Malankara World Journal Theme: Humility And Servanthood
Volume 3 No. 158 August 15, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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We are in a transition period for the church. August 15th is the Shunoyo Feast - commemorating the Assumption of St. Mary. On September 8, we celebrate the Nativity of St. Mary. For many, it is the end of 8-day lent and "nada thurakkal" in Manarcadu church. I was in a dinner meeting yesterday. The conversation came to church. I said, we are in Shunoyo Lent period now. They were very surprised. One lady ventured, "I thought the important lent is coming on September 1." I replied, "yes, that is our ettu nombu or 8 day lent celebrating the nativity of the Theotokos." In our excitement to celebrate the 8-day lent, most often we forget the canonical lent of Shunoyo. Another doctor friend at the table commented, "I know of only the lent before Christmas and the lent before Good Friday." She was not alone in that observation.
When we think of St. Mary, the first and foremost thought that comes to our mind is the humility of her. Humility, obedience and suffering goes hand in hand. She said "yes" to the angel knowing very well that this decision will change her life forever. All her dreams of settling down peacefully with a family in a village in Israel far removed from all activity has vanished. St. Mary's first reaction was to acknowledge that she is the "handmaiden" or servant of God; she is here to obey and serve; she was willing to accept whatever God wanted from her. As a result, she was exalted and everyone now consider her as "blessed"; but she surely paid the price.
The theme of Jesus' ministry was also all about humility and servant leadership. The Son of God washing the "dirty" feet of the disciples - a job usually done by the lowest of the lowest of the slaves. Think about that! In the Kingdom of God, everything is inverted. The highest has to serve. How many of us pays any attention to this commandment?
In this issue of MWJ, we have also highlighted the important role of Eucharist in our lives. For many, the Eucharist is something the priest do in the church on Sundays. On Maundy Thursday, we stand in line to receive it as a mandatory requirement. Our involvement with the Qurbana ends there. Most arrive in church, if they go there at all, well past the time of Thubden and, hopefully, prior to the second coming. They stand there with a blank face. In many churches in Kerala, the choir not only sings the songs, they also recite the responses the laity is supposed to say. We are far separated from the Qurbana. That is a shame. We do not understand why we call it the "living sacrifice" or the "Queen of Sacraments."
I remember August 15, 1998. Fr. M.C. Cherian was in Cleveland holding a retreat. It was a blessed event. What makes me remember the event still vividly in my memory was that achen, during his message, recalled the circumstance of his coming to the US. He got admission to pursue doctorate program in St. Vladimir Seminary in New York. He had no money. He knew very few people in US at that time. He was worried about what will happen if he become sick as he didn't have money to purchase visitor's health insurance. Achen went to a bishop and told him about his concerns. The bishop told him, "Monee athellam daivum thamburate kayyil alle. (Son, it is in the hands of almighty God.) But I can do one thing; the only thing I know that works." The bishop proceeded to pray and then offered achen the Qurbana - the Eucharist. Achen came to the US protected by that Qurbana. Three years later, still without any insurance, he never had to go to any hospital! That is the power of the Eucharist. Cherian achen, by the way, is now bishop Theophilos. He recently had undergone a major surgery.
Many of you know that I had to make an emergency trip to Kerala last month. My mother was on the death bed. She was not taking any food; lost all weight (she was reduced to just bone and skins.) She was not talking, nor responding to any questions and was mostly unconscious. My uncle told me that without any nourishment, she will not last more than a week. Force-feeding is dangerous because of a medical problem called "aspiration" - the food may go to lungs and create major complications. A tubal feeding is the only way. My brothers and sisters were against that as they have seen many people with tube suffering severe pain and trying to pull the tube off from their faces. Their hands are tied to the bed to prevent them from ripping off the tube. Imagine it!
The decision was made to leave immediately for Kerala. My worry was that when I reach Kerala, my mother would be dead. I talked to Theethose thirumeni and several achens here in the US and all promised to pray for her. In the mean time, on Wednesday, July 3, the vicar of Manarcad church came to our home in Kerala and gave my mother the Eucharist from Manarcad church. He was joined by several other priests including Kizhakedathu achen (Previous secretary of Kottayam diocese), Manalelchira achen (current secretary of Kottayam diocese), Kadavumbhagam achen, Kavumkal achen and Saji achen (all previous vicars of my home church - Marth Mariam Cheria Pally, East Pampady). On Saturday, Themotheos thirumeni (Kottayam diocese) visited home and prayed. A remarkable thing happened! My mother started taking liquid food. When I reached Kerala on Sunday, she was even talking! And she was asking for achens and that "appam"! I do not know of any more powerful story of the power of our Eucharist and prayers than that.
My mother is still alive - although still in death bed. I want to thank all of you who had prayed, including the attendees of the archdiocesan family conference in America held at Dallas, TX from July 11-14. At the kind request from Kadavil achen, Thottakad achen and Theethose thirumeni special prayer for my mother was held there. They were joined by prayers from all other achens such as Karuthalackal achen, Binoy achen, Saji achen, Babu achen etc. and our brothers and sisters in God all over the world. My sincere thanks to you all.
Yes, our Qurbana is a powerful panacea. It protects us from sickness; it protects us against devil and, as described in an article in this issue of the journal, it is also a powerful medicine to protect our marriage and family. The sacrament of marriage and the sacrament of Eucharist go together. Whenever, we take Qurbana, it also revitalizes our married life and our family. It is the "armor" that shields us from the bad things. Please take advantage of it.
So, during this season of humility and servanthood, let us join that tax-collector who went to the synagogue, who was afraid to even look up, remorseful of his sins, and prayed - the prayer that will eventually lead to the Jesus Prayer - the most famous prayer of all:
"Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy (compassion) on me, a sinner."
Morth Mariam Yoldath Aloho (Mother of God) pray for us.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings For The First Sunday after Shunoyo/the Assumption of St. Mary
This Week's Features
Serving the Lord with all humility of mind.
Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
If a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. - I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man, ... not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. - When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
Our rejoicing is this, ... that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world. - We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
ACTS 20:19. Matt. 20:26 28. Gal. 6:3. Rom. 12:3. Luke 17:10. II Cor. 1:12. II Cor. 4:7.
by John Piper
Gospel: Mark 10:32-45
This is a message about the humility that defines a person who is transformed by the gospel of Jesus. It's about gospel humility.
The reason I am talking about it is that I want to be humble and to see this church marked by humility. As a church, we are human, we are large, we are widely known, and we are sinners. That's a very dangerous mix. It has almost all the ingredients that go into the recipe of pride.
Humility That God Sees
I know that the best and humblest person who has walked the earth was tortured to death because he was accused of blasphemous arrogance. "This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him because . . . he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God" (John 5:18). So I don't expect his followers will ever be able to avoid the accusation of arrogance. If you are the humblest outspoken witness for Jesus as the only way to God, you will accused of arrogance.
So avoiding that is not my aim in this message. What I want to avoid is the reality of pride. I want there to be real humility in me, and in this staff and these elders and this church - the kind of humility that God sees and that spiritually discerning people see, even if the world doesn't see it.
Getting a Sense of What Humility Is
What I would like to do first is not start with a definition of humility but with six passages of Scripture and a brief comment about each. I think what will come out of these texts is a sense of what humility is. Then I will draw out some implications for us as a church. And close with the question why this is so important and try to answer some objections that the world has to humility.
First, then, six texts that open us up to what God means by humility.
1. 1 Corinthians 1:26–31
My point here is that humility agrees and is glad that God gets all the credit for choosing us and calling us according to his purposes, not our merit. And he does this (v. 29) "so that no human being might boast in the presence of God," but that (v. 31) the one who boasts might boast in the Lord. Humility agrees and is glad that God acts in a way to take the focus of all boasting away from man and put it on himself. Are you happy about that? Are you glad God does it that way? Humility is glad about that.
2. 1 Corinthians 4:6–7
Humility agrees and is glad that everything we have is a free gift of God, and that this severs the root of boasting in our distinctives. Whatever talents, whatever intelligence, what ever skills, whatever gifts, whatever looks, whatever pedigree, whatever possessions, whatever wit, whatever influence you have, put away all pride because it is a gift, and put away all despair because it is a gift from God.
3. James 4:13–17
Humility agrees and is glad that God governs the beating of our hearts and our safe arrival at every destination. If we get there, God got us there. And if we don't get there, God willed that we not get there. Humility gets down under this sovereign providence and nestles there gladly.
4. Colossians 3:12–13
One of the implications of this text is that our humble willingness to forgive others their offenses is rooted in God's forgiveness of us through Jesus. In other words, Christian humility is rooted in the gospel. True humility is gospel humility. It is not just copying Jesus in his willingness to die for others; it is enabled by Jesus because he died for us. Humility is rooted in the gospel.
5. Philippians 2:3–8
Humility serves. Humility gets down low and lifts others up. Humility looks to the needs of others and gives time and effort to help with those needs. Jesus took the form of a servant and humbled himself, even to the point of death. "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). Humility measures everything it does by whether it serves the good of other people. Am I feeding my ego or am I feeding the faith of others? Humility serves.
6. Mark 10:42–44
Humility agrees and is glad that this servanthood is true greatness. Verses 43–44: "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all."
So to sum up,
If God would work this humility in us - O how freely we would serve each other. One of the reasons I am praying and preaching toward humility is that the church survives and thrives by servanthood. Every member of Christ is gifted in someway to serve.
The All-Pervasive Effects of Humility
Without humility we won't serve, or we will serve for the wrong reasons. It seems almost impossible to overstate how pervasive are the effects of humility in our lives. Listen to the way John Calvin describes the importance of humility.
I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of Chrysostom, "The foundation of our philosophy is humility;" and still more with those of Augustine, "As the orator, when asked, What is the first precept in eloquence? answered, Delivery: What is the second? Delivery: What the third? Delivery: so, if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer, first, second, and third, Humility." (Institutes 2.2.11)
Why is that? Why is humility so pervasive as to be the first, second, and third precept of Christianity? It is the work of God under everything that makes all other good things in Christianity possible. For example:
Would anyone depend on Christ as a needy, weak, and sinful person, if God hadn't made him humble?
Would anyone earnestly make much of the worth of God, instead of craving to be made much of himself, if God hadn't made him humble?
Would anyone surrender his autonomy and submit obediently to the absolute authority of Scripture, if God had not made him humble?
Would anyone seek the good of others at great cost to himself, if God hadn't made him humble?
And on and on it goes. Every good thing in the Christian life grows in the soil of humility. Without humility, every virtue and every grace withers. That's why Calvin said humility is first, second, and third in the Christian faith. And he could have said fourth, fifth, sixth, and more. It is pervasively effective.
Answering the World's Objections
So in closing, and to give you a fuller flavor of what the humble life is like, let me try to answer briefly a few objections that the world may have to this emphasis on humility.
Objection 1: Humility makes a person gloomy, dismal, downcast, unhappy
Answer: No, gospel humility frees you from the need to posture and pose and calculate what others think, so that you are free to laugh at what is really funny with the biggest belly laugh. Proud people don't really let themselves go in laughter. They don't get red in the face and fall off chairs and twist their faces into the contortions of real free laughter. Proud people need to keep their dignity. The humble are free to howl with laughter.
Objection 2: Humility makes you fearful and timid
Answer: No, the world thinks that, because they think the best source of courage is self-confidence. It's not. God-confidence is the best source of courage. And only humble people lean on God for confidence. "I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker" (Isaiah 51:12–13). In other words, fear of man is a sign of pride, not gospel humility.
Objection 3: Humility makes you passive and removes the driving motor of achievement
Answer: No, the world thinks that, because for them the driving motor of achievement is feeding the ego with accomplishments. But Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:10, "By the grace of God I am what I am . . . I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me."
The power of God's grace in the heart of the humble believer who depends utterly on God produces incredible energy and industry. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12–13).
Joy, Courage, and Industry
So the answer is no. Gospel humility, grace-based humility, Jesus-exalting humility does not make you gloomy, or timid, or passive. It makes you joyful, and courageous and industrious.
It makes you a servant - like Jesus. Only God can do it. And he does it through Jesus in the gospel. May he work this in us and unleash a tidal wave of service in our church and in the world. Amen.
©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org Used by Permission.
by Dr. Stephen Felker, Colonial Heights, VA
Gospel: Mark 9:30-50
Shortly after Jesus warned of His upcoming death, His disciples began to argue quietly with one another as to who would be the greatest. Human pride seized on the expectation that the long-awaited Messianic kingdom was immanent. After all, Jesus had promised that some of the disciples were going to see "the kingdom of God come with power" (9:1), & they imagined themselves reigning with Jesus. Who would sit next to Jesus? Who would be the greatest?
Of course, Peter, James, and John thought they would be the greatest, for they were chosen to go up on the mountain with Jesus. The other 9 disciples must have been envious, and each thought they should be the greatest. Judas thought he should be the greatest. He was the only Judean in the group, & he was the treasurer. Matthew was probably the one who had made the most money. Perhaps he would be the greatest. Andrew was Peter's brother. He brought Peter & many others to Jesus. Surely he would be the greatest. Nathaniel could have said, "You guys are all crazy. Jesus told me, 'Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!'" (Jn. 1:47).
When they settled down in a house in Capernaum, Jesus asked in v.33, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?" Jesus already knew the answer, but He asked it that they might begin to reflect on what they had done, and might feel thoroughly ashamed. And sure enough, there was an embarrassing silence. Jesus had been talking about giving Himself to die on the cross for others (v.31), and they had been talking about self-glory.
Now Jesus did not rebuke a desire to be great. In fact, He went on to tell them how they could be truly great. A desire for greatness is certainly normal. Many just watched the Olympics, and everyone who competed had trained & worked hard to win the gold medal. They wanted to be the greatest at their particular sport.
Even children want to be the greatest, but they usually do so by identification with someone else. Did you hear about the boys that were arguing as to whose dad was the greatest? One boy said that his dad could whip the other boy's dad. That fellow said, "Oh yea, well how do you know?" He replied, "My dad has a list of everyone he can whip, and your dad is number 1 on the list." The boy went home and reported what his friend had said. His dad got upset and went to that other dad. He told him what his son had said (..whip me... #1 on your list.) Then he said, "Well I'm here to prove to you that you cannot whip me. Now what are you going to do about that?" The other dad replied, "Well, I am just going to take you off my list."
So we see, a desire for greatness is normal. I hope you want to be great for God. But Jesus points out that there is a right and wrong way to achieve greatness. And we're going to see that the world's way & God's way are often just the opposite. Oh, how our perspective on greatness needs to be changed!
So this morning I want to share with you three ways to achieve true greatness:
I. HAVE A HUMBLE SPIRIT
The world believes that greatness is achieved by bullying & manipulating your way to the top. That is where you can rule & use your position of power to lift yourself up in pride, & accomplish self-centered goals. But Jesus teaches that greatness is achieved by humility. In v.35 Jesus said, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." He says we should be willing to take the last place, the position of lowliness. There are two manifestations of humility here in this text.
A. Be Humble in Your Associations
Jesus uses a visual illustration to get His point across. In v.36 we read, "Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them…." He tenderly reached out to a little child. Whenever He wanted a child there was always one present. Children loved to be near Jesus. He was not too big or too busy to take interest in a little child. Imagine how lovingly & tenderly Jesus must have taken that child in His arms. Jesus gave this child His time & attention even though the child had no influence or power to do anything for Jesus.
In contrast, how does the world seek greatness? They seek out those who have influence, power, or money, & cater to them, & try to use them. But true greatness is showing an interest in people like this little child. And He is telling His disciples to forget all about rank, pre-eminence, and prominence. Instead, they should give at least as much attention on the least of society, even just one little child. He said in v.37, "Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me…." Those who are great in the eyes of God do not reject children & others who seem insignificant, but we receive them, love them, & care for them. And notice that Jesus said we should receive such a child "in My name" (v.37). That means to treat the child with all the love and consideration which Christ Himself has a right to expect of His followers. So the Son of God declares that the way to greatness lies in devoting ourselves to the care of the weakest and lowest of his flock.
Humility is not only demonstrated by our associations. Humility is also manifest: B. Be Humble In Your Service - Notice in the last of v.35 that Jesus also said, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be … servant of all." The lowly place is that of a servant. The word "servant" is from the word "deacon," which literally refers to one who waits on tables. It's not necessarily the person who has the title of "Deacon" that is great, but the one who fulfills the role of a deacon or servant.
Jesus said in v.41, "For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward." Even just giving water to a thirsty person in the name of Christ is a form of service that qualifies someone for true greatness. But be sure your service is done in the name of Jesus. There are some groups that help people in the name of the U.S. government, or political party. There are other groups that help people in the name of the United Way. There are other groups that help people in the name of a service club. But true greatness is ministry in the name of Jesus Christ, and that ministry will be rewarded for eternity.
Are you more interested in being served, in self-indulgence? Or are you seeking opportunities to serve others. Only in service do we attain true greatness in the eyes of God. So we see that true greatness is achieved through humility. Another way to attain true greatness is this:
II. HAVE A NON-PARTISAN SPIRIT
The world says that greatness is achieved by political partisanship. "We win, you loose" is their motto. And you win by forming political parties, and you demand loyalty to the party. You have to tow the party line or you're out. I have never seen so much partisanship in Washington in my life. The #1 concern is not what best for the country. The #1 concern has been what's best for me & my political party.
Well, the apostle John was falling into the same mistake, & I'm sure he thought he was doing the right thing. Jesus had just talked about receiving a child, yet in v.38 we see John had not received an outsider who was casting out demons in Jesus name. This man was in all probability a true believer in Jesus. He was doing a good work. He was warring on the same side as the apostles. But he had not yet established a close relationship with the regular followers of Jesus. So John and others tried to stop (cognitive imperfect) him from casting out demons.
Likewise, the church has practiced a similar kind of partisan spirit to this day. Members of all branches of Christ's church are apt to think that no good can be done in the world unless it is done by their own party and denomination. They are like him who cried when Eldad and Medad prophesied in the camp, "Moses, my lord, stop them!" (Numbers 11:28).
Religious partisanship or sectarianism has led to all kinds of conflict, and even violence. We see this in the Muslim world, and we even have witnessed it in the Christian community to a lesser degree. Our Baptist forefathers were persecuted because the established church did not allow any disagreement, even for conscience sake. That is why Jesus said in the last of v.50, "have peace with one another."
So notice what Jesus said beginning in v.39, "Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me." Jesus establishes the basis of fellowship among believers. Notice the repetition of the references to the name of Jesus in vv.37, 38, 39, 41. Now that's the basis of fellowship. If you believe in Jesus, we are in the same family, regardless of your denominational label.
So let us reach out the hand of brotherhood to all those who love the Lord Jesus Christ and build upon the firm foundation of His infallible Word. We are to fellowship & work with other churches that openly confess Jesus as Savior & Lord, regardless of their denominational label. We are not to care which denomination or church is getting the credit. We are to minister in Jesus' name. He is the one who is to get the credit! So we are to guard against an attitude of intolerance, narrow exclusivist, and any kind of sectarian or partisan spirit. Let us beware of the slightest inclination to stop and check others, merely because they do not choose to adopt our plans or work by our side. We may think our fellow Christians mistaken in some points. We may imagine that more would be done for Christ if they would join us, and if everyone worked in the same way. But all this must not prevent us rejoicing if the works of the devil are destroyed and souls are saved. Let us have the spirit of Moses. He did not forbid Eldad and Medad from prophesying. Instead, he said, "I wish that all the LORD'S people were prophets" (Numbers 11:29; cf. also Phil 1:14-18).
Did you realize that such a partisan spirit can exist within a church? There is a natural tendency to form cliques within a church, & if you are not in their clique, you are always on the outside looking in. But those who are great in the kingdom of God have a welcoming attitude toward all, especially those who profess faith in Christ.
Finally, if you want to be great in the eyes of God:
III. PURSUE HOLINESS
Many of the so-called great people of this world are some of the greatest, most immoral sinners. They do anything it takes to get to the top. They will lie, cheat, steal, & even murder. Yet according to Jesus in vv.42-50, those who are truly great pursue holiness, purity, & righteousness. Hebrews 12:14 says, "Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord." You cannot be great in the eyes of God unless you live a holy life. I don't care if you become the C.E.O. of a major corporation, or the President of the United States. If you are not living a holy life in the eyes of God, you are not great. You are nothing. So what should we do? We have seen that those who are truly great are considerate of others. Therefore:
A. Pursue Holiness in the Lives of Others
In v.42 Jesus warned against causing "one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble…." He is talking about stumbling into sin. There are always those who would lead Christ's little ones astray.
Jesus gives a good reason why you should not lead someone astray. He says in the last of v.42, "it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea." The millstone referred to was a big, donkey-drawn millstone that had a big hole in the middle. Jesus says it would be better to die a terrible death than to lead someone, especially a child, into sin.
Parents, do you cause your children to stumble into sin because of a bad example? If your utter profanity, how can you rebuke them if you speak profanity? If your teenage child starts to drink alcohol, & even get drunk at times, what can you say if you drink your booze yourself? Big brother or big sister, are you leading your younger siblings astray. After all, they want to be like you? Watch out! There are dire consequences for leading someone astray, especially a child. Those who are truly great lead others to live right.
B. Deal Decisively with Temptation & Sin
Jesus said in v.43, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off…." Then He said in v.45, "And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off…." Finally, in v.47 He said, "And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out." He is saying here that sin is a very serious matter to God. The believer must be severe in dealing with any sin that creeps into our life.
Now I believe that Jesus is using a common figure of speech here called hyperbole. A hyperbole is an obvious exaggeration for the purpose of making a strong point.
Jesus is not saying that you should literally tear out your eye if you have a problem with lust, for example.
He is not saying that you should literally cut off your hand if you have a problem with stealing.
He is not saying that you should literally cut off your foot if you have a problem going to bars or other such places.
But He is saying that sin is not something we should take lightly. Instead, we should be very severe in dealing with sin in our lives. Sin, being a very destructive force, must not be pampered. It must be "put to death" (Col. 3:5). Temptation should be flung aside immediately and decisively.
Now in the physical realm, most people do not have a problem accepting this. Let's say you go to a doctor, and he finds some body part that is diseased. Perhaps it has cancer or a bad infection, and if it is not removed, the disease or infection could spread, and kill you.
Considering the alternative, you would allow the doctor to perform surgery. Now if we are willing to do that in the physical realm of life, why shouldn't we be willing to do that in the spiritual realm of life?
So what is Jesus saying to us? If you want to be great, you are to cut out of your life those activities and enticements that may result in sin. Folks, you can't play around with sin and treat it lightly. If there some amusement in your life that is causing you to sin, get rid of it! Perhaps you need to go home & cut up some magazines, or destroy some DVDs or CDs. Is there some place that you go that often becomes an occasion for temptation and sin? Then stop going there. Do you have any obscene material? Then burn it! If there is some habit in your life that is sin, then cut it off. Are you watching something you shouldn't watch? Then cut it off. If there something you are reading or looking at that is wrong, cut it out of your life! If the Internet is causing you to sin, get a filter, or get ride of the Internet! Let us walk in Job's steps, who said, "I made a covenant with my eyes" (Job 31:1). Young people, are there certain friends that you hang out with that often lead you into sin? Then cut them off as close friends. Is there a girl friend or boy friend in your life that is leading you into sin? Then break off that relationship. But you say, "Oh, if I do that, I will have to spend some weekends at home." I doubt that you would, but even if you did, that would be better than making a sinful mistake that adversely affects you for the rest of your life. It is better to be alone on a Friday night than be alone for all eternity in outer darkness. Besides, can't you trust God enough to bring someone or something better into your life? Don't settle for the devil's substitute for God's best.
Now Jesus knows that human nature has a strong attraction to sin. So He provides the motivation we should need to pursue holiness. Now I conclude my message with one final point about the pursuit of holiness:
C. Consider the Motives of Holiness
Jesus provides two strong motives for pursuing holiness in the way He has described.
1. Hell Awaits Those Who Pursue Sin - Why is it that people do the right thing?
One motivation is to avoid the consequences of sin. Here in this text of Scripture, Jesus warns of some rather serious consequences. In vv.43-44 Jesus said, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched - where 'Their worm does not die, And the fire is not quenched.'" Jesus speaks of a place called hell. In fact, He spoke about hell more than anyone else in the New Testament. Hell is so bad that Jesus says it is better for you to loose one of your hands than to go to that place.
Now the word "hell" is translated from the word "Gehenna." Every Jew was familiar with that word. It described a valley to the south of Jerusalem. It had been a place for the worship of the pagan god Moloch. Israel itself fell into the terrible sin of worshipping that false god (2 Kings 16:3; 21:6). The image of Moloch had arms extended as if to receive something from the worshipers. Do you know what that something was? People would sacrifice their own children to Moloch. The image would be heated, and when the parents would place their child on the arms of Moloch, the child would be scorched and die. Can you image a parent killing their own child like that? Yet, something similar is going on today. One method of late term abortion uses a saline solution, and that unborn child experiences another type of burning until the child dies inside the womb. Anyway, in that valley, there was a time when people could hear the cries of pain from children dying in the fire in Gehenna.
But when good king Josiah came to the throne, he changed that (2 Kings 23:10). Then he turned that valley into a garbage heap for the city of Jerusalem, which remained unto the day of Jesus. They would burn the garbage, and usually a fire was going at all times in the city dump of Jerusalem. It was a place of foul odor. Worms would eat away at the garbage and dead bodies that were not being burned at the time. So what was Gehenna? It was a place where the foul and impure things of Jerusalem were cast.
You may not want to believe it, but Jesus declared that there is such a place. You see, Gehenna illustrates a truth about God's universe. God is holy, pure, and just, and He must cast out of His presence all that is impure and sinful. God has determined that He will purify His universe of what is sinful and impure. If you choose to hold on to your sin, God will have no choice but to cast you and your sin into hell.
Notice one of the worst things about hell. It is eternal! 3 times Jesus says that it will be a place "where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched." The torment, accordingly, will be both external, the fire; and internal, the worm. This suffering will last for ever and ever.
Now that's the bad news. But I have good news for you. Jesus suffered the judgment of God upon sin on the cross. He suffered hell on the cross. You can trust in Jesus as your Savior, and God can take your sin away because it has been judged already on the cross of Calvary. My humanity hesitates to preach about hell, but I do not hold back, because of its reality, & because God has provided a way of escape.
Oh, dear friend, don't go to hell. Don't choose sin and hell over Jesus and heaven. Repent of your sins. Give up anything that stands between you and the salvation of your soul. If you truly believed what I am saying to you, then you would not leave this building today without knowing for sure that you have been forgiven of your sin. Christian, look at what Jesus says in v.49, "For everyone will be seasoned with fire…."1 Jesus is saying that if you, as a believer, will use the fire of self-judgment & the Word of God to purify your life, then that will be good for you. If you don't, God will allow fiery trials into your life to purify you. One way or another, "everyone will be seasoned with fire," for God is a holy God.
2. Holiness Is Required for Usefulness
Look at v.50, "Salt is good…." What is it good for? Salt penetrates and burns out the corruption and stops the spread of impurities. It is also good for seasoning. But Jesus goes on to say, "but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it?" When you pursue holiness & purify your life, then there is that salty nature in your life, that you will be a blessing to others, and a witness to others. The pure, dedicated life is an attraction for the cause of Christ. Do you have a salty nature, a life full of truth, love, joy, and peace?
But Jesus warns of a problem here. When Christians let sin get into our lives, we have lost our flavor. We have lost our saltiness. There is spiritual deadness in such a person. There is no zeal for the Lord. You can't be useful to God & others if you are not willing to cleanse sin out of your life.
Are you useful for the Lord? Are people coming to Jesus because of your life and ministry? Are Christians being led closer to the Lord because of your life and ministry? If so, you are great in the kingdom of God. If not, then you are not among God's great servants, and your reward will be small.
Are you pursuing greatness in the eyes of God? Or are you content to living a mediocre Christian life? Well to be great, Jesus has shown us what we must do. We must practice humility in our associations & service. Don't be partisan & sectarian, but loving & receptive. And finally, pursue holiness.
William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Mark (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1975);
J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible, Vol. 4 (Pasadena, CA: Thru The Bible Radio, 1983);
Larry Pierce, Online Bible [CD-ROM] (Ontario: Timnathserah Inc., 1996);
J.C. Ryle (1816-1900), Mark: Expository Thoughts on the Gospels 1 Our older texts leave out the rest of this verse. (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1993);
Dr. Jerry Vines (notes from sermon tape of 1/22/84).
Other sources listed in the footnotes. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982).
© Dr. Stephen Felker
by Mary Southerland
The last thing I usually want to do is serve someone who is hard to get along with and rubs me the wrong way. In fact, the way I figure it, they should be the one serving me in order to make up for all of the grief they have caused. Sandpaper people are hard to serve and hard to help because they rarely, if ever, think of themselves as someone in need. The needs of others are not high on their priority list. Control and power are at the top. To manipulate is to succeed. Sandpaper people honestly believe that the world does or should revolve around them. It doesn't seem to matter if the audience is applauding or jeering. Either way, they win.
When we dare to serve a sandpaper person, it rocks their world. They are so accustomed to scratching and clawing their way to a false and shallow acceptance and find it almost impossible to believe that anyone would ever be willing to serve them in any way. That kind of chosen love is foreign to them but it certainly grabs their attention. It is after we have loved and served the sandpaper people in our lives that we begin to see them with different eyes.
"Devotion" indicates commitment and duty and carries the idea of a constant faithfulness that deliberately chooses repeatedly to serve. To "honor" someone means to "prefer" him or her or regard them as more important than ourselves. Most sandpaper people are used to people preferring that they disappear. I am convinced if we learned to look past the irritating antics of sandpaper people and simply love them or "prefer" them, a transformation would begin.
In the book of Philippians, Paul explains when we are serving others we are doing what Jesus did.
Paul is telling us that when we choose to love and serve others, especially those who are unlovable and difficult, we choose to have the same attitude that Jesus had. I believe the greatest hindrance to serving others is pride.
Someone once told me, "He that falls in love with himself will have no rivals." I once heard a missionary tell how he was trying to do translation work in a particular tribe. He was finding it very difficult to translate the word "pride" or at least the concept. Finally, he came up with the idea to use their words for the ears being too far apart. In other words, he conveyed the idea of an "inflated head" which is probably hard to improve on when we talk about the problem of pride.
When our head is filled with thoughts of self, when our hearts are determined to love ourselves before others or when we serve only for the applause of men, we will become arrogant and our service becomes an offense to God. Micah 6:8 outlines the good things God wants to see in us, "The Lord has told you what is good. He has told you what he wants from you: Do what is right to other people. Love being kind to others and live humbly, trusting your God." Peter Marshall, the great Bible teacher, once prayed, "Lord, when we are wrong, make us willing to change and when we are right, make us easy to live with."
Corrie Ten Boom, a dynamic Christian and survivor of German prison camps, loved to tell the story about a proud woodpecker who was tapping away at a dead tree when the sky unexpectedly turned black and the thunder began to roll. Undaunted, he went right on working. Suddenly a bolt of lightning struck the old tree, splintering it into hundreds of pieces. Startled but unhurt, the haughty bird flew off, screeching to his feathered friends, "Hey, everyone, look what I did! Look what I did!"
That old woodpecker reminds me of people who think more highly of themselves than they should. Usually they are so busy bragging about their achievements and their greatness that they fail to recognize God as the source of all their abilities or the needs of others. They are suffering from spiritual delusions of grandeur, and I am often right there with them. Without the Lord, no one amounts to anything, and in our own strength, we cannot please Him. "So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and in his good time he will honor you." (1 Peter 5:6 ) We are never more like our Father than when we lay aside our pride to love the unlovable by serving them.
Father, when I let pride take up residence in my heart, I can be so blind to the
needs of others, especially those who are more difficult to love. I am so
thankful that You did not feel that way toward me, one of the most difficult
people of all to love. I praise You for the grace and love You have given me.
Help me to be an instrument of that love and grace in the lives of those around
Now It's Your Turn
Take a few minutes to think about the people in your life - family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors, etc.
List two people who are easy to love and serve.
List two people who are difficult to love and serve.
Compare the two experiences.
From which one did you learn the most?
Source: Girlfriends in God Devotional, Bible Gateway
A room-service waiter at a Marriott hotel learned that the sister of a guest had just died. The waiter, named Charles, bought a sympathy card, had hotel staff members sign it, and gave it to the distraught guest with a piece of hot apple pie.
"Mr. Marriott," the guest later wrote to the president of Marriott Hotels, "I'll never meet you. And I don't need to meet you. Because I met Charles. I know what you stand for. ... I want to assure you that as long as I live, I will stay at your hotels. And I will tell my friends to stay at your hotels."
Source: Roger Dow and Susan Cook, Turned On, (New York: Harper Business, 1996).
by Ryan Duncan, Editor at TheFish.com
I have a friend who loves starting debates. Every once in a while he'll post an article or question on his Facebook page, then send out a request asking people to share their thoughts. These questions can cover every topic from politics to pop-culture, and typically generate good discussion. There was one post however, where things got pretty grim. It all started when my friend posted an article about a group of Christians who went to a Gay Pride parade holding signs that read “We're sorry for how the Church has treated you.” Personally, I was pretty touched at the article, but as you might expect on such a hot button issue, not everyone felt the same way.
It didn't take long before the whole discussion exploded into a big honking argument and I remember leaving the thread in disgust, both by what others had written and how I had responded. The most unnerving part however, happened three days later when I picked up my Bible and read a passage where the Pharisees interrogated a man Jesus had just healed.
We like to think we are different from the Pharisees, but the truth is we're not. The Pharisees were the religious elite of the day, but they were so full of pride at their own self-righteousness, they could not even see the work of Christ when it was literally standing right in front of them. Instead, they argued and hurled insults at their enemy, a man who had done them no harm at all. I hate to say it, but that sounds a lot like me sometimes.
As Christians, we must remember that everything we say and everything we do reflects the presence of God in our lives. If we respond to others with cruelty, should we be surprised when their perception of Jesus is twisted? But if we respond in love, then perhaps they'll begin to understand how Christ sees them. So ask yourself, how does the world see Christ when they look at you?
Source: Crosswalk.com - The Devotional
"God, make me the person my dog thinks I am." - Church sign
A number of years ago a family showed up at our church with a little boy who was autistic. Tanner loved to run around. We put him into one of the Sunday school rooms and he was bouncing around for a while, but things got quiet about halfway through the hour. Suddenly, Paul, the guy in charge of the class, realized Tanner had snuck out!!! He was mortified, but after brief mass panic, we found Tanner. The parents were concerned for Tanner's safety and the trouble they had caused - it looked like that could be the last time they came to our congregation.
But our team thought about it and then told them, "We've got a volunteer who would like to minister to your boy one-on-one so you guys can come to church together. Would you be okay with that?" They reluctantly said "yes," and that next Sunday they were back and Tanner was running around our building with Paul running five feet behind him. Sunday after Sunday ever since, Paul has been running after Tanner. It was the start of something special. We've got tons of these precious children in our church now, all of them having someone caring for them each Sunday so their parents can worship together.
I think Jesus and Paul are going to have a great conversation about Tanner at the Bema Seat. When Paul stands face to face with Jesus for the first time, I think Jesus will be thankful that Paul allowed Him to love on that little kid so much, and then (get this) Paul will be rewarded for the things he allowed Christ to do through him.
That's all crazy talk in the world, but that's what the Bema Seat is all about, so here are four things that count on that day:
First, the B in BEMA stands for benevolence.
Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." -Luke 14:12-14
Benevolence is serving someone who can't serve you back. Because they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. In that day, Jesus will reward you. It's a win-win deal: While He is working through you here on earth, you will be blessed. Then, when you see Jesus face to face you'll be blessed again for what He did. Pretty cool, I think.
Jesus commends those who love the needy, often in quiet ministries that no one sees. And that counts at the Bema Seat, because our world is full of Tanners.
Son of God, it can be tiring loving on someone who can't serve you back. Show me where I can pour Your love into others like that and give me the strength to do it consistently. Amen.
Source: Experiencing LIFE Today by Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe
5 Ways to Stay Slim While Indulging Yourself
Veteran Biochemical/Nutritional Expert Offers Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Weight
With the recent declaration from the American Medical Association that obesity now should be considered a disease, the United States officially becomes an even more afflicted union. Obesity, which affects 78 million adults and 12 million children, causes a plethora of other illnesses, including cardiac disease and diabetes.
"It's clear that a really fundamental paradigm shift in lifestyle is needed for an enormous swath of the U.S. population - but there are also Americans who have already reshaped their eating and exercise habits, and they're looking to not only maintain their health, but also take it to the next level," says Dr. Susie Rockway, a veteran nutritional and biochemical expert in the U.S. health industry.
"These are often busy, professional people who make an effort to eat healthy with most meals and make time throughout the workweek to move their body and get their blood pumping."
Still, they also want to be able to enjoy an indulgent meal every once in a while - birthdays, family barbecues or date night with the spouse. Dr. Rockway offers tips for people who want to maintain their weight while still enjoying the occasional burger, chicken wing or greasy pizza slice:
• Food diary:
So, nine times out of 10 you eat healthy, eh? That may not really be true, but a food diary can help clear up any confusion. How much fattening mayo was used to make that tuna salad? If you've sworn off meat, are you getting enough protein and are you eating too many carbohydrates? What kind of carbs are they? Are you eating a diverse diet that provides all the necessary nutrients? A food diary will help challenge your assumptions and make you more aware of everything you're eating, how much and where you might make healthy adjustments.
• Stay hydrated:
Whether you've upped the ante on your workouts or you're consuming too much salt or too many caffeinated beverages, which act as a diuretic, doctors and researchers believe as many as 75 percent of Americans experience dehydration throughout the day. Dehydration can make you confuse thirst for hunger, cause fatigue and a fuzzy memory.
This meal supplement has been popular in Europe for 11 years and recently became available in the United States. Lineatabs contains Solusitan, an all-natural fat-binding complex. Unlike other fat-binding supplements, Lineatabs dissolve in water to become an effervescent citrus flavored beverage that users consume before or while eating a fatty meal. Since the dietary fibers in Lineatabs are dispersed in water are not compressed into a tablet, they're immediately available to bind with fats, turning them into an indigestible liquid mass. The tabs are perfect for people who follow a healthy diet but occasionally eat a greasy-fatty meal. The ingredients in Lineatabs are clinically proven to help reduce body weight, in combination with a calorie-restricted diet, and can also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. Additionally, Lineatabs encourages hydration, as it makes you drink more water.
If you're always on the go, chances are you may be suffering from excessive stress, which according to the American Journal of Epidemiology, raises levels of cortisol, a hormone that can make you feel hungry. Stress can also make busy people more prone to comfort eating, including excessive amounts and foods filled with fat, sugar and salt. Consider breathing techniques, yoga or meditation for handling a busy schedule.
• Slightly increase/mix-up cardio:
It's easy to get into a routine in your workout. After a certain point, however, your body gets used to the exercise and you get less of a workout. You don't have to drastically alter things though; increasing the incline on your treadmill by just 5 percent can help you lose 15 percent more calories during your walk/jog/run. If you want more muscle definition, consider trading a walk for a shorter jog, or a jog for a shorter sprint.
About Dr. Susie Rockway, Ph.D., C.N.S.
Dr. Susie Rockway, Ph.D., C.N.S., is a veteran nutritional and biochemical expert and is a multi-decade industry expert. She has worked for multiple companies in executive capacities, including as an executive director of product development, a director of research, and a manager for science developing health and wellness products, where she communicated nutrition and new science updates to consumers. She has also designed testing strategies for clinical efficacy studies.
By Linda Rosenberg, President & CEO, National Council for Behavioral Health
The Kaiser Health Tracking Poll is a fascinating window into the public's thinking about gun violence, gun control, and the adequacy of the nation's response to the needs of those living with serious mental illness. All of the poll responses are revealing; but some seem to be particularly important to those of us who fashion ourselves as mental health advocates.
According to the Kaiser poll, most Americans (75 percent) across age, race, insurance status, and even political party favor “requiring insurance companies to offer benefits for mental health and substance abuse services that are equivalent to benefits for other medical services.” But fewer than four in ten knew that there is a federal requirement that most plans providing mental health benefits have the same rules regarding copays, deductibles, and coverage limits for mental health and substance use benefits as for other medical services. Many Americans (40 percent) still believe insurance plans can have separate rules for mental health benefits, and another 22 percent aren't sure of what the status is.
People have so much coming at them that even information critical to their health and safety gets lost in the noise. Bravo to Patrick Kennedy who travels the country keeping the parity issue on the radar, lets get behind him. The fight for parity was for naught if Americans don't know their rights. We have lots of work to do!
However, of most interest to me was the finding that by far the biggest barrier in getting mental health care was cost, followed by insurance coverage issues and confusion over where to go for such care. Least commonly expressed reasons were that people were afraid or embarrassed to seek help. Although 76 percent of Americans say people with serious mental illness experience discrimination, and have discomfort in interacting with people with serious mental illness, stigma is NOT a barrier to care for people with mental illness and their families.
Is mental health stigma overrated? Is it time to rethink anti-stigma campaigns that are based on the belief that stigma stops people from accessing services?
I must admit that I've long questioned the use of anti-stigma campaigns - fearing they do little to help people with mental illness. They have however become an industry. How about we instead put the money into services? Into better salaries to nurture a better workforce and in turn, improved access to quality care? Just think - if psychiatric social workers, psychiatrists, nurses, and peers were paid like investment bankers how quickly we could attract quality talent? And how about we if we pass the bipartisan Excellence in Mental Health Act sponsored by Senators Stabenow and Blunt? A bill that would fund treatment capacity and would help Americans identify where they could go for help and what services they could expect to get.
Delivering effective services is very hard work, I can tell you from experience it's easier to create anti-stigma campaigns and go to meetings to discuss the workforce crisis. But let's see if we can put our money to good use - let's increase treatment capacity, improve access, and enhance quality.
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
We do not normally associate the Holy Eucharist with marriage and the family. But we should. Without the Eucharist, there would not be a livable Sacrament of Matrimony or a stable Christian family.
What are we saying? We are saying that Christ intended these two sacraments to be related as condition and consequence. The Eucharist is the condition, and matrimony as the core of the family is the supernatural consequence.
Surely this calls for an explanation, and a clear explanation.
Needless to say, this is a most important subject. It is so important that the survival of Christian marriage and the Catholic family depend on it. Are we serious? Yes. The Holy Eucharist is indispensable for living out the supernatural, and therefore humanly impossible, demands that Christ places on those who enter marriage in His name.
Our plan is to cover the following areas of this fundamental issue.
• Christian marriage in the family is a life long commitment to selfless love.
• This selfless love is impossible without superhuman strength from God.
• The principal source of this superhuman strength is the Holy Eucharist.
• Christian spouses and their families are a living witness to Christ's power to work moral miracles in the world today.
• The single most important need for Christian families is a renewed faith in the Holy Eucharist.
Christian Marriage and Selfless Love
Christ instituted the sacrament of marriage in order to restore marriage to its monogamous position before the fall of our first parents.
But Christ did not stop there. He not only told His followers that marriage is a lifelong commitment that no human authority can dissolve. He further commanded those who call themselves Christians to love one another with such selfless charity as to be willing to die for one another after the example of His own selfless love of dying for us on the Cross.
This is Christian marriage as elevated by Him to the Sacrament of Matrimony. It is a lifetime covenant between husband and wife, to remain faithful to each other until death. It is also a lifelong promise, made to God under oath, to love one another with selfless charity, enduring patience, and whole hearted generosity. Even more, it is a solemn vow to accept the children that God wants to send them and educate their children for eternal life in Heaven with God.
Since the time of Christ, there have been many breaks in Christian unity. There have been many departures from the Catholic Church. There have arisen numerous churches, calling themselves Christian. Why the departures? The main single reason has been the unwillingness to accept Christ's teaching on the indissolubility and fruitfulness of Christian marriage, founded on selfless charity.
Need for Superhuman Strength
It takes no great intelligence to see that a faithful and fruitful marriage requires superhuman strength. Change the word "superhuman" to "supernatural" and we begin to see what we are talking about.
Catholic Christianity is unique among the religions of the world, whether ancient as among the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans before Christ, or among the living religions of the human race.
Catholic Christianity is unique in making demands on the morality of its believers that are beyond human nature by itself to live up to. The two hardest demands are the practice of Christian chastity and Christian charity. Combine these two virtues, and we begin to see why Christian marriage and the family require, indeed demand, superhuman power from God to remain faithful to for a lifetime.
This is what Christianity is all about: living a superhuman life by means of superhuman grace provided by Christ to those who believe that He is God who became man to enable us to witness to His name.
That is why Christ elevated marriage to the dignity of a sacrament. He had to, otherwise what He commanded His married followers and their families would be an idle dream.
There are certain things that human nature, by itself cannot, and the word is "cannot" do. Like what? Like living for a lifetime in loving family partnership, without being seduced by selfishness and sexual perversion that surround us like the atmosphere we breathe.
Entering marriage for believing Catholics is one thing. Living in Christian marriage and raising a Christian family are something else. That is why Christ instituted the Sacrament of the Eucharist. The moment we say, "Sacrament of the Eucharist," we mean a triple sacrament:
• The Sacrifice Sacrament of the Mass
• The Communion Sacrament of Holy Communion, and
• The Presence Sacrament of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.
Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist to give those who believe in Him the power they need to remain alive in His grace. For married Catholics and their families this means the light and strength they must constantly receive if they are to live out the sublime directives of the Holy Spirit for Christian believers.
They have no choice. The world in which they live is
Not to be deceived by this world, whose prince, Christ tells us, is the devil, Catholic husbands and wives and their families need the light that only Christ can give. He is available with this grace through the Holy Eucharist.
Not to be seduced by this world, master minded by Satan, Christians need the courage that only Christ can give. He tells us not to be afraid. Why not? Because, as He says, "Have confidence, I have overcome the world."
What is He telling Christian spouses and their children? He is assuring them that He is still on earth in the Blessed Sacrament; that He is still offering Himself daily on our altars in the Sacrifice of the Mass; that He is literally, physically giving Himself to them in Holy Communion. Why? In order to enable them to do what is humanly beyond their natural intelligence to comprehend and beyond their natural will power to perform.
Christian families have no choice. The psychological pressure from the world, the flesh and the devil is too strong to cope with by themselves.
The Holy Eucharist must remain, if it already is, or become, if it is not, the mainstay of their family lives. This is no option. It is a law of spiritual survival for Christian marriages and families in every age, and with thunderous emphasis, in our day.
At the turn of the twentieth century, Pope St. Pius X identified the first meaning of the petition of the Lord's prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread." The primary meaning of this petition refers to the Eucharist. We are asking God in the Our Father to open the minds and hearts of believers to their need for daily Mass, daily Holy Communion, and some daily praying before the Blessed Sacrament. Why? To provide us with the daily sustenance that our life of grace requires.
I am speaking to professed Catholics and Orthodox Christians. I am speaking about Christian marriage and the family. I am speaking to those whose union in Christ must be preserved by Christ, nourished by Christ, grow in loving chastity and charity as prescribed by Christ.
Nineteen plus centuries of Christianity proves that the Holy Eucharist is absolutely necessary for married Christians to remain faithful to each other, and selfless in their mutual love. The Holy Eucharist is absolutely necessary for Christian families to remain united in a world of selfish instability.
Witness to Christ's Power to Work Miracles
If there is one thing that stands out in Christ's visible life in Palestine it is His power to work miracles.
In one chapter after another of the Gospels, Christ performed signs and wonders that testified to His claims to being one with the Father and that, without Him, we can do nothing to reach our eternal destiny.
Where did the early Christians receive the incredible strength they needed to live in Holy Matrimony and propagate the faith through their saintly families? Remember, to become a Christian in those times meant to expect martyrdom. Where did Christians receive the superhuman power to live such superhuman lives? Where? From the Holy Eucharist.
It is not commonly known but should become known that in the early Church Christians heard Mass and received Holy Communion every day. The Holy Eucharist was brought to them in prison as they were awaiting martyrdom by fire or the sword, or by being devoured by wild beasts. We turn to our own day. What Christ did during His visible stay on earth in first century Asia Minor, He has continued doing down the ages by the exercise of His almighty power available in His invisible presence in the Holy Eucharist.
It is the same
What do we conclude from this? Obviously, that Catholic/Orthodox families be witnesses in our day to Christ's power in their lives, as were the Christians who were mangled by lions in the Roman Colosseum, or, like St. Thomas More, were beheaded by order of a lecherous king who discarded his wife in sixteenth century England.
The Greatest Need Today
This brings us to our final reflection. I make bold to say that the single most important need for Christian marriage and the family is a renewed faith in the Holy Eucharist.
There is an outstanding statement in the Gospels about Christ performing miracles. The evangelists tell us that Jesus could not work miracles among some people because of their lack of faith.
Notice what we are saying. We are saying that the Almighty Master of Heaven and earth, the Creator of the sun, moon and stars, when he became Man was unable to exercise His omnipotence because of some people's lack of faith. Of course, this means that He could not, because He would not, work miracles where the people refused to submit their minds in humble belief to His Divinity.
Now we turn to our own time and place. Would anyone doubt that in our nation in the last decade of the twentieth century, we need an avalanche of moral miracles to preserve marriage and the family from disintegration by the demonic forces let loose in our country today?
Only God can work a miracle and we need to change the figure, an ocean of miracles in America, as in Canada as in England, and France and Germany and Scandinavia, to mention just a few materially wealthy countries that are in desperate need of divine grace where so many are walking in darkness and the shadow of eternal death.
Jesus Christ is the infinite God who became man. He became man not only to die for us on Calvary. He became man to live with us in the Holy Eucharist. We have a grave responsibility. We are to stir up their faith in this continued presence of Jesus, now on earth, in our midst, in our day.
Christians are to obtain for themselves and for their contemporaries the power to live their married lives according to the teaching of Jesus Christ. He instituted the Sacrament of Matrimony and the Christian family to be a constant witness in an unbelieving world to what only God become man can achieve.
This divine power is accessible in the Holy Eucharist to those who have the humility to believe.
By Ralph H. Sidway
[Editor's Note: It is now over 100 days since our bishops - Syriac Orthodox Archbishop of Aleppo, Mor Gregorios Yuhanna Ibrahim, and the Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yazigy - were abducted on April 22, 2013 in Syria. Still no word about their condition or whereabouts. Please continue to pray for them.]
Scarcely a day goes by now where we do not read of yet another in a constellation of initiatives being undertaken by both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian government on behalf of persecuted Christians and other victims in Syria, Egypt, and elsewhere in the world.
For instance, on July 31 it was announced that a charitable drive launched at the end of June by Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia had raised US$1.3 Million to assist victims of the Syrian armed conflict. That these funds will be distributed through the auspices of both Orthodox Christian Patriarch John X of Antioch as well as Supreme Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun of Syria, shows the Moscow Patriarchate's application of the Christian principle of caring for one's neighbor, regardless of creed.
This may not seem like a lot of money, but it is underscored by another program run by the Moscow Patriarchate, a "boots on the ground" affair in which representatives of the Russian Church enter harm's way to personally deliver to Syria shipments of much needed medical equipment:
"Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church have carried medical equipment at the amount of about three million rubles to Damascus," said Hieromonk Efrem, acting representative of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia for the Patriarch of Antioch.
Yet the Russian Church is not limiting her involvement with world affairs to "mere" acts of grassroots charity.
In July, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, together with Russian President Vladimir Putin, took the occasion of the recent celebrations in Moscow, Kiev and Belarus of the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Rus into Orthodox Christianity as the ideal opportunity to nurture the conciliar ties among the Local Orthodox Churches, who together comprise the world's second largest Christian communion, with an estimated 225-300 million members.
Putin, in his address to the assembled hierarchs, affirmed the significance of the moment:
At a time when people are again in a search for moral supports, millions of our fellow citizens see them in religion and trust the wise pastoral guidance of the Russian Orthodox Church. Her selfless service of education is extremely called for and her public authority and peace efforts are aimed at strengthening harmony and stability and restoration of historical relations between our peoples and with our compatriots abroad…
This strengthening of Orthodox Christian ties is central to Russia's foreign policy as well:
Putin noted that in many regions of the world, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, inter-confessional tensions were growing and the rights of religious minorities including Christians were infringed upon. "I believe" he said, "this acute problem should become a subject of close attention of the international community. Our country will continue pursuing an active creative policy towards the soonest possible settlement of conflict situations. And here, of course, the active stand, participation and support of Local Orthodox Churches and their primates are very important for us."
Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev) of Volokalamsk, head of the Russian Orthodox Church's DECR (Department for External Church Relations), at a meeting of Russian traditional religious leaders with (then Prime Minister) Vladimir Putin in February 2012, laid out the concerns of the Russian Church regarding her fellow Christians in the Muslim world:
I would like to speak about the situation of Christian minority in the Middle East and in some other countries… Christians are killed, Christian women are raped, Christian Churches are burned down, mass exodus of Christians from the lands, where they used to live in peace with Muslims and representatives of other religions, is taking place.
Metropolitan Hilarion expressed his wish that… systematic protection of Christians subjected to persecution in different countries will be one of the trends in Russian foreign policy.
At the conclusion of his speech Metropolitan Hilarion noted that "Strong Russia is the country which protects Christian minorities in these countries and insists on providing guaranties for the rights of Christians being observed in exchange for political support or economic aid."
Vladimir Putin said in reply: "You can be sure of it. There is no doubt about that."
Putin's upcoming visit to Egypt should be a prime example of how this Russian foreign policy emphasis will work. According to a report at Debka.com:
For Putin, this will be his second trip to Cairo; his first took place in 2005 when Hosni Mubarak was president. He will play it to the hilt as a platform to show the world, and especially Arab Muslims, that he alone of the world's five leading powers is openly committed to fighting radical Islam and ready to assist any Arab leader sharing this commitment.
This tough realpolitik approach is the only way to confront Islamic supremacists, and at the same time protect the world's persecuted Christian communities. Indeed, Putin's vigorous approach to foreign policy is like clear, fresh water, after being exposed for so long to the muck of the Obama administration's incomprehensible support of toxic Islamic extremists and terrorists in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria and elsewhere.
The United States, unmoored from her Christian and moral foundations, and with her leadership enabling Islamic extremists and terrorists, herself founders in the raging waves of history, and has already abandoned the world's Christians to perish in the tempest.
Whereas it is Russia, led by her revitalized Christian conscience - personified in the resurgent Russian Orthodox Church- which presents an image of assured strength, moral clarity, and unflinching resolve in the face of evil. Russia has founded her house on a rock, and, having been already tested by decades of persecution, knows how to endure the storms of history.
Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of 'Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad'.
Source: RaymondIbrahim.com; © 2013 Raymond Ibrahim
by Michael Josephson, www.whatwillmatter.com
Two frogs named Will and Fern fell into a deep pit together. At first, they thought it would be easy to jump out. But after lots of failed attempts they cried for help and a crowd of animals gathered around the pit.
Everyone agreed it was hopeless so they urged Will and Fern to accept their fate. The harder the trapped frogs jumped, the more the crowd yelled at them to give up. Finally, Will stopped trying. Fern refused to quit and with one mighty try she leaped out of the pit.
The crowd was amazed. Someone asked her why she kept trying when everyone told her she had no chance.
Fern was baffled. "What are you saying?" she asked. "I'm a bit deaf. I was sure you were all cheering me on. I couldn't have done it without your encouragement."
I learned of this story from a woman who was in a transitional housing program recovering from a long period of drug abuse, homelessness and hopelessness. She wanted everyone to understand how important positivism and encouragement can be to help people who seem down and out to get up and out. She said she got out of her own pit because caring people helped her believe in herself and gave her the confidence she needed to jump a little harder.
There will always be people in your life ready to tell you what you can't do. Real friends root for you, support you and help you discover your inner talents and strengths.
I hope you will find and treasure those kinds of friends and be one yourself.
Remember, character counts.
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