, or relative, or like a long-standing obsession or frustration with some person or thing. Our friends might step in, at such times, to “support” us with advice that is, actually, “ungodly.” I’ve observed that this happens not primarily because they, our friends, are “ungodly,” but because we, in certain states of un-godly


“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment (αἰσθήσει, sensitivity), so that you may discern what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorium and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ (ἐν Χριστῷ, in Christ)…” (Phil 1: 9-13) Whatever happens to us today, both the ups and the downs, the Apostle is saying, let it all be “to the glory and praise of


“One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house, and took his place at table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw it, he said to himself, ‘If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.’” (Lk 7: 36-39) This Pharisee is considered a


“Soon afterward he went to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a large crowd from the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’ And he came and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’ And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And he gave him to his mother.” (Lk 7: 11-15) Here’s what this passage brings to my mind: Life-bringing tears, as opposed to death-bringing, self-isolated tears, in which we ten


“After these things he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax office. And he said to him, ‘Follow me.’ So he left all, rose up, and followed him. Then Levi gave him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them. And their scribes and the Pharisees complained against his disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?’ 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.’” (Lk 5: 27-32) Is our Lord using the word “righteous” sarcastically, in that last s


“But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts. Peace to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with all those who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” (Eph 6: 21-24) St. Paul “comforts the hearts” of his people by sending Tychicus to let them know how he is doing. The Apostle is affirming his love for his flock by keeping it informed about his affairs. Conversely, I’m thinking, it would be damaging for love,


“Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not as eye-service (κατ᾽ὀφθαλμοδουλίαν, service just for show), as people-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.” (Eph 6: 5-8) Instead of calling for the abolition of slavery, St. Paul accepts it as a gi


“Therefore, putting away falsehood, let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin (ὀργίζεσθε καὶ μὴ ἁμαρτάνετε); do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no place (τόπον) to the devil.” (Eph 4: 25-27) What kind of “anger” is St. Paul talking about here? The kind that is directed not at people, either others or ourselves, but at “falsehood.” This kind of “anger” is a gift from God and a helpful tool, which I can pick up briefly to “put away falsehood.” But I don’t let “the sun go down” on such anger, lest it mutate into a “falsehood” of its own, which will begin to eat away at me and my relationships with others. Today le


“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged…” (Lk 6: 31-37) Is Christ pre

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