Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

LL HH Ignatius Zakka 1 Iwas, Mid Lent Supplement

Volume 4 No. 204 March 24, 2014

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Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and the East

Farewell to a True Shepherd

Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Patriarch of Antioch and All The East
Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church

April 21, 1933 - March 21, 2014

.. A Shepherd Who Has Captivated The Hearts of People All Over The World

Please visit Malankara World Memorial Page for more information
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/News/zakka1Iwas-home.htm

SOCM Facebook Page for the Most up-to-the-minute information

Viswasa Samrakshakan Special Issue on LL Patriarch - March 23, 2014

Photos Courtesy of SOCM

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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I. LL IGNATIUS ZAKKA I IWAS

1. Passing Away of a Legend and a True Shepherd

Is it any wonder that around 125 AD, the Greek scholar Aristides marveled at the enormous hope Christians had, even in death? He wrote: "When a member of the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God. They escort the body to burial with songs and thanksgiving, as if he were setting out from one place to another place nearby." ...

Do you have this hope in God that these early Christians had? Their faith was real, active - touching every part of their lives, even the most sorrowful moments - even at death.

II. ANNUNCIATION TO ST. MARY - BIBLE READINGS AND SERMONS

2. Bible Readings for Annunciation to St. Mary (Mar 25)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_annunciation_mary.htm

3. Sermons for Annunciation to St. Mary (Mar 25)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_annunciation_Mary.htm

4. Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary

For more articles, hymns, prayers, and eBooks on St. Mary as well as special issues of Malankara World Journal themed on Annunciation to St. Mary, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary here:

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

III. MID-LENT: BIBLE READINGS AND SERMONS

5. Bible Readings for Mid-Lent (March 26)

Bible Readings For The Fourth Wednesday of Great Lent (Mid Lent)
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_Mid-Lent.htm

6. Sermons for Mid-Lent (March 26)

Sermons For The Fourth Wednesday of Great Lent (Mid Lent)
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Mid-Lent.htm

7. Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Daily Meditations, Reflections, Prayers, and Bible Readings for Mid Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_today-Day24.htm

Week 4 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week4.htm

8. Inspiration for Today: In Exchange For The Cross

When Christians come to their King, they exchange the flourishes of their former life for a cross. ...

9. Featured: Elevation of the Cross - Saved by The Cross

Christ is showing us that just as the faithful Israelites were healed through this symbol of death (i.e, the serpent) so are we saved through Christ who was hung upon the Cross. And while the Cross was the symbol of death, like the serpent, it now becomes the symbol of life. In this instance, we are faced with another of those phenomenal paradoxes. ...

10. Seven Ways The Cross Speaks

It is said that when hymn pollsters report which hymn is most frequently requested, "The Old Rugged Cross" is hands-down the most popular. The author of that hymn, George Bennard, believed the cross wasn't just a symbol of Christianity, but the very heart of it.

I a few weeks, the Christians from all over the world will be celebrating the passion of Christ. It is indeed the focus of God's redemption. The cross speaks of so much we need to understand about God, ourselves, our need, our duty, and our hope. While contemplating the cross recently, I jotted down seven ways the cross speaks. ...

11. Under the Shadow of the Cross

It is very important to take a step back from our highly competitive, fast-paced, over consuming, rat race and take a second look at ourselves and ponder over the meaning of life and where we are headed. Lenten season provides an occasion for that. The cross of Jesus Christ and his life that led up to it provides a frame for a proper perspective on our life and its pre-occupations. ...

12. How I Found Joy in Sorrow and Pain

There is no joy without suffering. There is no life without death. It need not have been this way, it is not God's design; it is ours. Now that we know, now that our God has revealed to us his infinite goodness and love for us, we are able to bear our pains and suffering upon the hope and joy that Jesus has won for us.

And with this knowledge, we are able to grow spiritually, grow in holiness; knowing that nothing in this life need be lasting… no sin that is unforgivable, no one lost who is beyond redemption, no sorrow that cannot be healed with God's love and mercy. ...

13. Serpents, Penguins, and Crosses

What kind of God do we serve, who can use serpents and penguins, and all manner of things to draw people to himself? We serve a God who can use any event in our lives to bring about salvation. ...

For those that are lost, Christ has come searching. For those in the darkness, the light is shined. And everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will have eternal life. ...

14. Food for the Taking

When Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years, God supplied bread for them to eat. Without God's provision, they never would have survived.

It's the same for us. We, like the Israelites, are walking through the dry and dreary wilderness of life, with constant dependency on, and need for, spiritual food - God's Word. Just like the manna that fell from the skies, His Word is offered to us fresh every morning, bringing nourishment to all who will eat. ...

15. Moses' Travels: A Mathematical Miracle

Moses and the people were in the desert, but what was he going to do with them? They had to be fed. Feeding, two or three million people requires a lot of food.

According to the Quartermaster General in the army, it is reported that Moses would have had to have had 1500 tons of food each day. Do you know that, to bring that much food each day, two freight trains, each a mile long, would be required. ...

16. About Malankara World

Passing Away of a Legend and a True Shepherd

by Dr. Jacob Mathew
Editor-in-Chief, Malankara World

"The Holy Synod of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch sadly announces the passing away of His Holiness Mar Ignatius Zakka I lwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and the Supreme Head of the Syrian Orthodox Church, who joined the heavenly adobe in Germany in the morning of Friday 21 March 2014 after a lengthy struggle with disease and sickness. It is the greatest grief of the Syrian Orthodox Church and the saddest event in the Christian world and nations. With his passing away, the Church lost Her leader, guide and teacher, the role model and national personality par excellence. ..."

Thus began the announcement from Mor Theophilus George Saliba, Archbishop of Mount Lebanon and General Secretary of the Holy Synod from St. Jacob Baradetts Monastery in Lebanon where the Patriarchate had been shifted from Syria due to the war and turmoil there. The announcement came early Friday in US time and shook all the Jacobite faithfuls worldwide. Although, we knew that our bava was very sick, we were all on "denial"; it cannot happen. The cause of the death was a massive heart attack while in Kiel. The mortal remains was brought to Mor Yacoub of Sarug monastery in Warburg, Germany from Kiel on Friday and was on public view on Saturday and Sunday. On Sunday the part I of the funeral service (the equivalent service we normally conduct at home before taking the body to the church in case of Laity) and Qurbana was held.


After the funeral services in Germany on Sunday, March 23, 2014

The mortal remains of the Moran will be taken to Lebanon on Monday, March 24.

The funeral services will be held at St. Jacob Baradetts Monastery in Lebanon on Friday, March 28 under the lead of HB Baselios Thomas I Catholica Bava (who, in the absence of the Patriarch, is the top ranking bishop in the Patriarchate.)

Our Catholica Bava and 25 bishops from Malankara will depart for Lebanon on Wednesday (March 26) from Kerala.

After the funeral services in Lebanon, the body will be taken by road from Lebanon to Damascus (a 3-4 hour journey) and the late lamented shepherd's mortal remains will be interred at St. Jacob Baradetts Monastery as per the wish of the Moran.

Condolences started pouring in from the time of the announcement of the Moran's death. The newspapers in Kerala were all full of the stories of the passing away of the era for the Syrian Christians. The political and spiritual heads sent messages praising the contributions of the bava ecumenically and the Christianity in general.

The whole Christian world has lost one of its outstanding spiritual leaders, courageous and wise in leading people through very difficult times. ..
Pope Francis

The Syrian Orthodox Church has lost a "good shepherd," who fulfilled the mission of the Holy Church of Christ with deep and loving devotion over the last thirty four years. With great zeal and wisdom, His Holiness Ignatius Zakka I of blessed memory shepherded the Syrian Orthodox Church especially during the current challenging period of political upheaval in the Middle East. ..
HH Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians

His Holiness was known for his enduring ministry in very difficult and trying circumstances, and made important contributions to ecumenical dialogue. He was a member of different Eastern and Western Academies and the author of a number of books on Christian education, theology, history, and culture in the Syriac, Arabic and English languages....
Archbishop of Canterbury

Patriarch Zakka served the ecumenical movement for many decades. He was elected as one of the WCC Presidents from Harare (1998) to Porto Alegre (2006) in recognition of his longstanding ecumenical commitment. As Metropolitan of his Church, he had participated in many meetings and committees of the WCC, including its central committee. He had also represented his church as an observer to the Vatican II. His contribution to the dialogue of his church with Rome resulted in important Christological agreements, helping to overcome theological confusions and misunderstandings which had divided Christians for centuries.

He was also deeply involved in the ecumenical movement in the Middle East, being among the founders and subsequently a supporter and leader of the Middle East Council of Churches. He had developed excellent relationships and channels of collaborations with the heads of the other Oriental Orthodox Churches in the Middle East, and with the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit,WCC general secretary

His Holiness was a true shepherd and pastor, known for his humility, dignity and love. He was a longtime contemporary, friend and brother to H.H. Pope Shenouda III of Blessed Memory. Illness did not keep him away from the funeral of Pope Shenouda in March 2012, nor from the enthronement of H.H. Pope Tawadros II in November 2012.
Coptic Orthodox Church

"His wisdom and compassion were a source of guidance and inspiration to his followers. I convey my sincere condolences to all his disciples and admirers."
Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India

And so on, it went. The humility of the Patriarch was praised. The sadness of the Patriarch for his inability to bring a lasting peace in the church was also mentioned. But then, we have to remember that God has His own plans. When David wanted to build a temple, God told him that it will be done by his successor, not by him. It will happen when God wants that to happen, not when we want it.

The biography of the Moran is well known. If you didn't know it before, I am sure you know it by now from all the write-up about him lately. I do not want to repeat it here. In case, you want to read more, please visit Malankara World Memorial Portal on the LL Patriarch Zakka 1 Iwas here. You will learn about the latest plans of the funeral etc. Malankara Vision had been doing live coverage of the events. SOCM Facebook page had been providing up-to-the-minute coverage of the events all over the world. We want to thank all the volunteers who make this feasible so we are kept informed.

There is a 30-day mourning period for the Moran. The Universal Synod will meet to elect the next Patriarch. It will be headed by our Catholica bava HB Baselios Thomas I. There will be 5 electors from Malankara including HE Yeldo Mor Theethose, Archbishop of the MASOC-NA. Three other archbishops from the North America from the Syrian side means that North America will be well represented in the electorate.

When Rev. Fr. Mathew Karuthalackal called me early on Friday and told me about the passing away of our Shepherd, the first feeling I had was similar to what later D. Babu Paul described, "I felt like an orphan." It was the same feeling the disciples had when Jesus told them He had to go. It is important for us to realize that, although we feel sad at the departure of our spiritual father, it is part of God's plan. Jesus told the disciples that unless he departs, the Holy Spirit won't come down to counsel them and to take them to the next level. We, Christians, do not see death as the end; but as a beginning. It is the end of our earthly life; but it is the beginning of eternal life with our savior, something we all look forward to. Unless a seed falls and dies, the plant cannot grow from it. Similarly, our dear ones and spiritual fathers have to die so that they can prepare a place for us in the next phase of our life.

One of my favorite bible verse is Psalm 30:5:

"Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

We may be weeping today for the departed shepherd; but our grief will be short lived. I want to quote Stephen Davey who expressed our faith and hope beautifully in a devotional titled, "Almost Home."

Whether you have little faith or great faith;
are a mature disciple or an immature one;
have been a Christian for years or have just recently received Christ -
you are on your way to heaven. Your hope is secure in Christ.

Is it any wonder that around 125 AD, the Greek scholar Aristides marveled at the enormous hope Christians had, even in death? He wrote: "When a member of the Christians passes from this world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God. They escort the body to burial with songs and thanksgiving, as if he were setting out from one place to another place nearby."

Do you have this hope in God that these early Christians had? Their faith was real, active - touching every part of their lives, even the most sorrowful moments - even at death.

Don Wyrtzen so beautifully wrote this truth into his song, "Finally Home":

Just think of stepping on shore, and finding it heaven;
Of holding a hand and finding it God's;
Of breathing new air and finding it celestial;
Of waking up in glory . . . and finding it home!

This is wonderful poetry but an even greater reminder - heaven is not some figment of your imagination; it is real, and far beyond your wildest dreams!

Do you have unanswered questions, fears, or doubts about eternity? If so, be encouraged. The truth is, we all do. But there will come a day when all our questions will have answers, and all our fears will be put to rest - not to mention that all our tears will be wiped away!

It will not happen here. It will happen there . . . when we are finally home. But until we reach that glorious land, remember that Jesus Christ is completely trustworthy and faithful, regardless of what you see happening around you. He will stay true to His Word.

You can bet your life . . . and your death on it!

Isn't that beautiful?; and so true. The promise of what we can expect is clearly stated in Revelations 21:4 and Isaiah 25:8

"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."
Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

He will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.

Isaiah 25:8 (NIV)

So, today, we may be sad and crying or feel like an orphan. But a day will come when our tears are wiped clean. There wont be any death, mourning or crying or pain. We will be with our Lord in eternal life. That is our faith and assurance. Yes, you can be sure about it!

Let us pray to our almighty Lord to accept the soul of our Moran on the lap of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Rejoice, we have one more person who can intercede on our behalf.
 

ANNUNCIATION TO ST. MARY -
BIBLE READINGS AND SERMONS

Bible Readings for Annunciation to St. Mary (Mar 25)

Sermons for Annunciation to St. Mary (Mar 25)

Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary

For more articles, hymns, prayers, and eBooks on St. Mary, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary here:

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

Here are some Malankara World Journal Specials on Annunciation to St. Mary:

Volume 3 No 132: Mar 21 2013
Palm Sunday and Annunciation to St. Mary

Volume 2 No 110: Nov 22 2012
Theme: Advent - Annunciation to St. Mary

Volume 2 No 65: March 22 2012

Volume 1 No 39: November 17 2011

Mid-Lent Services in Church
BIBLE READINGS AND SERMONS
Bible Readings for Mid-Lent (March 26)

Bible Readings For The Fourth Wednesday of Great Lent (Mid Lent)

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for Mid-Lent (March 26)

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc.

If you only have a few minutes to spend a day, you can read short reflective articles and meditations. If you have more time, there is bible readings, and others to enrich your day.

Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Daily Meditations, Reflections, Prayers, and Bible Readings for Mid Lent

Lenten Reflection for Mid Lent

Mid Lent and Erection of Golgotha

Mid-Lent and the Holy Cross

Week 4 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week4.htm
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: In Exchange For The Cross

by Lynn Jost

During his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia [1770-1840] found himself in trouble. Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances. He couldn't disappoint his people, and to capitulate to the enemy was unthinkable.

After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia t size="3"o bring their jewelry of gold and silver to be melted down for their country. For each ornament received, he determined to exchange a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude. Each decoration would be inscribed, "I gave gold for iron, 18l3."

The response was overwhelming. Even more important, these women prized their gifts from the king more highly than their former jewelry. The reason, of course, is clear. The decorations were proof that they had sacrificed for their king. Indeed, it became unfashionable to wear jewelry, and thus was established the Order of the Iron Cross. Members wore no ornaments except a cross of iron for all to see.

When Christians come to their King, they too exchange the flourishes of their former life for a cross.

Featured: Elevation of the Cross - Saved by The Cross

by Fr. Nick Brown, Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George, Brisbane QLD, Australia

In the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Today's Gospel reading (John 3:13-17) contains a preparatory reminder of the Passion of Christ. In one of the passages, Jesus tells us that just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up. This is a referral to the Old Testament Book of Numbers (21:9), where the Israelites, after they were released from bondage in Egypt and were wandering around in the desert wilderness, were overcome by venomous snakes. As a cure for the snakebites, God commanded Moses to fashion a brass serpent, to place it on a standard or post, and whosoever was to gaze upon the serpent would immediately be healed. Here Christ is again using the Old Testament as a pedagogical or teaching tool, to show us that He is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant.

Christ is showing us that just as the faithful Israelites were healed through this symbol of death (i.e, the serpent) so are we saved through Christ who was hung upon the Cross. And while the Cross was the symbol of death, like the serpent, it now becomes the symbol of life. In this instance, we are faced with another of those phenomenal paradoxes. Other examples of these paradoxes would be 'God becomes man' or 'a virgin gives birth' etc. Yet, as unfathomable as some of these things may be to us, the earthly existence of the Saviour was prefigured throughout the Old Testament. Christ becomes the new Adam; Jonah in the belly of the fish foreshadows Christ in the tomb after His crucifixion, as well as the brass serpent as prefiguring the saving act of Christ's death on the Cross. While the serpent or snake symbolized sin and its deadly effect in the Old Testament, the brass serpent symbolized the bearing away of the curse and judgement of sin. Furthermore, the metal itself was figurative of the righteousness of God's judgement. In case you were wondering where you might have seen the emblem of a serpent wrapped around a pole, it has been adopted by society as the symbol of the medical profession.

As Christians, we should never underestimate the importance of the Old Testament and its place within our lives, because, basically, without the Old Testament we would never be able to fully understand the message of the New Testament. Without the Old Testament we would not understand what Christ was referring to in tonight's Gospel. Our Church Fathers have always emphasized the importance of the Old Testament and its message as being the inspired Word of God that points the way to our salvation. So if the message of the Old Testament is referred to in short as something that points the way, what then, in short, is the message of the New Testament?

Jesus sums it up entirely by saying, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life". That is ultimately the message of the Gospels summed up in 25 words. God's love for us; God loving us so much that He sends His Son for us; our faith or belief in the Son; and our guaranteed eternal existence because of God's love, because Jesus has come, and because of our faith in Him. This small but important passage is the essence of our faith. If someone who had never in their life heard of Christianity, what we believe, what we practice etc., this would be the primary passage which would illustrate everything about God, about us, and about our salvation.

Continuing on from this passage, Jesus states that, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved". Now Jesus never condemned anyone whilst here on earth. He was very stern with many, He even condemned the practices of some of the Pharisees, but He never condemned anyone to eternal suffering; to a hell. In fact, God doesn't send people to hell.

Our whole understanding of what heaven and hell is, has been so distorted and abused by the teachings of the Western churches that it has even entered our Church and made us blind to the teachings of the Gospel and the teachings of the Church Fathers. Heaven is not up there, and hell is not down there. You want to know what hell is? Hell is an absence of God (whether it's here on this earth or in the afterlife), and it is a turning away from God. You want to know who condemns us to hell? We condemn ourselves. To find yourself in hell is to turn your back on God, to reject God, to reject His mercy. There are people out there who are living in hell on this earth right now, and the sad thing is that they often don't realise it. They love to blame society, those around them, even the Church, but the answers to their problems are inside of them! All they need to do is to discover God and His kingdom within them, and then will they realize what they've been missing all this time. God can't condemn us to an eternity of misery. It's just not in His nature. He can only love, but He can't force you to love Him. If you choose to turn your back on God, turn your back on His unconditional love, then you will create your own hell.

Our relationship with Our Father in Heaven is very similar to that of a married couple. For a relationship to really work, you need the cooperation of both parties, but more importantly you need mutual love for each other. It's similar between God and us, with the only difference being that He can't do anything but love. Yet, so often we turn our relationship into a one sided affair. It's a case of too much me, me, me, and not enough of Him. We are in this 'marriage' together for eternity. Let's not let it end in divorce, but let's make it work. Better still, let's encourage and help those around us to maintain this relationship, this marriage with the Creator.

Amen.

Seven Ways The Cross Speaks

By Rev. Mark H. Creech

It is said that when hymn pollsters report which hymn is most frequently requested, "The Old Rugged Cross" is hands-down the most popular. The author of that hymn, George Bennard, believed the cross wasn't just a symbol of Christianity, but the very heart of it.

In the days to come Christians from all over the world will be celebrating the passion of Christ. It is indeed the focus of God's redemption. The cross speaks of so much we need to understand about God, ourselves, our need, our duty, and our hope.

While contemplating the cross recently, I jotted down seven ways the cross speaks.

1. The cross points to our sinful condition. We may think of ourselves as good and worthy persons, but the cross says we are all sinners and deserving of death and judgment. Moreover, it says our sin is so great it required the blood of God's own precious and innocent Son to atone for it. The suffering of Christ on the cross was the wrath we deserve for our many trespasses of God's law.

The Bible says, "For the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin" (II Cor. 5:21).

2. The cross speaks of God's incredible love and amazing grace. I must confess I might be willing to give my life for a good person. Nevertheless, I seriously doubt I would be willing to give the life of my own son or daughter to save an enemy. Yet, this is what God did when he gave Christ to save and provide us with the gift of eternal life. In our rejection of God's order for our lives, we are spiritual outlaws. But by the Cross, God pursues us and makes an offer of reconciliation not based in our merit, but based in his goodness.

The Bible says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16) "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

3. The cross shows how much God hates sin. Some mistake God's patience with sinful behavior for his approval. God is not willing, however, that any should perish in judgment. He waits and yearns for people to turn away from their sins. Still, the horrific scene on that cross demonstrates God's anger with every effort to usurp his sovereign authority. It is true that God is a loving God. Nevertheless, the cross reveals God is also just and will deal harshly with those who fail to accept his remedy over their rebellion. We either accept God's punishment for our sins via Christ on the cross, or face our own punishment.

The Bible says, "The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). "God is a righteous judge, and a God who is indignant all the day" (Psalm 7:11). "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap" (Gal. 6:7).

4. The cross speaks of the putting away of guilt. Recently, a young woman who was a waitress in a restaurant confided in me that she had made a number of grievous errors in life. She said she had asked God for forgiveness, but she still felt guilty. I encouraged her to look to the cross every time she felt the sting of guilt, and then to tell herself, every one of my sins died with Jesus on that cross – my shame and guilt were put away there. Suddenly, her face beamed with misty eyes as she embraced the joy of knowing that because of the cross her reproach was already gone.

The Bible says, "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).

5. The cross indicts the wisdom of men. Today, the so-called learned, the intellectual, the humanist, the atheist, deems the cross to be a matter of foolishness. But it is not through philosophy, psychology, science, technology, or similar disciplines of mankind that God has chosen to save the world; instead it's through the cross. The cross is sheer nonsense to many, but for those who have experienced its power first-hand, they know it's the only way the ills of the individual and the world can forever be changed. I think it's also significant that every major advancement of mankind in some way can be traced back to the church holding high the banner of the cross.

The Bible says, "Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles..." (I Cor.1:20-23).

6. The cross speaks of the way we should live. We live in a time when we are told the way to fulfillment is to accumulate all you can, enjoy all the pleasure you can, don't deny yourself, for today you live and tomorrow you die. Be your own god and serve yourself is the message. But the cross instructs us that meaning comes to life by what we give and not what we get. Purpose is found in giving one's life away to God and one's fellowman, not by keeping it for ourselves. Furthermore, there is no redemption in any circumstance without sacrifice – without a cross. It is through the cross that real brotherhood is forged. The cross obligates each of us to treat others in the same self-sacrificial and gracious way God in Christ has related to us.

The Bible says, "And he [Jesus] said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me'" (Lk. 9;23). "For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matt. 16:25).

7. The cross promises tragedy can be turned to triumph. What could be worse than God's own Son, innocent and just in all his ways, crucified upon a cruel cross? Yet, God took the greatest tragedy of human history and turned it into our salvation. Perhaps someone asks, what could be worse than what has happened to me? I've lost my job. I have cancer. I'm in prison. I just lost a loved one in death, etc. The cross tells us that God specializes in taking the worst of situations and turning them into something incredibly wonderful. We tap into that power of transformation when we listen to what the cross tells us and believe. We may not understand all the reasons why we suffer, but the cross says that God is not aloof from our sufferings. He participates with us in our pain and ultimately he will make right every wrong.

The Bible says, "What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:31,32)

Is there anything so blessed as the cross of Christ? I think not. Its message is the essence of Christianity. It speaks to our greatest questions – our greatest longings.

Therefore, I too, along with George Bennard and millions of others around the world, say,

"So I'll cherish the old rugged cross,
Till my trophies at last I lay down;
I will cling to the old rugged cross,
And exchange it some day for a crown.
I pray that you will do the same.

Passages of Scripture were taken from King James Version, New International Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, Darby Bible Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, New American Standard Bible, and English Standard Version.

© Rev. Mark H. Creech

About The Author:

Rev. Mark H. Creech is Executive Director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc. Rev. Creech is a prolific speaker and writer, and has served as a radio commentator for Christians In Action, a daily program featuring Rev. Creech's commentary on social issues from a Christian worldview.

Under the Shadow of the Cross

by Rev. Thomas John M.A., M.Div.

It is very important to take a step back from our highly competitive, fast-paced, over consuming, rat race and take a second look at ourselves and ponder over the meaning of life and where we are headed. Lenten season provides an occasion for that. The cross of Jesus Christ and his life that led up to it provides a frame for a proper perspective on our life and its pre-occupations.

First, during the Lenten season, fasting and abstinence from foods, provide us with an occasion to remind ourselves that life has a meaning beyond eating, drinking and satisfying our basic needs. While it is true that those basic needs are essential for life, we are reminded that 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' (Matt.4:4) This is often referred to as the spiritual dimension of human beings. Human beings have a special calling to live in obedience to God and in responsibility to his fellow humanity and the world of nature to which they are inextricably bound. St Augustine's prayer exemplifies this very aptly: "Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee." We can smother this longing for an ultimate meaning and purpose in life by being busy with worldly matters and indulging in worldly pleasures, but it continues to burn in us as a smoldering fire and makes us restless.

Jesus reminds the crowd that followed him after the feeding of five thousand: "Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you." (John 6: 27). ‘Food that spoils' alludes to manna which God had given to the people of Israel in their journey through the desert. (Exodus 16: 13-21) They hoarded manna against the command of God. It bread worms and became foul; it was spoiled. ‘Food that endures for eternal life' is the food in God's dispensation that God provides equally to all and according to each ones need. There is no hoarding of food in God's dispensation. There will be caring and sharing and concern for equity. During lent, we are given an occasion to remind ourselves of the vanity of our consumptive life style and what makes for happy life.

Moreover, it reminds us of our responsibility to earth and nature. God created us in his image so that we may image God to the rest of creation; in other words, we are expected to act as God's representatives and stewards to the rest of creation. As Mahatma Gandhi said: "There is enough for everybody's need, but not enough for anybody's greed." Lenten season gives us an occasion to reflect on and repent of our exploitative attitude and over consumptive life style and our failure to be good stewards of the resources of this earth. It is in this responsibility to the other - our fellow human beings and nature - that we become spiritual. The Russian thinker and theologian, Nicolas Berdyaev, has succinctly put it: "Bread for myself is a material concern, but bread for my neighbour is a spiritual concern." We have a responsibility to ensure that everybody else in the world has enough to satisfy their hunger. Our responsibility and concern should go beyond our self and our immediate relations to encompass all people in need and this beautiful earth, including the flora and fauna.

Fasting and abstaining from foods will not have any meaning unless we make a determined effort to reverse all exploitative, unjust, dominating and oppressive relationships. Isaiah 58: 6-9 describes the fast that is acceptable to God in the following words:

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
To loose the chains of injustice
And untie the chords of the yoke,
To set the oppressed free
And break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
And to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
When you see the naked, to clothe them,
And not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
And your healing will quickly appear"

We find Jesus Christ as the one who has taken responsibility for his fellow human beings and the rest of creation and paid the cost for it with his life. On his cross we find love in action. On his cross we also find reflected the terrible consequences of our sin; what it had done to one who came to give us life and life abundant; how we have forfeited our great inheritance as God's own Children. But, on the cross we also find the out stretched arms that are always ready to embrace a 'wretch like me'. And on his resurrection, we are given the hope and promise of a new life, a new creation, and a 'new heaven and earth'.

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Let us make this Lenten season an occasion for awakening the "spirit" within us and set it aflame so that from our life there would flow greater light and life to the world around. May we, thus, experience the power of his resurrection in our life and be agents of that power to a world subjected to decay under the power of sin.

Prayer

O God of our Lord, Jesus Christ, help us during this Lenten season to remember that we are mere dust and yet you have created us and shaped us in your image and breathed your life giving breath into our nostrils that we should image God's love and care to the rest of Creation. We thank you for this election and calling of us to be your children and representatives. But we ask your forgiveness that we have often led our lives in forgetfulness of our election and calling; that your abundant life has been poured into earthen vessels. We pray for your grace to recommit ourselves to the path of the cross and thus dead to sin, we may rise to eternal life with you.

Copyright © Rev Thomas John

How I Found Joy in Sorrow and Pain

By Deacon Mike Bickerstaff

The Cross is the great paradox of Christianity. More than a few people have asked me over the years why our Church focuses so prominently and persistently on the Crucifix. One inquirer even suggested that the Crucifix is too intense a reminder of the sorrow in the world and that she would never join a church that displayed a sign of such cruel violence.

Vale of Tears

We are, however, taught that we are pilgrims in this "vale of tears." The Salve Regina includes the words, "To thee [Mary] do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears."

Again, the inquirer might ask, "Why would I want to join up with a bunch that is so pessimistic about life?"

To be sure, this life on earth is filled with hardships, pain and suffering. Who among us has not suffered?

Looking back over my life, I can recall numerous occasions of pain. My earliest memories of pain involved occasions of embarrassment as a very young child; the events do not count for much now, but at the time, mortification would not have been too strong a word to describe my feelings. There followed all of the normal moments of discomfort that can be expected to be experienced by a child and young teenager growing up in an affluent country. Real suffering and loss had not yet arrived; Unlike too many today, I have not suffered from hunger, serious illness or homelessness… but I would come to be greatly affected by death.

When I turned 16 years of age, the first loss from death intruded into my life. Uncles and aunts had died previously, but the impact of their deaths on me was minimal. Now I would feel the loss in a most intense way; my father died when the turmoil of the teen years was most challenging. I was lost both due to the hole in my heart left by the death of a father I loved and also due to the selfish anger I experienced which I directed at others I loved and respected.

"We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28)

I did not understand then, but came to know with greater confidence much later in life, that God never forsakes us, especially in our time of sorrow and pain. The most enduring emotion of those days and years following the death of my father was a feeling of separation - the divide that separated my earthly father from me. And the more I thought of this loss, the more aware I became of that separation. For a long while, the dawning certainty that I would never again be together with my father grew. Although I accepted the assurances of family and friends that I would be together again with my father in the life to come, such a thought did not comfort me; it had little meaning. I came to believe that not even time would heal the hurt.

Before things would improve for me, I also went through a long period of regret; regret of a son who did not love his father perfectly, regret for all the little ways I failed to return my father's love when he was alive… and later, regret for how I selfishly redirected my anger towards my mother who was hurting as much or more than I was. There was much work for God to do with me, if I would let him.

Separation from the Heavenly Father

Time does heal, but not in the way we often think. Many years later, when I began taking my faith more seriously, I began to meditate on the Persons of God; the Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus - the Incarnate God; the lives of the saints and my own life.

And so it was that my time with my earthly father and the years since his death became a part of my prayerful reflections. Maybe for the first time, I seriously considered the well-being of my father instead of self. My prayers for him became more urgent, more real. My prayer turned outward, concerned for others and not just for my needs and wants.

Through prayer, God revealed to me his (God's) love that never fails; a love that is never absent from our lives, no matter where we try to run and hide. God the Father was waiting for my humility to overcome pride and self-absorption. I came to better realize that the pain of loss and the heightened awareness of separation from my earthly father also applied to my relationship with God. The cause of the suffering and sorrow of this "vale of tears" was our own doing - the separation from God the Father that we suffered at the Fall of Mankind and continue to cause through our own personal sin.

And here is another paradox - the closer we grow in relationship to God, the more aware we become of our separation from him. But for the Christian, this is not a cause for added sorrow alone, but for joy as well; for we come to understand that his love will defeat all sorrow and will erase all pain in the end. This is not a spirit of pessimism or of disordered focus on suffering; it is a spirit of hopefulness.

It is said that the souls suffering in Purgatory experience a far greater suffering than we do on earth, for they now know the effect and degree of their sin, the harm their sins have caused and the justice of their punishments, but they are also said to be more filled with joy than we are because they are certain of their destination and of God's love for them. Yes, their suffering is more intense because they are more aware of their separation from God, but their joy is more intense because they are more aware of God's love for them and the certainty that they will spend all eternity singing his praises in Heaven… heightened joy of knowing they will soon be with God, but sorrow that it is just not yet.

The Path to Glory Leads through the Cross

John 12:20-33 reminds us of this. God loves you so much that he became man to suffer and die so that you might live; for us, a reason for sorrow, yet also a reason for joy. And so, in the gospel narratives for Passion Sunday, we see the joy of the entry into Jerusalem and the horror of the Passion. We will not see the joy of the Resurrection until the victory over death is apparent on Easter Sunday.

"… we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us." (Romans 5:3-5)

There is no joy without suffering. There is no life without death. It need not have been this way, it is not God's design; it is ours. Now that we know, now that our God has revealed to us his infinite goodness and love for us, we are able to bear our pains and suffering upon the hope and joy that Jesus has won for us.

And with this knowledge, we are able to grow spiritually, grow in holiness; knowing that nothing in this life need be lasting… no sin that is unforgivable, no one lost who is beyond redemption, no sorrow that cannot be healed with God's love and mercy.

My father taught me the love of God by how he lived his life. The sorrow I experienced after his death led me to become intensely aware of our separation, but more importantly of his love and goodness. That realization led me to better appreciate God the Father's love for me even while making me more aware of what separates us. The sorrow that comes from that awareness causes an even greater desire to overcome that separation made possible by Christ's death on the Cross. And in that realization, there is much joy and hope.

A healthy spirituality is one that:

is aware of the pain and suffering one has caused,
is hopeful and not pessimistic,
includes a firm intention and effort by God's grace to repent and enter into an ever-deepening communion of love with God, and
is filled with joy for love of God and gratitude for and acceptance of his mercy.
Be assured of God's love for you. Seek by his grace to heal the damage of sin. Seek communion with him and with those who make up his Church and those who are not yet within. His love for all of us is unconditional. His joy is infinite. His mercy overflows. We should be no different, for by his Passion and Death, Christ has won a great victory for us; a victory that is made manifest on Easter. Rejoice and be glad, even in the midst of suffering.

Source: Into the Deep, The Integrated Catholic Life™

About the Author:

Deacon Mike Bickerstaff is the Editor in chief and co-founder of the The Integrated Catholic Life™. A Catholic Deacon of the Roman Rite for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, Deacon Bickerstaff is assigned to St. Peter Chanel Catholic Church where he is the Director of Adult Education and Evangelization.

He is a co-founder of the successful annual Atlanta Catholic Business Conference; the Chaplain of the Atlanta Chapter of the Woodstock Theological Center's Business Conference; and Chaplains to the St. Peter Chanel Business Association and co-founder of the Marriages Are Covenants Ministry, both of which serve as models for similar parish-based ministries.

Serpents, Penguins, and Crosses

by Jim Fitzgerald

Gospel: John 3:14-21

I. Much of the time in the gospel of John, we find Jesus using the simplest, everyday analogies to teach spiritual truths. It's fascinating to listen to Jesus' teachings in the Gospel of John. To listen to the teachings of Jesus is to listen to a master instructor. He always seems to know what image, what story, what comparison to use to teach His listeners. Jesus often teaches by using the most common, everyday objects.

When Jesus passes through Samaria and encounters the woman at the well, He finds himself striking up a conversation with a woman with whom He appears to have very little in common. She's a female Samaritan, he's a male Jew. She has been married multiple times, He has never been married. So many differences, so much that separates them; yet they're both thirsty, and they're at the same well. So Jesus uses the most obvious point of reference to reveal His identity to her. To this woman with a deep thirst, He announces that He is the source of living water, "and whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst."

Later on, Jesus feeds 5,000 people with just five loaves and two fish. Everyone eats their fill, and the disciples gather up basketfuls of leftovers. And with that image of the overflowing baskets of bread still fresh in their minds, He says, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never be hungry."

Then He's walking down the road one day and sees a man who had been born blind, who lived his entire life in darkness. Just before He heals Him, Jesus declares, "I am the light of the world." Then He touches the blind man's eyes and removes the darkness.

Most of the time Jesus can get the message through with the simplest of analogies - water, bread, light - all used to reveal who He is. In the Gospel of John, it's as if Jesus is saying, "You can start at any point in the universe - pick any spot - and it will lead you to me."

But sometimes the people just don't get it. Sometimes Jesus has to choose an unusual image to make His point. That's what's happening here. Jesus is in the middle of a discussion with Nicodemus, a Pharisee who has come to learn more about who Jesus is. We're not sure why Nicodemus came. Maybe he was just at that stage of life so many people experience, in which there is a spiritual hunger gnawing away at their insides that cannot quite be identified. They just know they're hungry. Even if they can't quite put their finger on it, they know they want something more. Like a teenager standing in front of the refrigerator at midnight, peering in, scanning all the shelves, saying, "I'm hungry, but I don't know what I want to eat."

Nicodemus comes, seeking, wanting to find out more about Jesus. Jesus has used the image of the new birth, but Nicodemus doesn't get it. Then Jesus compares the Spirit to the wind, blowing wherever He chooses, accomplishing God's purposes with a sense of freedom. Nicodemus still doesn't get it.

Finally, Jesus turns to a strange Old Testament story to make His point. In the days of their wilderness wanderings, Israel had sinned. There was grumbling about Moses, grumbling about God, and there was punishment. The punishment was, in part, to be snake-bitten. The Israelites cried out to God for deliverance, and God used the strangest thing to save them. Moses formed a bronze serpent, mounted it on a pole, and hoisted it toward the sky. When they looked up to it, they were healed/saved.

Strange, but I guess it's just another way of showing God can use anything to accomplish His purposes.

Just as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness, so will the Son of Man be lifted up [crucified & glorified]. God can use anything, anything at all, to bring about salvation. There is nothing so common that it can't point to God. But even the "out of the ordinary" can be used to lead to salvation.

In his book 'Blue Like Jazz', Donald Miller recounts a conversation with his friend Tony. "You know what really helped me understand why I believe in Jesus, Tony?"

"What's that?"
"Penguins."
"Penguins?" Tony asked.
"Penguins," Donald said.

Then he goes on to describe the life cycle of penguins to his friend. The females lay their eggs, and then they turn them over to the males. The females leave, traveling for days back to the ocean, where they jump in and go fishing. All the males are left in an enormous circle, tending to the eggs. They huddle together for warmth, and kind of rotate the circle so none of them are on the outside all of the time. The males are sitting on the eggs for a month, when the females make their way back. And right when they do, almost to the day, the eggs are hatched.

Tony's not so sure he sees the analogy, so Donald explains himself. The penguins "have this radar inside them that told them when and where to go and none of it made any sense, but they show up on the very day their babies are being born, and the radar always turns out to be right. I have a radar inside me that says to believe in Jesus. Somehow, penguin radar leads them perfectly well. Maybe it isn't so foolish that I follow the radar that is inside of me."

What kind of God do we serve, who can use serpents and penguins, and all manner of things to draw people to himself? We serve a God who can use any event in our lives to bring about salvation.


II. But in these days, Jesus announces, in these days salvation comes through Me. The Father has sent Me, the Son, to bring about salvation.

God can choose anything He desires to bring about the salvation of the world, and He has chosen Jesus Christ. God can still take any event and use that as the turning point in a life, but salvation comes through Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

And hear the good news: your name is on the list of people Christ has come to save. Your name is on that list the day you are born. Every one God has created is on the list of people Christ has come to save.

You and I might make the list differently. We divide the world into so many categories:

American/foreigner
White/black
Male/female
Yankee/southerner
Anglo/Hispanic
Rich/poor
Beautiful/homely
Productive/worthless

If we were making the list, we might be more selective. But God's list is long. The list of people for whom Christ died includes all the world. There is no debate, no discussion, no waiting period. Every person born is added to God's list.


III. Christ comes into our world, shining the light, looking for names on God's list. Christ has come to seek you out. It takes awhile for some folks to hear that as good news. Some have the idea that Christ has come saying, "I've got a message from my Father: boy, is He ever mad at you!"

To those who would rather live in the darkness, to those who are hiding from God, for folks who are running from God, the light is a nuisance. An encounter with Christ makes them feel like they've been caught.

I remember, as a child, sitting in services where the truth of God had been so clearly proclaimed that I felt like a huge spotlight was shining on me. I felt like I had been caught. The light was shined into my life, and I preferred to stay in the darkness. If you've made up your mind that God is out to get you, you're hesitant to step into the light.

Fred Craddock tells the story of his father, who spent years of his life hiding from the God who was seeking him out.

"When the pastor used to come from my mother's church to call on him, my father would say, "You don't care about me. I know how churches are. You want another pledge, another name, right? Another name, another pledge, isn't that the whole point of church? Get another name, another pledge."

My nervous mother would run to the kitchen, crying, for fear somebody's feelings would be hurt. When we had an evangelistic campaign, the pastor would bring the evangelist, introduce him to my father and then say, 'Sic him, get him! Sic him, get him!' May father would always say the same thing. "You don't care about me! Another name, another pledge. Another name, another pledge! I know about churches."

I guess I heard it a thousand times. One time he didn't say it. He was at the Veteran's Hospital. He was down to 74 pounds. They had taken out the throat, put in a metal tube, and said, 'Mr. Craddock, you should have come earlier. But this cancer is awfully far advanced. We'll give radium, but we don't know.'

I went in to see him. In every window - potted plants and flowers. Everywhere there was a place to set them - potted plants and flowers. Even in that thing that swings out over your bed they put food on, there was a big flower. There was by his bed a stack of cards 10 or 15 inches deep. I looked at the cards sprinkled in the flowers. I read the cards beside his bed. And I want to tell you, every card, every blossom, every potted plant from groups, Sunday School classes, women's groups, youth groups, men's bible class, of my mother's church - every one of them. My father saw me reading them. He could not speak, but he took a Kleenex box and wrote something on the side from Shakespeare's Hamlet. . . .

He wrote on the side, 'In this harsh world, draw your breath in pain to tell my story.'

I said, 'What is your story, Daddy?'

And he wrote, 'I was wrong.'"

It is not until you know God is seeking you in love, not in condemnation; it is not until that moment that the gospel becomes Good News for you.

Conclusion

I always used to wonder why some folks would stand at football games holding a sign with the words "John 3:16."
"Who do they think that's going to help?" I'd ask myself.
"Don't they know what an unlikely way that is to save someone?"

That's what I used to always ask. But I'm having second thoughts. If God can use bronze serpents and wooden crosses as means of salvation, then maybe a cardboard sign isn't such a far-fetched idea after all. And if God truly desires that all the world would be saved, maybe getting the message out where all the world can see it just might be a good thing.

For those that are lost, Christ has come searching. For those in the darkness, the light is shined. And everyone who believes in Jesus Christ will have eternal life.

Source: Preacher's Magazine, 2006

Food for the Taking
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. - Matthew 5:6

When Moses was leading the Israelites through the wilderness for forty years, God supplied bread for them to eat. Without God's provision, they never would have survived.

It's the same for us. We, like the Israelites, are walking through the dry and dreary wilderness of life, with constant dependency on, and need for, spiritual food - God's Word. Just like the manna that fell from the skies, His Word is offered to us fresh every morning, bringing nourishment to all who will eat.

There are many other similarities between the manna sent from heaven to the Israelites, and the food sent from heaven to us. Manna basically fell right into the Israelites' laps. They didn't have to search far and wide to find it; it was there for the taking. In the same way, a meal in God's Word is available to us if we will only reach out and take it.

Manna was available in abundance to those who would collect it. Similarly, the Word is available to those who will study it. It would have been foolish for the hungry Israelites to step outside their homes and gather only enough manna to whet their appetites, instead of gathering enough to satisfy their hunger. It is just as foolish when Christians open the Word of God and read only a verse or two, rather than studying it to savor the nourishing truths God has provided in the writings.

Manna was never force-fed, but the Israelites had the opportunity either to eat it or go hungry. In the same way, you will never be forced to feed upon God's Word. It will have to be your choice, whether or not you eat or go spiritually hungry.

If a friend complained of lack of energy, you would ask when she last had anything to eat. Her reply that she had skipped breakfast and lunch would tip you off to her problem, and you would be perfectly in order to say, "No wonder you're weak . . . get some food in you!" If someone came to you and told you that he was spiritually weak, you would be justified in asking, "How often do you study the Bible?" The reply would reveal the reason for his weakness: "Well, I read it a couple of times during the week, but I get a good dose of it on Sunday." He's starving himself!

Spiritual anemia is the condition resulting from not spending time in God's Word. That Word is readily available - in fact, you probably have three or four Bibles in your home and a few more in your family vehicle.

Just because it isn't force-fed, it doesn't mean that it should be ignored. The truth is, you can't live without it. You will never survive the harsh desert winds of doubt, fear, materialism, gluttony, lust, and pride if you are not reaching out every morning and gathering the food that God has offered you. You simply cannot live without physical food . . . how do you expect to live without spiritual food? You can't.

One of the critical differences between manna and Scripture is that God's Word never grows stale. Unlike manna when it was hoarded, God's Word is still fresh when you store it away in your heart; you can gather, save, stash as much as you want for future needs.

So . . . when's the last time you had a solid meal?

Prayer Point:

Thank the Lord for the availability of His Word. Confess your lack of desire to know His Word better and ask Him for additional discipline to daily read and study His Word.

Extra Refreshment:

Read several paragraphs from Psalms 119 and notice how each verse mentions God's Word.

Source: A Wisdom Retreat by Stephen Davey

Moses' Travels: A Mathematical Miracle

Moses and the people were in the desert, but what was he going to do with them? They had to be fed. Feeding, two or three million people requires a lot of food.

According to the Quartermaster General in the army, it is reported that Moses would have had to have had 1500 tons of food each day. Do you know that, to bring that much food each day, two freight trains, each a mile long, would be required.

Besides, you must remember, they were out in the desert, so they would have to have firewood to use in cooking the food. This would take 400 tons of wood and a few more freight trains, each a mile long, just for one day. And just think, they were forty years in transit. And, oh yes, they would have to have water. If they only had enough to drink and wash a few dishes, it would take 11,000,000 gallons each day and a freight train with tank cars 180 miles long, just to bring the water.

And another thing, they had to get across the Red Sea at night. Now if they went on a narrow path, double file, the line would be 800 miles long and would require many days and nights to get through. So, there had to be a space in the Red Sea three miles wide so that they could walk 5,000 abreast so they could get over in one night.

Then there is another problem. Each time they camped at the end of the day, a camp ground two thirds the size of the State of Rhode Island, was required, or a total of 750 square miles. Think of that. This much space just for nightly camping.

Do you think Moses figured all this out before he left Egypt? I think not. You see, Moses believed in God. And God took care of those things for him.

Now, do you think God has any problems taking, care of all your needs?

Author unknown.

Source: Monthly Mission Messenger, Oct 2013, Roy Matlock, Editor, Carlisle, AR

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