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This Week in Church
Friday, August 10 - Shunoyo Lent Begins
Wednesday, August 15 - Shunoyo (Assumption of St. Mary); Shunoyo Lent Ends
First Sunday after Transfiguration
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
|Inspiration for Today|
Keep yourselves in the love of God.
"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."
The fruit of the Spirit is love.--"By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love."--Whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you."--God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.--God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
Jude 21; John 15:4, 5; Gal. 5:22; John 15:8-10; 1 John 2:5; John 15:12; Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:16
by James MacDonald
I love it that God reminds me of His promises. It's also what He does for Jacob. Above the angels, at the top of the ladder, at the entrance to heaven was the Lord Himself. Genesis 28:13 says, "And behold, the LORD stood above it." The word "LORD" there, all caps, is Yahweh, God's covenant name. The word "behold" is used over a thousand times in Scripture. But only in a couple of places do you see the word "behold" used repeatedly like in Genesis 28:12-13. This major thing is going on and worth beholding! Today, we would say, "Wow, just look at that!" In Jacob's dream, it was like, "Wow, a ladder to heaven! And wow, angels! And wow, the Lord Himself!"
The text makes the point that God "stood." This is one of the only places in Scripture where we see God standing. God hardly ever stands. Almost every time we see God in Scripture, He's sitting down. And you know why He's sitting down? Because He can! God is ruling the universe with His feet up! He's not stressed, He's not pacing back and forth, He's not, "What are We going to do tomorrow?" He's the King! And He's ruling!
There are a few instances like Amos 9:1 and Isaiah 3:13 that describe God standing in awesome judgment, but the rest of the time, when God does stand, He is reaching out to you and me for relationship. That's what brings God off the throne - relationship. Genesis 3 and Exodus 34 are amazing examples! And here in Genesis 28:13, He stands for Jacob, reaching out to him and communicating His promise of relationship: "And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, "I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac."
What is God saying? He's saying, "I will never change. Do you remember what I was like for your grandfather? Do you remember how I proved Myself true? I'm still just like that. And think about your father Isaac and My faithfulness to him. I haven't changed." Hebrews 13:8 says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." He never changes.
And God hasn't changed in His thoughts toward you. He stands ready to participate in His relationship with you in ways you can hardly imagine!
O Father, trying to imagine You standing for me makes me want to get on my face before You. There is no reason in me that would cause You to reach out toward me-only Your amazing love and grace toward one You created and have chosen to redeem. Let me thank You in worship; let me thank You with my life. Let me pass my moments with the enduring idea that You stand attentively over me. Thank You for Your faithfulness, Lord unto me. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Source: Our Journey Online
by Sarah Phillips
How can we live the Christian life well? Is it dependant on nebulous feelings of doing good? Thankfully, there's more guidance than that. Cultivating the cardinal virtues is one concrete way to live a solid Christian witness. The four cardinal virtues are: wisdom, justice, courage, and temperance.
Let's examine what one virtue looks like in the life of someone committed to Christ.
If someone asked me to draw a picture of wisdom when I was a child, I would have drawn an old, wrinkly, robed man meditating in a tent. I imagined wisdom as something that belonged to those focused on the "higher things," people isolated from the day-to-day grind of life. But this is a faulty understanding of wisdom. True wisdom contains both clarity of insight and the ability to apply that insight to real life situations
In my recent reading of the book 'The 33 Doctors of the Church,' I came across an ancient Christian who exemplified both aspects of wisdom. While his name is not well-known, God worked through St. Ephrem to greatly influence the early Church.
Ephrem was an eastern Christian, born in Syria during the 4th century. His native language was Syro-Chaldaic -- the same language Jesus, His family, and His apostles spoke in everyday life. Born of Christian parents, Ephrem developed a thirst for God's Word early in life. He soaked in the Scriptures line by line, delving into the nuances that came more easily to him than you and me today.
Ephrem's deep study of Scripture inspired him to employ his gift for language by writing countless poems, hymns, and homilies for God's glory. Unlike most writers, he never seemed to be at a loss for words. Bishop Gregory of Nyssa, a contemporary of Ephrem's, joked that if you needed a cure for writer's block, you should just ask Ephrem for an idea he already "prayed away."
In some ways the studious, poetic Ephrem resembled that old, robed man in the tent because he lived as an unmarried hermit. But Ephrem hardly isolated himself. He often wrote to instruct the confused and played an active role in shepharding youth.
One of his more famous uses of his poetic talent came in response to a heresy spreading among the local community in the form of a collection of popular hymns. He witnessed young people embracing the songs' messages and falling away from godly living. In response, Ephrem borrowed the melody and wrote new lyrics. Ephrem's version of the hymns, superior in artistry and taught with fatherly love, ultimately became so popular the old hymns were all but forgotten.
Ephrem's love for God's Word also inspired him beyond his writing and music. He often pitched in to help the local community during times of need, and he was loved even by bishops abroad. Ephrem was a sensitive, kind man known for joyfully weeping with those who rejoiced and sorrowfully weeping with those who mourned. He died from exhaustion in his 60's after assisting his suffering community during a famine.
Ephrem's legacy continues to resonate with the modern world. He lived in a time and place not unlike our own, surrounded by war, sadness, confusion, and even rebellious youth. He could have thrown his hands up and said, "What difference can a poet make?" Yet he did not shun the surrounding culture but wisely employed his gifts to engage those around him. In fact, Ephrem's gift for hymnody was so great, many churches around the world continue to sing his hymns today.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
St. Ephrem cultivated wisdom by immersing himself in God's Word. This week, read a chapter of the Bible you've never read before and study up on its meaning.
Proverbs 16: 21
Source: Crosswalk.com - The Devotional
No great mystery. After all, life is lived in the valley, not on the mountain top. Things are different between the two. If you read ahead a bit in Mark's gospel, the contrasts are stark. [Read Mark 9:14-24]
On the mountain, we encounter almighty God; in the valley, there is an encounter with the demonic. On the mountain we encounter our faith's heritage; in the valley, we encounter those who consider questions of faith as occasions for battle. On the mountain, God's calming voice is heard; in the valley, human argument is heard. On the mountain, disciples are in a mood for worship; in the valley, the disciples are spoiling for a fight. On the mountain, the glory of God is revealed; in the valley, the power of sin and unbelief is revealed. "O Lord, carry me away to the mountain," might be our prayer. YES, Lord! But then we remember the place of our ministry is with those who need our help down in the valley.
Source: David Leininger, WOW!
Matthew 18:18–20 "Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (v. 18).
In our day, respect for church authority has all but vanished. Many professing Christians think their "private lives" are no business of the church. Excommunication from a local body is hardly ever taken seriously since it rarely prevents someone from joining the church next door with no questions asked.
Several phenomena explain this sad reality. The church's fragmentation makes it easy to move from one denomination to another. Many church leaders exalt numerical growth and will not ask hard questions of the people in the pews for fear of learning a fact that would bar someone from membership. Furthermore, individualism and the way our culture falsely divides our private and personal lives makes it hard to honor the authority of Christ's church.
Yet our "private sins" are the church's business, and her judgments, when they conform to Scripture, are divinely authorized. We see this in today's passage as Jesus in Matthew 18:18–19 gives to the apostles primarily, and the church derivatively, the keys of the kingdom first given to Peter (see Matt. 16:18–19; John 20:19–23). Matthew Henry writes, "If the censures of the church duly follow the institution of Christ, his judgments will follow the censures of the church, for Christ will not allow his own ordinances to be trampled on."
Church discipline decides whether or not a person is a member in good standing of Christ's church, and such decisions have weight only if they agree with God's Word. The keys belong first to the apostles, making their inspired writings determinative. Moreover, the curse on the self-proclaimed "prophets" who denied the Word (Jer. 23:9–15) teaches the church to make decisions according to Scripture. Augustine warns that unbiblical verdicts are null and void. In discipline, the church must "bind [people] justly. For unjust bonds justice doth burst asunder" (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, first series, vol. 6, p. 359).
Safety resides in an abundance of counselors (Prov. 11:14), and a decision church elders make corporately is more likely to be biblical than if made by one man alone. Thus, Jesus assures us of His approving presence when two or more gather in His name to make decisions according to His will (Matt. 18:19–20).
Coram deo: Living before the face of God
The church's ability to liberate people, says John Calvin, is not limited to the restoration of disciplined members to full participation in the congregation. Such liberation is also discharged when elders (clergy), according to Scripture, assure repentant people of pardon after sin is confessed. This "awakens in the godly no ordinary confidence, when they hear that their sins are blotted out before God and angels, as soon as they have obtained forgiveness from the Church."
For further study:
Source: INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.
by Oswald Chambers
Our Lord never insists on having authority over us. He never says, "You will submit to me." No, He leaves us perfectly free to choose— so free, in fact, that we can spit in His face or we can put Him to death, as others have done; and yet He will never say a word. But once His life has been created in me through His redemption, I instantly recognize His right to absolute authority over me. It is a complete and effective domination, in which I acknowledge that "You are worthy, O Lord . . ." (Revelation 4:11). It is simply the unworthiness within me that refuses to bow down or to submit to one who is worthy. When I meet someone who is more holy than myself, and I don’t recognize his worthiness, nor obey his instructions for me, it is a sign of my own unworthiness being revealed. God teaches us by using these people who are a little better than we are; not better intellectually, but more holy. And He continues to do so until we willingly submit. Then the whole attitude of our life is one of obedience to Him.
If our Lord insisted on our obedience, He would simply become a taskmaster and cease to have any real authority. He never insists on obedience, but when we truly see Him we will instantly obey Him. Then He is easily Lord of our life, and we live in adoration of Him from morning till night. The level of my growth in grace is revealed by the way I look at obedience. We should have a much higher view of the word obedience, rescuing it from the mire of the world. Obedience is only possible between people who are equals in their relationship to each other; like the relationship between father and son, not that between master and servant. Jesus showed this relationship by saying, "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30). ". . . though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). The Son was obedient as our Redeemer, because He was the Son, not in order to become God’s Son.
by Lysa TerKeurst
It was one of those voicemails that left me rubbing the sides of my head wondering, "Why me? Why today?" I was blindsided by the criticism and felt this would be the perfect time to find a hole and crawl into it.
Criticism hurts. No matter who you are, how many people are encouraging you, and how happy you felt before you got "that call" or "that email," one drop of critical yuck spreads fast and furious.
Oh how I wish I had a little "criticism antidote" to make it all better. I don't. But I do have a little sermonette I preach to myself when criticized.
When someone criticizes, I've got to quickly discern if they are trying to help me or hurt me.
No criticism is fun, but it can be helpful if it is from a wise person speaking words that are truly intended to help us. Proverbs 15:2a says, "The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge ..." To me, a wise person is someone who:
This kind of criticism is given with the intent of sharing helpful wisdom that is constructive rather destructive.
If the criticism is destructive and hurtful, I must remember the second part of Proverbs 15:2b, "... but the mouth of the fool gushes folly." The definition of folly is a "lack of understanding or sense."
We need to remember this kind of harsh and unnecessary criticism says a lot more about their insecurities than our inadequacies.
We can't fix whatever hurt caused them to lash out. But we can decide to stay calm and not compound the hurt. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (Proverbs 15:1 NIV)
No matter what kind of criticism we get—helpful or hurtful—it still stings. And we might not feel like being calm at first. When I returned the call that left my heart racing and my head pounding, I didn't feel like being calm. I had to choose to be calm despite my feelings. I'm learning that staying calm is as much of a gift to myself as it is to the one criticizing me.
Dear Lord, I know You are not a God of condemnation and criticism. Teach me to hold my tongue and trust in You when I am hurt by those around me. I want to be able to take the criticism that is helpful and leave the criticism that is hurtful, but I know that only through You can I do this without the weight of condemnation. Thank You for Your gentle conviction and patience with me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
What criticism is God calling you to lay aside right now? If you are criticizing others, how is God calling you be an encourager instead of a criticizer?
"Staying calm is as much of a gift to myself as it is to the one criticizing me."
Romans 15:4, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." (NKJV)
Proverbs 15:1, "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." (NIV)
© 2012 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.
by Rebecca Oshiro
A study published recently in The Journal of Women’s Health (1) took a look at associations between weight changes in elderly women and 25(OH)D levels.
This longitudinal study examined a prospective cohort of 4659 women over the age of 65 for associations between serum 25(OH)D levels and changes in weight. All the women had their 25(OH)D levels measured and were weighed at baseline. Measurements of weight were repeated at both year six and year ten examinations. 1054 women were randomly selected to have their 25(OH)D levels retested.
The women were divided into two groups, those with 25(OH)D levels < 30 ng/mL and those with levels > 30 ng/mL. Changes in weight were recorded and participants were characterized into one of three groups: loss, gain, or stable. They made adjustments for baseline weight, age, season, years of follow-up, and multiple other confounders.
Overall, there was no association between 25(OH)D status and weight change. However, there was a significant interaction between 25(OH)D status and weight change category. In women who gained weight, those with 25(OH)D levels > 30 ng/mL gained an average of 16.4 pounds, while those with 25(OH)D levels < 30 ng/mL gained an average of 18.5 pounds. No interactions between 25(OH)D levels and weight change were observed in the women who lost weight or remained weight stable.
These results were consistent with the authors’ predictions that higher 25(OH)D levels would be associated with less weight gain over time. In previous trials, patients with higher levels of 25(OH)D lost more weight and more fat than patients with lower 25(OH)D levels. The authors note that vitamin D receptors are present on human adipocytes and that data from epidemiologic, weight loss, animal, and in vitro studies suggest it plays a role in weight regulation. Additionally they note that vitamin D appears to influence lipogensis, lipolysis, adipogenesis, and adipocyte gene transcription in vitro.
They hypothesize that from an evolutionary perspective, the decreased sun exposure in fall and winter could serve as a signal, via reduced 25(OH)D production, to increase fat stores for the coming winter and reduction in the food supply.
In conclusion, the statistically significant association found between higher levels of 25(OH)D and less weight gain among elderly women corroborate previous findings in weight loss trials involving vitamin D. This study provides evidence for a causal role of 25(OH)D levels in weight gain. Further studies are necessary to see if the same effects are observed in men and younger populations, but it appears staving off age-related weight loss may be yet another benefit to keeping your vitamin D levels optimized.
1. Leblanc ES et al. Associations Between 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and Weight Gain in Elderly Women. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2012 Jun 25. [Epub ahead of print]
Source: Vitamin D Council
Disclosure: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products and information presented on this website are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
About Rebecca Oshiro
Rebecca has a keen interest in vitamin D research. She has her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition from Bastyr University.
by Sharon S
[Editor's Note: This is the time of the year in North America when fresh fruit is plentiful. According to a culinary expert, "this is a healthy and tasty recipe for a fruit soup that'll have aging baby boomers chortling with glee."]
2 lb ripe peaches
Drop the peaches in a pot of boiling water and boil for 30 seconds. Rinse them under cold water and slip off the skins. Pit the peaches and coarsely chop them.
Tie the cloves, allspice, and cardamom in cheesecloth.
Combine the peaches, spice bundle, orange juice, lime juice, honey, cinnamon,
and ginger in a heavy saucepan.
Simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the fruit is very soft.
Remove the spice bundle and let the soup cool to room temperature.
Puree the soup in a blender and chill.
Just before serving, whisk in the yogurt and candied ginger. Correct the seasoning, adding honey and lime juice to taste.
Serve in glass bowls or wine goblets, garnishing each with a sprig of mint.
Yield: Serves 4-6.
Source: H&B Weekly
by Barbara Rainey
Romance is certainly not the foundation of marriage, but it sure makes the relationship warm and secure. At times it's the best way to say, "I really love you." In order for romance to flow most freely, however, a husband and wife must be committed to putting God first. And that includes praying together as a couple.
Our wedding day on September 2, 1972, was filled with the usual - family, friends, celebration, vows and (yes) romance. After enjoying the reception and saying our good-byes to everyone, we were off to our wedding night at the historic Warwick Hotel in Houston.
Dennis had planned every detail. After checking in, he encouraged me to take a nap while he went out and bought some flowers. Fine dining, dancing and an elegant, silent elevator ride overlooking the city skyline made the romantic evening truly magical. But back in our room, before we enjoyed becoming one, we knelt beside our bed and prayed, committing this part of our married life to the Lord and asking Him to bless us.
Since then, we have done much to enhance the romance in our marriage: going on Sunday night dates, taking drives together, having private dinners in our bedroom after the kids had gone to bed, splurging on short getaways and other surprise trips.
But whether we've been in a tent in the Rockies or at a fine New York City hotel, through prayer we have invited God to join our relationship, including the romantic aspect of it. There's nothing quite like holding one another tightly as we pray together. In fact, there may not be a more secure feeling in all the world.
Decide together to do something romantic this week. And make sure to invite God to be a part of every aspect of it.
Thank the Lord for not keeping romance off in its own little world, disconnected from your relationship with Him. Thank Him for giving full life to His children.
Source: Moments with You Devotional
by Wes Hopper
I really love t oday's quote. Can you imagine a world in which most people lived by those principles?
Well, a surprising number of people do live that way, quietly and deliberately. And what Gustafson is tell us is that we can live like that, too.
But it takes a decision on our part and we may have some work to do with our old beliefs, too.
How were you taught to expect the world to be? Was it a friendly place, a helpful place, a giving and forgiving place?
Or was it "dog-eat-dog" and "every man for himself"?
Psychology tells us that we notice things in life that confirm our beliefs. So, over time, they get stronger.
If we've been brought up in some form of the "hostile world" story, then that's what we've noticed.
Try this experiment - for one full day, notice every nice, helpful, positive, cooperative person or action that passes through your awareness.
Start to see that as normal. Because it is! The more you notice, the more there will be to notice.
You may be tested with a negative event or two along the way, but see them as the exceptions that they are.
After a while you'll be like Joan Gustafson and wonder why you didn't see this a long time ago.
The world wants to help you.
So let it!
This is why I could never do Technical Support! And my hat is off to those of you who DO!
Some recent questions received at tech support.
Tech Support: What kind of computer do you have?
Tech Support: Okay, press the control and escape keys at the same time. That
brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now, type the letter 'P' to
bring up the Program Manager.
This oughta make you feel better about your computer skills!
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