Malankara World Journal Second Coming of Jesus: Judgement
Volume 5 No. 263 February 6, 2015
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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I. This Sunday in Church
5. More Resources from Malankara World on Praying for The Departed
There are lot of misinformation and misunderstanding on Praying for The Departed and asking Intercessions from the Saints. The resources here will answer your questions on those topics. From the books by Arch Cor Episcopa Kaniamparambil achen, LL HG Geevarghese Mar Osthathose and others. ...
II. Special Feature: Second Coming of Christ - Judgement
Jesus tells a parable which points out that in the end, we will be judged not on what we have acquired in life, attractive as that is to all of us, but on what we have shared with others. There will be a reckoning and those who hoarded will be separated from those who gave of themselves, just as a shepherd divides the goats from the sheep. Every world religion has a similar story, a reminder to the world's affluent that care should be taken for those who are less fortunate. The cadences develop gradually, as we are reminded of the needs of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. Even if we have never seen many of these people face to face, we know of their plight and the statistics are staggering. ...8. Our Final Day in Court
In today's Gospel reading, Christ is telling us about the time in history when the Son of Man will come back and judge the living and the dead. The theme is "our final day in court," and when Christ comes at the end of history, Christ will be the judge. Christ will be the final judge between the sheep and the goats, the good fish and the bad fish, the good wheat and the bad wheat. Judgment is a dominant theme not only in the book of Matthew but in the whole Bible. The final judgment can also be found in the Old Testament, the other gospels, the epistles, the book of Revelation. The final judgment is part of the whole Bible. ...
III. General Features
So whether you drive clients to the airport or kids to school, whether you lead a large organization or a family of one, embrace your responsibility to make the best of your day, your work and your life. It will breathe life into your day ...
|HH Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of the Antioch and All the East and Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, is scheduled to arrive in India for an 11-day visit on February 7. During his visit His Holiness is scheduled to meet Pranab Mukherjee, President of India, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, and Sonia Gandhi, President of All India Congress Committee in New Delhi. HH will be in Kerala as a State Guest, and will be received at the Kochi International Airport by the Head of the Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church Catholicos HB Baselios Thomas I, ministers representing the State Government, as well as by the Bishops, Clergy and Laity of Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church. HH will address the synod of the bishops of the church at St. George Cathedral, Karingachira on February 7. HH will be staying in Kumarakom resort on Feb 7. HH will conduct the Holy Qurbano at the St. Mary's Cathedral, Manarcadu - the Global Marian Center - on Feb 8. A Giant Public Reception, inaugurated by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, will be held at the Nehru Stadium, Kottayam at 5 PM on the same day that is expected draw over 1.5 lakh people. Later the State Government will host a dinner in honor of the Patriarch. HH will also perform the Consecration (Mooron Koodasha) of Syrian Orthodox Centre, Kanjikuzhy, Kottayam. HH is also scheduled to address the Maramon Convention on February 13. HH will attend the Manjinikkara Perunnal, conducting the Holy Qurbano on February 14. On February 15, HH will conduct Holy Qurbano at Malecruz Dayaro. Later in the day, HH will address a conference of spiritual organizations at the Patriarchal Center in Puthencruz. HH is scheduled to visit most or all of the diocesan headquarters and will visit churches, colleges and other institutions during his jam packed schedule.|
by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara WorldThis Sunday (February 8, 2015) is known as Aneede Sunday. It is the day reserved for remembering all the departed faithful of the church. Syriac Orthodox Church teaches that departed faithful are part of the church congregation. It is also believed that they participate in the Holy Qurbano (The central aisle/corridor of the church is reserved for them.) We remember the departed faithful on three days in a year:
1. The day of their departure (Death Anniversary)The departed clergy is also remembered on The Kohne Sunday (The first Sunday after the Nineveh Lent) in addition to the above three days. Why does the church give such importance to remembering the departed? Rev. Fr. Mammen Mathew recently explained it this way:
"We do remember and pray for our departed dear ones out of love for them. Praying for our departed ones is an expression of our love towards them. We ask God to remember them because we love them. LOVE relationship survive death and even transcends it. The anniversary of a beloved departed one is very painful to us. The Church helps us to cope up with the loss and pain by offering memorial prayers for them. It helps us to express and resolve our grief.Death may take our loved ones out of sight; (but) not out of mind. In Christ, we are all living. God is the 'God of the Living'. Every liturgy in the Syriac Orthodox Church contains prayers for the departed souls. Death changes the location, but it cannot take away the bond of love between us and them."Our church teaches that we can learn quite a lot from our departed ancestors and Saints. Just after the Elevation of the Mysteries (The Ascension of Jesus and the Pentecost) and before the Kukilion (prayer with incense) we have the Communion of Saints when the church reminds us the role of the departed in our lives:
In Oblations and in Pray'r'sRemember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.
(Heb 13:7) Our forefathers taught us how to become children of God and thus inherit eternal life in the company of God and Saints. This, of course, is followed by our prayers for the departed - for Saint Mary, for Saints, for the departed clergy and, finally, for all departed.
Vakathanam Church Today (February 6, 2015) is the 100th Death Anniversary of my Great Grandfather, Onatt Kurian Punnoose (1844 - 1916 A. D.). Tomorrow (Feb 7, 2015), two of his living grandchildren, many great grandchildren and their families will meet in Vakathanam Church (where he was buried) to pray for him. Prof. Jacob Kurian Onatt (Principal of Baselios College, Kottayam), his great grandson, along with his grandson Prof. O. P Kurian Onattu (Retired Principal of Baselios College, Kottayam) and Dr. George Jacob Pullolickal (Retired Prof. and Head of Cardiology, Kottayam Medical College) collaborated in preparing a memory book of my great grandfather. This is a great way to introduce our ancestors to the current generation as well as to reflect on their roles in shaping our lives. I learned quite a lot about him from the book.
Onatt Kudumba Kallara (Family Vault) (left). Onatt Kurian Punnoose (1844 - 1916 A. D.)
This was the first Family Vault built in Vakathanam (Kottayam) Church. Look at the
beautiful architecture, no doubt influenced by the Mughal (Persian) Architecture. First, he was very spiritually oriented. He attended the services in the church regularly. Every year they have given three measures of rice to the Puthuppally Church during its feast days. This tradition is being carried out to this day by his descendants. In addition, they have given liberally to the church. Parumala thirumeni had visited Onatt house prior to his famous trip to Holy Land; The Patriarch also visited his house during his Malankara Apostolic Trip. He had observed all the lent and prayers as taught by the church. He passed along these traditions to his descendants. He firmly believed that all the blessings he had came from God and was thankful. When he divided his property among his kids, he had a portion kept aside for the church. Looking back on his descendants, one of the common traits I see is their passionate love of God and the love of the body of Christ (church). It is part of the gene he passed along! Second, he was very compassionate and helped those who approached him in need.
I heard the story of a poor woman who came to his house seeking help. She had to get her daughter married and was short of the needed funds. He pointed her to the acres of paddy fields in front of the house ripe for harvesting, and told her that you can have it all. This shocked everyone present there including the woman who came asking for help. I am sure he remembered the story of the widow's penny mentioned by Jesus Christ. Or he may have recalled today's Gospel Lesson (Matthew 25:31-46)
I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' ...Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.Yes, like Mother Teresa, he could see Jesus in the eyes of the woman who came to seek his assistance. Again, this is another trait I saw being passed by my great grandfather to his descendants. We have learned that it is not in hoarding but in giving that we please God. Third, he had great interpersonal and conflict resolution skills. There was a court case pending in Kottayam against a person in the neighboring village. The days when the case is being considered, this person will come to Onatt house; eat breakfast with Valia appachen and then both great grandfather and this person will go to court together on the same canoe even though they were technically adversaries. At the end of the day, they will return on the same canoe; have dinner and the other person will go to his house! Having a disagreement didn't destroy the personal relations between the two. Something we can all learn from! There are many stories being shared among his family that vividly illustrate what made him great and why he is still being admired 100 years after his death. I can see his example followed by his children, grandchildren, and great great grandchildren. My grandmother never missed a single Sunday Service as far as I can recall. When she could not walk well, I went everywhere with her. I used to be her "cane" or "walking stick." It was a remarkable experience to see her pray in the evening. When my grandmother's younger sister and her husband comes, it was an altogether different experience seeing them pray. Appachen will spread his hands and look up to heaven when reciting the Lord's Prayer. (I could see the twinkle in his eyes.) I have never seen anyone other than the priest doing it (Chapter 4 of Qurbono after the Anpudayone). Valiammachy will be hitting the chest during the prayer. (like the tax collector did.) To this day, I firmly believe that I was a big beneficiary of the prayers of my grandmother. My uncle, Dr. George Jacob - his grandson, perfected the model of unconditional service. He never took any money from patients when he was in the medical college. All the poor people will come to see him. He not only will treat them as if they are the greatest persons in the world, very often he also gave them money to buy medicines as he knew they won't be able to afford it. He will visit many of his patients on Sundays when he has a day off. I never saw him smoking and he was the role model I had used that prevented me from getting into bad habits like smoking and drinking. Yes, our ancestors can teach us a lot; they can train us to live a life dear to Jesus Christ so that we can become children of God and inherit the eternal life. Spend some time this weekend thinking about your departed ancestors. What did you learn from them? What made them so special? Pray for them and ask them to pray for you.
"Remember the days of old,Acknowledgement: Stories and Photos from the "Orma Book" Edited by Prof. Jacob Kurian, Onatt
This Sunday in Church
From The Book: "What Shall I Do To Be Saved?"
Special Feature: Second Coming of Christ - Judgement
by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara WorldThis Sunday's primary Gospel reading is Luke 12:32-48. It talks about being ready when the son of man returns - the second coming of Jesus. This aspect of the second coming of Jesus was covered in previous issues of the MW Journal and in the sermons. (Look for the resources above.) Another Gospel reading (for the Saturday evening service) is Matthew 25:31-46. The theme of this passage is what Jesus will do when he comes next. Here Jesus talks about the Final Judgement - how He will judge the performance of each one of us and based on that decide where we will end up in eternity. The message is very clear; what we do matter. We have highlighted this Gospel passage for this week's MW Journal. There is one important reason to highlight this parable of Jesus. The reformed church had been preaching that "works" do not matter; only "grace" matters. They give Paul's epistles and 1 John as evidence for this. Syriac Orthodox Church, on the other hand, teaches that "works" matter (as taught in James). A simple way of explaining this complex theology is that grace is necessary to inherit the kingdom of God. It is the first screening device. If you don't believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you won't go anywhere near heaven. You are already "out." But, after you pass that point, then you come to the second screening point. Here you will be judged/evaluated based on what you did (fruits you produced). The point is that if you really believe in Jesus and is a Good Christian, you will reflect the light of Jesus and produce good fruits. So, you can be evaluated by what you did as described in today's Gospel. The article by Rev. Markquart in today's MW Journal describes how grace and works are the two sides of the same coin. Both are needed to inherit the kingdom. Having one alone will not be sufficient to inherit the eternal kingdom of God. Rev. Dr. Wiley Stephens, in an article titled "Heaven's Audit of One's Soul" explained this well:
A little girl once asked, "If God is inside of me and is so big, why doesn't he break through?" This is the question of this heavenly audit. Why doesn't the grace and love of God break through in the way we speak, in how we act, in the many times we come in contract with others. The issue is accountability and God's chosen way of caring for his children. He has chosen to work in and through us who are called to be a part of the Body of Christ.Our passage from Matthew is one of the few places where Jesus is the judge. Too many times instead of Jesus holding us accountable, we try to hold Jesus accountable. Instead of finding how to serve others, we expect Jesus and others to serve us. We create a feel good God, one that shares our blindness and our weaknesses. But in our Gospel today we are dealing with the standard of that which is to be his kingdom. It is not to feel good but to be good.In today's Gospel, Jesus becomes a prophet for the ones pushed to the edge of society. "What a friend we have in Jesus" comes alive for those living on the edge. We see this image of Jesus over and over again in the Gospels as the one who receives the children, responds to the outcast of society, those with leprosy, those who collected taxes, the foreigner, and the blind. Jesus did not turn them away but found specific ways to care for them. The audit of the soul is demanding the same of us.The Gospel talks about what criteria will be used in judging you. Again, it is clearly spelled out:
"When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, 'Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.'"Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' And the King will answer and say to them, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.'When we read the parable in Matthew, the first thing that comes to our mind is that Jesus is indeed a different type of King; He does not fit with our conventional notion of a King. This was what really confused the Israelites and disciples of Jesus. Their "vision" of messiah was very different. They expected Him to be a liberator from Rome. Yes, Jesus was a liberator; but not from Rome, but from sin. He made it clear that His Kingdom is not of this world. His concept of a leader was being a servant. His approach to a sinner was being merciful. He was very concerned about feeding His followers, both spiritually and physically. He cried with Mary and Martha when he saw how they grieved the death of their brother Lazarus. Yes, our King of Kings is found in and with the least of our sisters and brothers. Our king walks with us, loves us lavishly, saves us, and invites us to be an active part of his reign. He prefers mercy over sacrifice; he prefers a broken heart that can be repaired; he prefers a humble person that helps his neighbor; he values a penny of a poor widow more than a dollar from the rich. But then we are also made accountable for our actions. Jesus will give us enough opportunities to mend our ways. He allows us to decide ourselves what we want to do. He will knock at our door; but will not enter unless invited in by us. But in the end, we will be judged by what we have done in our earthly life to determine our final destiny in eternity. The choice is ours whether we will inherit the eternal punishment or the eternal life. So, as we are within a week of the beginning of the Great Lent, it is time to examine our life and grade it based on what Jesus said He will grade us when He comes next and see what are our shortcomings and correct it. Great Lent is a great time for introspection and correcting our ways and our lives. Open the door of your heart and invite Jesus in.
by Prof. Dr. David Zersen,
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and in prison and go to visit you?" The king will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." Then he will say to those on his left, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. They also will answer, "Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?" He will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.THOUGHTS ABOUT JUDGING AND PLEADING Whether we read it again or viewed a film version of it again this year, Dickens' classic Christmas Carol is so much a part of our Western understanding of the meaning of our annual Christmas celebration. At the heart of the story is what happens to Ebenezer Scrooge. Three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve, challenging him to think of what he has done and what lies in store for him. With the final apparition, Scrooge realizes what his life has been like and pleads for another opportunity. He repents of his failures, having heard the judgement against him, and is given a second chance. There is something powerful and moving about this story because each of us knows at the end of the year that there is much for which we ourselves need to repent, and much that could be different if we were to change our attitudes and actions. The text for this evening asks us to focus on this very thing. Jesus tells a parable which points out that in the end, we will be judged not on what we have acquired in life, attractive as that is to all of us, but on what we have shared with others. There will be a reckoning and those who hoarded will be separated from those who gave of themselves, just as a shepherd divides the goats from the sheep. Every world religion has a similar story, a reminder to the world's affluent that care should be taken for those who are less fortunate. The cadences develop gradually, as we are reminded of the needs of the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the imprisoned. Even if we have never seen many of these people face to face, we know of their plight and the statistics are staggering. Names like Darfur and Rwanda, words like Tsunami and Katrina, places like Abu Graib and Guantanamo are known to all of us. Perhaps the tragedies are not worse in our time than they have been in previous generations, but we are confronted with them more visually because of the cinema, the television and the print media. Who are these people? Why do they come to haunt us on New Year's Eve at the end of another year of God's grace? What do they want from us? The parable tells us that these people are Jesus, and what we do to them, we do to him. The parable says that what we do to the 32,000 children who die from starvation each day in our world, we do to Jesus. What a horrible reality! I. Learning how to accept the problems we ourselves have caused. It's one thing to feel called to show mercy to those who are disenfranchised, to those who, like Jesus himself, finally found themselves at the extremities of human thoughtlessness and hatred. But let's take the matter a step farther and ask how these people ended up in their respective plights. Elie Wiesel gives his own interpretation of what happened in the lives of Cain and Abel in his book, Messengers of God. In a sense, the two represent the two groups, the goats and the sheep. Cain desperately wants to talk to someone, to try to understand his distance from God, to have a brother who really cares. But Abel is too busy with his own appreciation for acceptance, his reverie in piety. He has no time. It's a common theme in the parables of Jesus. There are always those who don't care about the other and have to bear some responsibility for driving the brother or sister to actions we find it all too easy to judge. Wiesel says that the Cains of the world become what they are because of us - because we had no time to listen, to understand, to reconcile, to negotiate, to appeal. We ignore people because we too have our burdens. We reject pleas for help and understanding because we don't recognize the rights and the dignity of others. We go to wars all too quickly because we think that bombs and bullets can silence alienation rather than the quiet striving for brotherhood and justice. Such a challenge may seem bigger than we can grasp. Not only are we to give ourselves to those in need, but also we are to recognize than in many ways the needs which envelop others have been caused by us. Our politics may assure us that we battle for freedom in Iraq, but tell that to the countless thousands who have lost innocent victims in this struggle. Our sale of pharmaceuticals to impoverished people in third world countries may assure us that we are serving the poor, but the cost we charge may deny the buyer the ability to provide necessities for his/her family. The loneliness which a relative may feel in a terminal illness may have less to do with the fear of death than with our own fear at not knowing what to say should we take the time to visit in the ICU. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. New Year's Eve is traditionally a time for reflection, much in the spirit of Yom Kippur in Judaism and Ramadan in Islam. There are many personal challenges we can face as we, like Scrooge, ask about alternatives, new opportunities, and a second chance. Yet there is more in our Christian faith than this, as we come to understand who goes the distance to set things to rights. The story about Christ's intercession assures that we are not left to ourselves. II. Learning how to be empowered by the one who cares for us Fred Niedner, in an article called "The Searching Judge," gives us another side of this story. When Jesus as judge, separates the sheep from the goats, he writes, we discover that some of those among the goats are people we have known. They are brothers and sisters, friends and relatives, colleagues and clients whom we at times listened to, but did not really hear. Their plights were sometimes visible, but we had other fish to fry. They had real needs but so did we. Desperate they found themselves doing what they should not have done. Troubled, we wonder what we could have done differently. Who will go to them, Niedner says, we now ask the judge? "It's too late," says the judge, "your opportunity is past." Bewildered the sheep look across the chasm at the goats, wondering what can be done. "Then you will have to go," they say to the judge of all. "You cannot leave them where they are." Remembering that he himself had taught them to think like this, he cannot ignore them. He therefore enters the valley of the shadow, crosses and conquers the desert of temptation and climbs Golgatha's hill to rescue the one here and the two there who belong to the ninety and nine. In Niedner's words, he becomes the shepherd who won't give up, the shepherd king with holes in his hands and a crown of thorns on his head. It is a lowly and dirty job, but he will never give up in his quest to seek and to save the lost, to find those hidden in hovels and prisons. It is the other side of his role as judge of the world, the role of the searching shepherd whose claim on us is shaped by love. This is the fascinating part of Christianity which takes us beyond the legitimate guilt we feel for having failed to be what humanly we have every right to become. Why is it we ask that so many would be willing to be generous if they could know they were involved in something of value for which they might even be recognized? "Lord, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or a stranger, or sick or in prison and did not help you?" "Why if we had known it were you, we would have done something!!! If we had known this were a matter of importance, a tribute for a king; if we had known that we might receive a plaque on the wall or a name in the newspaper, we surely would have acted!" Isn't that how it is with us too? He comes to us in the lowliest of the low, and we don't even realize that he's there. One of the touching stories I've experienced in recent years has to do with a young man who saw Christ in ways others failed to. He was a student I taught in a seminary in Russia. He had been in prison for 7 years, but now wanted to share Christ's love with others. He was dismissed from the seminary for some indiscretion, which I know nothing about, and the church officials cut off all ties with him. But knowing what he had experienced and knowing the love of Christ, he decided to serve as a lay chaplain to the prisoners of Siberia. Dying of AIDS with no available medication, cut off from contact with their relatives, devoid of any kinds of toiletries or newspaper contacts with the outside world, the prisoners are often at the end of their hope. Yet Slava, whose name means "Salvation," visits them regularly to bring them helpful things that he collects and to share the good news that they are appreciated, understood and loved. When their sentences have been served, he tries to find them jobs in the outside world, a service no Russian agency offers. No other sheep in the official church does this lowly caring, but this lone goat can't stop sharing the claim that God has on him. This is the remarkable thing that happens to people like you and me when we recognize that although we have all too often failed to be what God has called us to be, the searching shepherd never ceases to reach out to us. We are loved although we are unlovable. We are empowered although we lack the will. We are sent out to others even though we are preoccupied with ourselves. We are offered a land of beginning again. At the crest of the old year, we look back upon our missed opportunities and failures, at the many graces we have experienced in these last 365 days, and we celebrate the second chance we now have to find those who are waiting for us. "You have to go," the searching shepherd tells us. "You have to claim them for me. You are my hands and voice and love in this world." And just as he pleads with us, we plead for those others who have often lost their way because of us. "We have to go, Lord. Now. Send us. Empower us. Give us the joy and the courage to love others as if they were you." Source: Göttinger Predigten im Internet
ed. by U. Nembach, J. Neukirch, C. Dinkel, I. Karle
by Rev. Edward F. Markquart, Seattle, WAGospel: Matthew 25:31-46 In today's Gospel reading, Christ is telling us about the time in history when the Son of Man will come back and judge the living and the dead. The theme is "our final day in court," and when Christ comes at the end of history, Christ will be the judge. Christ will be the final judge between the sheep and the goats, the good fish and the bad fish, the good wheat and the bad wheat. Judgment is a dominant theme not only in the book of Matthew but in the whole Bible. The final judgment can also be found in the Old Testament, the other gospels, the epistles, the book of Revelation. The final judgment is part of the whole Bible. The gospel story for today is one simple story about the final judgment. Jesus told this final judgment story: The Son of Man will come back and he the king will judge the people. The king looked at the goats on his left and said, "What did you do? What did you do for the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the starving, the imprisoned? What did you do for the elderly, the retarded, the handicapped, the sick. What did you do? And the goats, who were the Pharisees, said, "Judge, we are good people. If you got to know us judge, we are not very bad at all. We love our wives, our children, our families; we come from a good solid family background. We have good beliefs and values; we go to church; we give a tithe and surely some of that money goes to the poor. Judge, we have good feelings about the poor, the starving, the naked. We have positive feelings towards the poor and anytime we see pictures of the starving, our hearts grieve." The judge asked the question: "What did you do? What did you do, is my question?" And the Pharisees say, "Well, uhhhh, you know, uhhh." Now, the Pharisees were hoping for leniency; they expected the judge to be lenient, to be understanding. They expected the judge to understand the fallibility of human nature because if the judge really understood the fallibility of human nature, then the judge would be lenient. The Pharisees thought to themselves, "Besides, we are here in court and the sentence shouldn't be too strong, should it?" The judge then gave the verdict clearly and distinctly: "Depart from me into eternal damnation." "What?" "Depart from me into eternal damnation where people will weep and gnash their teeth. Depart into the hells of fire." "What????" The goats weren't expecting that sentence. They were expecting leniency. They were expecting understanding. They were expecting that the judge would understand the fallibility of human nature. "What's wrong with this court, anyhow? Besides, if you just show up at court, you should get a reduced sentence and fine?" To the sheep on the right, the judge said: "What did you do?" The sheep said, "We didn't do anything." The judge said, "Yes, you did. I was watching you. You fed the hungry, you clothed the naked, you visit the sick and imprisoned and you shall inherit eternal life. You shall inherit eternal life. You are good sheep." The sheep said, "We are!?" The judge said, "You are. Come into my eternal pastures and receive eternal life." Thus ends the parable for today, one of the many judgment stories that we find in the Gospel of Matthew, where God asked the big question: what did you do? But, to be honest, nowadays, we don't take this parable about the final judgment too seriously. That is, most of us aren't too concerned about our final day in court. We really don't expect to hear that question, "What have you done for the needy?" The final judgment is not really part of our preoccupation. We think this story is part of archaic, religious folklore. It is part of those folksy folktales from the Bible, about the sheep and the goats. What does this have to do with our cosmic age and the space age we live in? Most of us don't spend too much time worrying about our final day in court. It is not one of our biggies. It is not one of the dominant religious themes of our generation, although it has been in centuries past. So what do we do with such archaic passages about God's final judgment, God's wrath and God's punishment? We become like the heretic, Marcion, who cut out all those passages he didn't appreciate. It was like he had a pair of scissors in his hands and he cut out all Biblical verses about judgment, punishment, and wrath, anything he didn't like. Why? Why does our current generation want to cut out all those Bible verses that have to do with God's wrath, punishment, and judgment? First, we are good Christians. We know that we are saved by grace alone; that we do nothing to inherit eternal life; that none of us dare brag about our good works because we know, down deep inside, we are sinners who are saved by grace. If we make it through the pearly gates, it is because God is good, not because we are good. It is God's goodness that saves us. We are saved by grace alone. We never can do enough to merit eternal life. Salvation is a pure gift from God. A second reason that we are contemporary Marcionites who cut out all Biblical references to God's wrath, punishment and judgment is that we believe in the final judgment story found in First John more than the Gospel of Matthew. Let us look at the final judgment in First John. John's final judgment scene is very different than we have been talking about; it is very different than the Gospel of Matthew. I would like to illustrate the Apostle John's last judgment by using the Bible and our imagination. Would you please go to court with me? We are in traffic court. We are sitting in court - nervous, sizing up everybody. The gavel strikes the wooden desk, and in comes the judge, and the judge is … my father. Edward F. Markquart, Senior. I like this courtroom better already. I like the mood of this court. This is all right. Then I look at my appointed attorney, the D.A., the district attorney appointed to defend me, and it is my brother. My big brother Lee who is the son of the judge. I like this court. The judge is my father and the D.A. is my brother, the father's other son. This is a good court. I am glad that I am being tried in this court. And the prosecuting attorney? The prosecuting attorney is none other than Satan himself, and everyone boos when that adversary shows up on the scene. This is final judgment described in First John. … And so many of us have been persuaded that there is nothing to fear from God who is the judge because the judge is our father and the D.A., the Holy Spirit, is our brother, and the prosecuting attorney is the bad dude, the devil himself. We like the odds in that kind of court and expect understanding and leniency. A third reason we are Marcionites who scissor out all Biblical references to God's wrath, punishment and judgment is that we, in our society, don't like the word, punishment. Very few in our society use the word, punishment. If you are a punitive person today, you are not very fashionable. This is the age of understanding; this is the age of compassion; this is the age of tolerance and leniencies. Parents don't punish their children anymore; you can actually get in trouble for punishing your children today. Today, you correct them, discipline them, and guide them in the right direction. If you are a punitive parent, that is a pejorative statement. Also, the schools don't punish anymore; they send the misbehaving student to the guidance counselor. The school would be involved in a lawsuit if they punished anybody. In addition to parents and schools, the courts also don't punish people anymore. The courts attempt to rehabilitate people; the courts don't punish people anymore. The concept of punishment is too archaic and barbaric. If the parents don't punish and if the schools don't punish and if the courts don't punish, of course, God doesn't punish either. How could a good, loving, compassionate God punish any one? So when I come before the final judgment day, and I am asked the question, "What have you done? What have you done for the hungry, the thirsty, the starving, the poor, the sick, the impoverished, the imprisoned?" I will say, "Not much." And I will expect the judge to acquit me because he loves me. How can a loving father, even if he were a judge, punish me? Nobody punishes anymore. The fourth reason we are like Marcionites and scissor out all the Biblical passages about God's wrath, punishment and judgment is that we believe there will be a different question asked on the final judgment day. The Apostle Paul would have asked the final question this way: "Do you believe? Do you believe in Jesus Christ?" That is the big question, the final question, in Paul's final drama. "What do you believe?" The question is not the final question at the last judgment in Matthew, "What did you do?" No, not for the Apostle Paul. The final question is, "What do you believe?" And so we add it all up. We know that salvation is a gift of God's grace. We know that the judge is my father, and the D.A. is my brother and the adversary is the bad dude of the devil himself. We are all going to make it into heaven. When you die, God is the light at the end of the tunnel, and we are all going to go to that light. And besides, a good judge would never punish anyone. And the Apostle Paul asks the question, "in whom do you believe?" So you add up all of this, on a gut level, we do not believe we will hear the question, "What did you do?" On a gut level, we do not believe we will hear this question. This question is not part of our spiritual preoccupation today. But it is God's!!! God, at the end of history, will ask that question, "What have you done? What have you done for poor starving Lazarus? What have you done for the man who was robbed on the Jericho road? What have you done for the poor, the starving, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the imprisoned, for all the little people? What have you done?" Don't kid yourself, that question will be asked of you and me someday. And that question does not contradict the Apostle Paul who asked, "Do you believe? Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? In whom do you believe?" The primary evidence in what you believe is what you do? Not what you think. Not what you feel. Not what you say. Thinking, feeling, talking; these are all easy. Instead, the question is: what did you do for the little ones of life? What a person does for the poor and suffering reveals in whom you believe. The Apostle Paul would agree with Matthew. Matthew's gospel is not a works righteousness gospel. If a person believes, he or she obeys. If a person believes in Jesus Christ, they produce the fruits of righteousness. So in Matthew's Gospel where the judge asks the question at the end of history, "What have you done?" that is Paul's way of asking, "Do you really believe in Jesus Christ?" They are the two sides of the same question. When we are asked that question, "What have you done for the least of these, my brothers and sisters," this does not contradict the grace of God, that salvation is a pure gift. Let me illustrate this by means of an analogy. I love my children too much. Do any of you have that problem? Do any of you love your children too much? That you love your children immensely? That you love your children unconditionally? That you love your children graciously? That is just the way it is! But I still ask my children the question and so do you, "Have you done your work today? Have you done your jobs today? Have you taken out the garbage? Did you do the dishes? Did you make your bed? Did you clean your room? Did you do your homework? Did you do your confirmation lesson?" Do you know how many times I have asked my children, "Did you do the work that I gave you to do?" My excessive love for my children is great but I still ask the question, "What did you do today?" This is also true of God. The same is true of God. God's love for you is great, but God still asks you and me the question: Have you done your chores today? Did you do your chores today? Did you take care of the sick, the poor, the orphans, the starving, the thirsty, the refugees, the homeless, the hungry, the lonely in the nursing homes? Have you done your chores today? That God asks you that question does not mean that God does not love you. It's just the opposite. Because God does love you unconditionally, God then asks you that question. Have you done your chores? Do you know what the Father wants to have done around the house today and do you do it? Within a household, it is a sign of a parent's mature love that they love their children unconditionally and at the same time, ask them, "Have you done your work for today?" If a parent doesn't ask the second question, it is a sign of immature love. Both sides of the coin are needed; both sides of the coin are necessary: unconditional love and doing the work. If there is only one side of the coin, that coin is artificial; it is not genuine. So it is with God. God's love for us is unconditional and, at the same time, God asks us, "What did you do for the littlest of people?" Both sides of the coin are necessary. Further, it needs to be said, that my children had better not get the idea that I am lenient, just because I am their father. In fact, I may be softer on somebody else's children than my own. To be honest, I am often softer on somebody else's children than my own. Just because God is our heavenly father does not mean that God is a softie, who won't punish and correct, if necessary. The threat of punishment and the withholding of rewards is part of mature love. If it takes a threat of punishment to get me to do what I have to do, or if it takes a threat of withholding the rewards from my children to get them doing what I want them to do, I will do it. We threaten our children and say, "If you don't get your homework done, you can't go out and play." We all do that. The children get older and the nature of the threat changes. "If you don't get in on time tonight, you won't be able to go out next weekend." And then, as a parent, you give the ultimate threat: "If you don't get your work done, you will not have use of the car. Is that clear? If you do not get your work done, you will not be going out or using the car." Just because I love my children deeply, this does not mean I am not serious about their doing their jobs. I am very serious about them doing their jobs. Likewise with God. When God threatens us with punishment, or threatens us by withholding rewards, it is God's way of motivating us to do what God wants us to do, just like mature parents have always done. So we are back to the final question: I ask you a personal question. Do you believe that you will experience a final judgment day? Do you believe that? Do you believe that you will experience a final judgment day? … The way you answer that question is very important. When you come before that final judgment day, God will stand before you and ask, "What did you do?" … You may say, "Well, that is the wrong question. We're good people, God. We love our wives, our children, our grandchildren; we have good doctrines, good values, good beliefs. We have good feelings and a heart full of compassion for the poor." The judge will again repeat the question "I don't believe you understood. I will ask it for you one more time, "What did you do?"…
by Janet H. Hunt, Dancing with the WordGospel: Matthew 25:31-46 I know the images offered in today's Gospel lesson speak of a final judgment where 'goats' and 'sheep' are separated one from another. I know this. And yet I find it most helpful to hear this as encouragement even now to see and experience and respond to this world in new ways. Indeed, I hear Jesus' words today reminding me that I simply don't know when I will encounter the face of Christ next: thus making nearly all ground holy ground. And in the end, maybe that is precisely what these words are meant to do. One day this past summer, I had driven the half an hour to my mother's house for Friday chores and errands. By now it was early afternoon. I had taken her car out to fill it up with gas for her. Now, I have to say I noticed the trio as I drove north on 3rd Street. Two Latino men were trying to balance a very blonde Anglo woman between them. They were all three walking south on the sidewalk --- although the woman did not seem to be doing well. In fact, as I drove by they were trying to pick her up off the ground. Well, my errand felt pressing --- or maybe I just wanted it to be pressing --- and so I kept going. Ten minutes later when I returned, I noted that they had not made much progress, so with no ready excuse to do otherwise, I pulled the Buick over and rolled down the passenger side window. I asked if they needed help. The younger of the two men had an almost audible look of relief on his face as the two of them steered her to the front seat of the car. She was insisting that she was having seizures which caused her repeated stumbling as she walked. The younger man gestured to me that she, rather, was drunk. It took me a few minutes, though, to put that meaning to the hand gesture he was using. I asked what her name was. She said it was Brenda. I offered to take her to the hospital emergency room which was less than a block away. She declined saying she just wanted to go home. She said the hospital would only find something wrong with her and charge her a lot of money and she's had these 'seizures' before and she knew she would be just fine. Almost against my better judgment I gave in to her request and drove her home to her apartment in subsidized housing just beyond the hospital. I'm sure it was quite a spectacle to behold for the two old men sitting on the park bench out in front of the apartment building watching that afternoon. I pulled the Buick up close and stopped in a no parking zone. I walked around the car to the passenger side. I opened the door and steadied Brenda as she swung her legs out of the car. Oh, I knew our journey together could not end quite yet and so she leaned on me as we walked to the front door where she handed me her key card and I swiped it. We walked inside and rode the elevator upstairs where again, she gave me her key, and I opened the door. When we walked inside she flopped down on the sofa. I asked her if she needed anything else. She asked for my phone number. I didn't give it to her. As I headed past the lobby on my way out a few minutes later, I overheard the old women sitting there talking about me and my passenger. "I think she took her upstairs..." I heard one of them say. So I walked over to them and said hello and introduced myself. They had lots of questions for me for which I had few answers. One among them volunteered that sometimes she gets lost when she goes out like that. I suggested they let someone know Brenda was up there and someone might want to check on her later. And I went home. I've thought of Brenda from time to time since then, wondering what has become of her. I think of her now and wonder: "Was that holy ground that afternoon? Was it, in fact, the face of Christ that could be seen in Brenda who apparently had too much to drink and got lost walking those few blocks home from the Dollar Store that afternoon?" It would seem so, wouldn't it? And unlike far too much of the time, this time it was presented itself to me in a way I felt I could not ignore it. The reminder today is straightforward, it seems to me. We will encounter Jesus in the 'least of these' --- in the hungry and the thirsty. In the stranger and the naked and the sick and those in prison. Oh no, our faith is not only of the mind and of the heart, but is also for the hands and the feet. We live our faith in what we do. We live it in what we do in places that aren't always pretty. Perhaps most of the time we can ignore that this is so. A lot of the time I don't have the courage to step towards it. Too much of the time, not unlike the story I offer above, I do just enough and then extricate myself as quickly as politely possible. Indeed, I don't offer that story now to pat myself on the back for I really did so very little. I offer it only as a reminder that we don't know when such opportunities will present themselves. I offer it now as a way to begin to wonder what it means to see the face of Christ and respond. So let me give you a thumbnail of what I'm struggling with right now. Yesterday morning, my instant messenger 'pinged' on my cell phone long before dawn. Now I had watched in fascinated horror the evening before as the husband of an acquaintance ('friends' on Facebook really can be a misnomer, can't it?) spilled his pain all over the screen. The story was hard to piece together, though, and I closed my IPad not long after as my alarm was set to go off early the next morning. At 4 a.m. I read in sleepy surprise what sounded like a suicide threat by the same man. I confess, I did not respond right away for I do not know the young man and in my less than wakeful state I couldn't figure out how I would do that anyway--- especially since he lives several states away. A little over an hour later, though, I realized I could, in fact, just reply to the message. Would it be too late? I couldn't know so I simply responded wrote back assuring him of my prayers and that God wasn't done with this story yet. A few hours later he replied with his phone number. I'm still trying to decide if I should allow myself to get more deeply embroiled in this. And yet. Isn't he the hungry, hurting, heart-broken that Jesus speaks of now? Isn't he 'the least of these?' Isn't he also the very face of Christ? It is important to note, I suppose, that Jesus doesn't explain the actions of those who respond to such aching need in the world. In the end, he just looks to see who did and who didn't. And yet, for all of us, too much of the time, we find ourselves weighing and wondering, don't we? Somehow I doubt that I am alone in this. So I return to where I began today not knowing fully if I am 'sheep' or 'goat.' I return to where I began and am grateful for Jesus' words now which at least seem to be opening my eyes to see the needs right in front of me. At least part of the time. I return to where I began and hope that more and more I will do less wondering and weighing and simply give from what has been given to me. I return to where I began and pray that I will see ever more surely that all ground is holy ground for the face of Christ is everywhere. Especially where we least expect to see him. Oh, I do return to where I began and yearn for a world where you and I live more and more like this is so....
by Dave WoodwardPreviously we looked at how Jesus melded the whole Old Testament into two simple commands: Love God & Love Your Neighbour. So, why are we adding a third one – this one of serving the world in Jesus' name? It's mainly because we live in a culture that has turned a lot of biblical values and ideals upside down and concocted a false idea of what it means to love both God and others. Some time ago, on the Ulysses Club online forum, there was a discussion asking how many in the baby boomer generation were raised by parents who found it hard to tell their kids they loved them. Some of you were probably raised by parents who never, or seldom ever, told you they loved you. It's not that these parents didn't love their kids. They were uncomfortable saying it, but they did show it in other ways. I have also seen the exact opposite of that scenario as well. I was watching a Dr. Phil show one day, and the female guest was saying how her kids were her world and how she loved them so much. The problem was, her actions were completely self-focused and self-indulgent. She said she loved her kids, but she didn't show it by her behaviour. Our culture is big on words, but not big on actions. In the face of this, we have these words from the apostle John.
My children, we should love people not only with words and talk, but by our actions and true caring. 1 John 3:18. NCVI have added this third description of a fully devoted follower, not because Jesus didn't get it right when he said all we have to do is love God and love our neighbour. I'm adding it because we have a skewed idea of loving. The reality is loving God and loving others means serving. We have looked at these words from Jesus before…
You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many."Jesus said the standards and values of God's Kingdom will be different from those of the culture. The culture in which we live is all for self. The culture of God's Kingdom is all for others. Jesus didn't just preach this. He also lived it. One of the most striking examples took place the night before Jesus was crucified. Because it's a well-known story, let's get a slightly different perspective by reading it in Eugene Peterson's "The Message."
Jesus knew that the Father had put him in complete charge of everything, that he came from God and was on his way back to God. So he got up from the supper table, set aside his robe, and put on an apron. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the disciples, drying them with his apron. When he got to Simon Peter, Peter said, "Master, you wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You don't understand now what I'm doing, but it will be clear enough to you later."Peter persisted, "You're not going to wash my feet - ever!"Jesus said, "If I don't wash you, you can't be part of what I'm doing." "Master!" said Peter. "Not only my feet, then. Wash my hands! Wash my head!" Jesus said, "If you've had a bath in the morning, you only need your feet washed now and you're clean from head to toe. My concern, you understand, is holiness, not hygiene. So now you're clean. But not every one of you." (He knew who was betraying him. That's why he said, "Not every one of you.") After he had finished washing their feet, he took his robe, put it back on, and went back to his place at the table.Then he said, "Do you understand what I have done to you? You address me as 'Teacher' and 'Master,' and rightly so. That is what I am. So if I, the Master and Teacher, washed your feet, you must now wash each other's feet. I've laid down a pattern for you. What I've done, you do. I'm only pointing out the obvious. A servant is not ranked above his master; an employee doesn't give orders to the employer. If you understand what I'm telling you, act like it - and live a blessed life.Let's pick up a few big ideas from this story. BIG IDEA NO. 1 Know who you are The whole foot-washing narrative starts with John telling us that Jesus knew who he was and where he was going. It ends with Jesus telling his disciples that the servant does not have a higher standing than the master, and if he, the master was willing to wash feet, they should do the same. They needed to remember who they were. They were disciples of the one who came to serve. In Luke's account of the Last Supper, he quotes Jesus as saying this…
In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people, yet they are called 'friends of the people.' But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant. Who is more important, the one who sits at the table or the one who serves? The one who sits at the table, of course. But not here! For I am among you as one who serves.That statement, "I am among you as one who serves," is a challenge to the disciples to remember who they were. As disciples of the one who serves, they were to pattern their lives after his. We have turned the whole idea of service on its head these days. As a consumer-based culture, we have assumed the position as receivers of service rather than as givers of service.
You know the saying, 'Four months between planting and harvest.' But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.They were concerned with getting and eating food and why Jesus might be talking to a Samaritan woman. They were entirely focused on everyday stuff. Jesus told them to wake up and look around. There is work to be done, and it's right in front of their noses. We know, don't we, how easy it is to become focused on things that really have little to do with being followers of Jesus and doing the mission of Jesus. They don't even have to be bad things. Many good things also get in the way. Jesus wasn't saying that they shouldn't eat. He was simply saying they should lift their vision – wake up and look around. One of the downsides to our preoccupation with our own stuff is that we don't even see the needs of those around us.
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God's messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn't let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned.If you turn off your own self-interests for a while and tune in to the cries of the needy, you will not like what you see and hear. You will, however, begin to be more in tune with the heart of God.
For the Lord hears the cries of the needy… Psalm 69:33. NLTBIG IDEA NO. 3 Put up Your Hand As you know, if was highly involved in the Ulysses Club AGM held here in Maryborough in April. The club has around 25,000 members and 7 employees. That means that just about everything is done through people who put up their hands and roll up their sleeves. We certainly could not have organized such a massive event without a huge army of volunteers.
Amen. Source: Door of Hope, Australia
By Aaron ArmstrongCaring for the poor isn't easy - but it also doesn't need to be overwhelming, at least when we recognize poverty from a biblical point of view. I explained in an earlier article that when we begin to see poverty the way the Bible does, we begin to see it as offering a number of practical opportunities to worship Jesus. But how we will worship - how our concern will be expressed - will differ from one person to another. The expression of our concern neither reflects nor establishes our holiness before God. Our responsibility is only to serve in the way in which we feel compelled. With that in mind, here are five things you can do to help the poor that really do help: 1. Begin in the church and move from there. So, practically, this means a couple of things: service starts within our local congregations. "If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace, be warmed and filled,' without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?" James wrote (James 2:15-16). If we a need is known in the church, we are actually obligated to meet it. Remember, the early church, motivated by their love of Christ and the grace God had shown them, lived an open-handed lifestyle, sharing all they had with one another (Acts 2:44-45). I remember a number of years ago, my family was in pretty dire straits. We were drowning, financially, not because we had a lot of debt; we simply had very little income and too many expenses. One day, after church, one of the elders of our church came up to me and quietly handed me an envelope with more than enough money to help us meet a few significant needs that month. That's the kind of thing I'm talking about - it's not showy acts; it's recognizing needs and meeting them. 2. Look for simple, practical ways to serve. Consider the options around you. Perhaps it's volunteering with an after-school program in your community, a soup kitchen or clothing pantry (and if there isn't one in your community, perhaps you could start one through your church). Maybe it's just as simple as buying a coffee for the man on the street who is asking for change. There are more needs around you than you might realize. Ask God to give you eyes to see and a heart to serve. 3. Work with experts you can trust. There are many different organizations working to alleviate the suffering of the poor, both locally and globally. But not all organizations are created equal. Do your homework - read whatever information an organization has made available to you and review its finances to ensure the money entrusted to it is being stewarded well. 4. Remember that spiritual problems require spiritual solutions. Because poverty is fundamentally a spiritual issue, we would be wise to work with organizations that recognize this truth. Look for organizations that are committed to the local church and are faithfully proclaiming the gospel, even as they minister to the physical and relational needs of the poor. One the best I know of serving the global poor in this way is Compassion International. 5. Pray and trust God for the results. Our responsibility is not to end poverty, but to minister to those who are suffering while we are here. The day is coming that Jesus will return; and on that day, He will wipe every tear from every eye. Sin, sadness, death… all of these will be gone. Poverty will be no more (Revelation 21:4). Therefore, do what you can, pray, and trust God for the results. About The Author: Aaron Armstrong is the author of 'Awaiting a Savior: the Gospel, the New Creation and the End of Poverty', and 'Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World'. He is a writer for an international Christian ministry, serves as an itinerant preacher throughout southern Ontario, and blogs daily at Blogging Theologically.
6 Healthy Habits To Implement In February, American Heart MonthMisconceptions Are Among The Greatest Obstacles For Heart Health, Says One of the 'Best Doctors in America'* Despite decades of medical research and public campaigns to ease the problem, heart disease is the No. 1 killer in the United States and throughout the Western world. One of the problems driving heart disease is the messaging, says Robert Thompson, M.D., an integrative medicine specialist deemed by his peers to be in the top 5 percent of U.S. physicians. While there's plenty of good research to indicate good advice, the general public, and many of his peers in the medical community, are stuck with faulty conclusions, he says. "Perhaps the biggest misconception is that an overabundance of calcium, which may include supplements, is very good for people, especially women, but that's simply not true," says Thompson, author of "The Calcium Lie II: What Your Doctor Still Doesn't Know," (calciumliebook.com), a new book that details the roles minerals play in overall health and how to identify and correct deficiencies and imbalances. Calcium is just one of 12 substances, as well as traces of 64 other minerals, that make up our bones. Excessive amounts of calcium hurt our bodies in many ways, especially the heart and the brain, he says. We cannot possibly replace minerals with just calcium, which hardens concrete and makes bones more brittle. One study, published in the British Medical Journal in 2008, was meant to assess the effect of calcium on bone density and fractures in postmenopausal women. Researchers found that participating women were significantly more likely to suffer heart attacks while taking calcium supplements. "This is far from an isolated study – there are others, including 15 studies combined into a meta-analysis yielding similar heart-health results, which show an increased risk of heart disease by at least 30 percent," says Thompson, who offers practical recommendations for what individuals can start doing for better overall health in recognition of American Heart Month, celebrated in February. • Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day. As a general rule, we need to drink half of our bodyweight in ounces of water daily. For a 150-pound individual, that's 75 ounces of water. Those who are overweight, or are heavy exercisers or live in warm climates may need more. Take care to drink quality water. Get a quality filtration system at home, which can range from $200 to $3,000. • Take ionic sea salt-derived minerals. We all need a diverse range of minerals and virtually none of us get enough. Ionic minerals are the only ones that are completely available for our bodies to use because they are water-soluble and they naturally carry an electrical charge that allows them to be carried through the cell membranes. All sea salt-derived trace mineral products are recommended – at least three grams per day. • Use only vitamin supplements made from 100 percent organic whole foods that have been vine-ripened. Almost all of us need supplements because contemporary food supplies lack adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals, thanks to soil depletion. Most store-bought vitamins include just one component of the many complex molecular elements contained in the naturally occurring vitamin source. You need all of the nutrient components to get the full benefits. • Get your fill of essential fatty acids; raw nuts and/or seeds are a good source. In 2003, the Food and Drug Administration approved the following health claim for seven kinds of nuts: "Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 oz. per day of most raw nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease." Omega-3 and Omega-6 are considered essential because humans can't manufacture them within our bodies. Research has now shown that plant-derived Omega 6, and not fish oil, is the best oil for humans. • Eat high-quality proteins. Seafood, eggs, beans, chicken, game meat, duck and turkey are excellent sources of essential amino acids that are the building blocks of every protein molecule, hormone, neurotransmitter, cell membranes and immune molecules. Proteins can also be obtained from grains, sprouted grains, raw nuts and raw seeds. Vegetarians and vegans need to play close attention to combine protein sources to get the full complement of amino acids. • Walk at least 30 minutes every day. This activity has a huge effect on relieving the physiologic effects of stress on the human physiology. Exercise is good, but walking is amazing. No other single activity will more significantly or more rapidly affect the adrenal stress response in humans than walking, which probably works so well because it slows us down. And, it is an incredible way to build relationships. "Also, I recommend ingesting essential monosaccharides, which is new and unknown territory for most people," he says. "They are the simplest form of carbohydrate molecules found in the body, are essential for protein molecules and can be found in maple syrup, sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets and onions." *Robert Thompson, M.D., was added to the peer-reviewed directory, "Best Doctors in America," in 1996. About Robert Thompson, M.D. Dr. Robert Thompson is a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist, and a nutrition specialist who helps patients get long-term relief from chronic disease, including obesity, diabetes, hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue. His newest book, "The Calcium Lie II," is available for free at calciumliebook.com. Dr. Thompson received his medical training at the University of Kentucky and has been a leader in medical advances for more than 30 years.
by Jesse Cannone
Fruits are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and fiber, making them quite
worthy of being a part of your healthy diet.
Research has linked fruit consumption to a number of health benefits, including
a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Increased
fruit consumption has even been linked to a lower body weight and reduced risk
of obesity-related diseases. [i]
The USDA recommends consuming one to 2.5 cups of fruit a day, which, depending
on what type you choose, will not only give you valuable nutrients … it will also
give you a hefty dose of sugar.
But does this really matter?
Some experts do believe that limiting fruit sugar in your diet is crucial for
avoiding chronic disease.
The primary sugar in fruit is fructose, a substance that's been shown to slow
your brain function, hinder memory and learning, contribute to weight gain and
type 2 diabetes, and much more. But most fructose in the US diet comes in the
form of high-fructose corn syrup, particularly in soda and other sugary
Is eating a piece of high-sugar fruit really as bad as drinking a high-sugar
In a word … no. A case can be made for limiting your daily sugar from fruit –
but this would typically be if you are facing certain health challenges or
consuming a lot of fruit each day. The sugar in fruit is not added sugar like
the sugar in soda … it's part of the whole fruit matrix – and that's what makes
Even Dr. Robert Lustig, a professor of pediatrics at the University of
California, San Francisco, who is one of the most well known anti-sugar experts
(who has called sugar "toxic" and noted that fructose is the worst sugar of
all), is not against eating whole fruit.
The Sugar in Fruit is Tempered by Built-In Fiber
Whole fruit contains fiber, which Dr. Lustig says is "the reason to eat
fruit." [i] Not only does fiber make you feel full, it slows the release of sugar
in your body, which helps taper much of the damage. The fiber in fruit can also
beneficially influence the bacteria living in your intestines, helping to
improve you intestinal flora.
So, comparing the sugar in soda to the sugar in apples is not comparing, well,
apples to apples. Consuming four apples actually has the same amount of sugar as
24 ounces of soda, [i] but it will be far less damaging to your health when
consumed in the fiber-rich fruit.
Dr. David Ludwig, the director of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention
Center at Boston Children's Hospital, told the New York Times:
"You can't just take an 8-ounce glass of cola and add a serving of Metamucil and
create a health food … Even though the fructose-to-fiber ratio might be the same
as an apple, the biological effects would be much different" … Fiber provides
"its greatest benefit when the cell walls that contain it remain intact," he
Sugars are effectively sequestered in the fruit's cells, he explained, and it
takes time for the digestive tract to break down those cells. The sugars
therefore enter the bloodstream slowly, giving the liver more time to metabolize
them … the slow rate of absorption minimizes any surge in blood sugar. Repeated
surges in blood sugar make the pancreas work harder and can contribute to
insulin resistance, thereby increasing the risk for Type 2 diabetes."
So the general consensus is that the valuable nutrients in whole fruit far
outweigh its natural sugar content (this is not the case for fruit juice,
however, which has the beneficial fiber removed). That being said … you
definitely don't want to overdo fruit, as it can easily drive your sugar intake
sky high – to the point that it will probably start to negate some of the
Generally, the sweeter a fruit tastes, the more sugar it contains (nature works
well that way in giving you a built in 'clue'). More sour or tart fruits will be
lower in sugar. If you're trying to strictly limit the sugar in your diet, stick
with the fruits that follow, which have the lowest sugar content of them all.
(We've left out lemons and limes, which each have just over 1 gram of sugar in a
The 5 Lowest Sugar Fruits …
5. Strawberries: 7 grams of sugar in a cup
by John O'Leary, risingabove.com
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - ChurchillIt was after midnight before my plane landed. We taxied toward our gate. The door opened and we waited for the captain to let us unbuckle. We stood in the aisle and waited for those in front to grab their bags. Having had an early meeting before a flight into Chicago, an afternoon speaking engagement and dinner with a client: I was totally spent. As I finally walked toward baggage claim, I was greeted by a gentleman with an overcoat, huge smile and sign with my name on it. "Mr. O'Leary? I've been waiting for you! Let me grab your bags and get you to your hotel." James and I walked to his car and chatted about our days. We talked about his four girls, seven grandchildren and passion for football (he coached and played). We talked about interesting clients he's driven; and how the most memorable generally aren't celebrities, but normal people. I asked him to share his favorite driving experience. James shared that it was when he chauffeured a funeral procession. The widow, his sole passenger, had lost her husband. Her sons were the pallbearers, and somehow everyone but this woman was already with the casket at the grave site. Not wanting her to feel alone, he opened her door, took her arm and asked if it would be okay if he walked with her. James shared that being able to be with someone at a time like that was a moment he'll never forget. "John," he said, "I could retire. But I love the work. I love my passengers. I love seeing different parts of our town. I even love my boss. And I love knowing that my work makes a difference. How many people are lucky enough to feel that way?" My friends, I've had hundreds of drivers. They have a difficult job. The hours are long, the pay isn't great. Traffic jams, weather issues, demanding bosses and difficult passengers. It would be easy to be irritable and indifferent. The difference between James and the innumerable other drivers I've had is he chose to be happy and he strived to make the experience a gift for his clients. So whether you drive clients to the airport or kids to school, whether you lead a large organization or a family of one, embrace your responsibility to make the best of your day, your work and your life. It will breathe life into your day – and those lucky enough to be driven by you. Drive life like James. And stay on fire.
By Barbara Rainey
My beloved extended his hand through the opening, and my feelings were aroused for him. - Song of Solomon 5:4Most romantic relationships begin with a season we call "new love." This season is characterized by an intense focus on each other, a strong mutual attraction, eager anticipation and enthusiasm for building a life together, and a great freedom to express physical intimacy (hopefully after marriage). Couples in new love are eager to sacrifice time and money to fuel this new experience. It feels so good. Their fears are minimized by the emotion of love, and they will talk for hours about their lives and dreams and hopes. New love is easy, delightful and intense. It is intoxicating and magical. You're probably thinking, Yes, I remember those days . . . But why shouldn't your marriage be regularly infused with the thrills of anticipation and other swept-off-your-feet emotions? Why shouldn't there be times when you feel like kids again, hardly able to keep your hands off each other? Why shouldn't you use the time, money and resources you possess to arrange a romantic getaway? What would happen if you were to say to your wife, "I have a surprise for you next Tuesday at lunch?" All week long, she'd be wondering about what you had up your sleeve. Or what if you sent your husband an email at work, telling him you had something special in mind for tonight, wondering if maybe he could get home a little earlier than usual (wink, wink)? Oswald Chambers, the great devotional author of the early 1900s, said, "Human nature, if it is healthy, demands excitement; and if it does not obtain its thrilling excitement in the right way, it will seek it in the wrong way. God never makes bloodless stoics. He makes passionate saints." What have you done lately to rekindle the magic? DISCUSS Talk about how marriage can rob your relationship of romance. PRAY God is the creator of passion, excitement and romance. Ask Him to guide you ever closer to the love of your life. Source: Moments Together for Couples
1. Trust Yourself Dig deep down and ask yourself "what do I want to be, what makes me happy" 2. Break the rules - not the law. Be a maverick. Think outside the box 3. Don't be afraid to fail Don't be paralyzed by the fear of failure or you won't push yourself. 4. Don't listen to nay sayers - who says it can't be done Yes we can 5. Work like Hell - (Most Important) Leave no stones unturned. No pain, no gain - No way around hard work - You cannot climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pocket. 6. Give something back Find something to give back to community. This will give you more satisfaction than anything you have done.
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