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

Theme: Suffering in Christian Life

Volume 3 No. 178 November 14, 2013

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Autumn Scenery
Preparing for the arrival of the King. ...
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

This Sunday is the first day of the advent season for the church. Although we don't think of advent till December 1, when the 25-day lent (Yeldo Lent) starts, Syriac Orthodox Church has an extended advent season stretching about 8 Sundays before Christmas when we recall all the important themes, events, and incidents that preceded the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. ...This Sunday we learn about the story of the angel (Gabriel) appearing to Zachariah, father of John the Baptist. When we look at the history of Israel, we will find that prior to this event there was a very long period of time when there were no prophets or prophesies - specifically 450 years. That is about 23 generations! ... We also look at the story of Joseph, an Old Testament hero, whose life mirrors that of Jesus. ...

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 17)

Bible Readings For the Annunciation to Zachariah
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_anunciation_zachariah.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (November 17)

Sermons for the Annunciation to Zachariah Sunday

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

4. Inspiration for Today

5. Featured: Story of Joseph - Chapter 1: The Hero Rises

When W. H. Griffith Thomas had finished his Devotional Commentary on Genesis, he surveyed Joseph's life and declared that "it is impossible to avoid seeing the close, prolonged, and striking resemblances between Joseph and Christ" (Vol. 2, P. 214). He goes on to say that it is "in every way spiritually profitable to ponder the life of Joseph in the light of the history of our blessed Lord." .. Since Christ is the great theme of the Bible, all roads must eventually lead to him. In studying Joseph, we will see glimpses of the One who will be born centuries later in an obscure village in Judea.

What starts in the fields near Hebron leads on to the fields near Bethlehem.
Joseph of the Old Testament will lead us to Joseph's son in the New Testament.
We should not hesitate to make that journey ourselves. ...

6. What to Say When There's Nothing to Say

Peter's view is ironic (to say the least). When we endure pain, most of us doubt God's love, or even question our salvation. Peter reminds us that suffering isn't punishment from God. It is temporary. Even though God didn't cause the pain, He will refine us through it. Peter seems to be echoing what Job said after he endured a tremendous trial: "But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out as gold" (Job 23:10 NIV).

If Job and Peter could find purpose in their pain, then there must be something to what they are saying. The mystery of suffering is never fully expressed. But it does seem that suffering leads us to pray more - whether out of anger, protest or petition. And thus, in the midst of tragedy, our relationship with God can improve. ..

7. Redemptive Suffering - Your Daily Sacrifice of Love

Redemptive suffering means that you offer God whatever you might be undergoing and allow Him to make use of it. No pain or disappointment or inconvenience or sadness ever "goes to waste" in this economy of salvation. This has changed my life in a profound way. I'm not perfect at it by any means but "offering it up" has set me free from so much of what used to burden and annoy me. ..

Living in this sacrificial way transforms our pain and suffering into redemptive acts. It reminds us how we are all connected as members of His Body. For me, it helps me grow in patience and in humility. It helps me react more thoughtfully. It helps me to whine less and be more thankful. It unites me to folks for whom I might never have otherwise offered a prayer. ...

8. How to Conquer Discouragement

In our fallen world, we're constantly bombarded with situations that tempt us to complain about how tough our lives are. Sometimes our troubles are miniscule (like traffic or a cranky boss), but other times they are genuinely difficult and can be quite discouraging (like an abusive spouse or a dying loved one). Our worries can weigh us down and cloud our perspective, causing us to forget....

9. What Kind of Trial Are You Going Through?

During tragedies, masses flock to God. Communities gather for prayer rallies. Television programming, usually reserved for sitcoms, is transformed into special coverage highlighting vigils, ceremonies, and prayers ending in "the name of Jesus."

Trials of adversity bring us to our knees and to our Comforter. I know this to be true in my own life. When troubles are many, my face is to the ground, my Bible is worn, and my prayers are overflowing. But what happens when when worries are few and life seems wonderful? I'd like to say that I'm still crying out to God daily with a similar passion. I'd like to say that I am reading Scripture with the same ferocity. But the truth is I do not. ...

10. Happiness During Holidays - Those Suffering From Terminal Diseases

Schwartzberg says she was clear about what's most important before she was diagnosed with stage four incurable breast cancer. As a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend, she knew that all that really matters is how much love we give and receive.

The holidays are a wonderful opportunity for people to remember that and to focus on who they love. But, too often, they become a source of anxiety, stress, and tension. Financial concerns, having too much to do, and missing loved ones were among the top causes of holiday stress, according to a recent Mental Health America survey. "Although I won't attribute any revelations about what's most important in life to my illness, I can say that there are a few things that I am trying to do better since getting sick." ....

11. Recipe: Apple Pecan Crisp

A perennial favorite recipe.

12. Family Special: Rut Busters - When Life Turns Into a Routine

When the TV show Desperate Housewives first began its iconic rise into our national awareness, Newsweek did a feature article on the phenomenon. I remember one of the women who was interviewed lamenting, "Don't you remember the time when he kissed you with a kiss that launched a thousand kisses?" Is there ever room for that in the middle of your routine? ....

13. About Malankara World

Foreword
This Sunday is important for the church and for the believers. As we mentioned earlier, the church liturgical calendar ended on October 27. The new year started on November 3 with Koodosh E'tho, the Feast of the Purification/Sanctification of the Church. Last Sunday (November 10) was the Hoodos E'tho, the dedication of the church. So, after purified, sanctified and consecrated and rededicated herself to the Mission of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, we are now ready to go through the sacramental life of the Church, beginning with the incarnation of Jesus on Christmas Day, followed by his public ministry; the crucifixion, death, and resurrection; the ascension and pentecost and the second coming.

This Sunday is the first day of the advent season for the church. Although we don't think of advent till December 1, when the 25-day lent (Yeldo Lent) starts, Syriac Orthodox Church has an extended advent season stretching about 8 Sundays before Christmas when we recall all the important themes, events, and incidents that preceded the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day.

Here is how the advent season unfolds for us this year (2013):

week 1 (Nov 17) -Annunciation to Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist (about the birth of John, the forerunner of Christ)

week 2 (Nov 24) - Annunciation to St. Mary about the birth of our Lord (about six months after Elizabeth became pregnant)

week 3 (Dec 1) - Mary Visits Elizabeth and the Magnificat

week 4 (Dec 8) - Birth of John the Baptist

week 5 (Dec 15) - Revelation to Joseph (about the Incarnation of our Lord)

week 6 (Dec 22) - Genealogy of Jesus Christ

Dec 25 - Christmas (Yeldo) - Birth of Jesus

One of the things that distinguishes the Syriac Orthodox Liturgy is that our liturgy is experiential. We experience things in our church - the important events that happened and how the redemption of fallen man was carried out by God. For example, when we attend the services on Christmas Day, we experience what the shepherds experienced while sitting around the fire - the appearance of the angels proclaiming the birth of Jesus! Yes, we get to see the fire and smell the smoke at the fire pit service. It is real!

During the Den'ho (Baptism) feast, we experience the water as Jesus stood in the river Jordan to be baptized.

We experience the fasting of Jesus during our Great Lent. We experience Jesus in our midst during the second half of the Lenten season by the appearance of "Golgotha" in the middle of the church.

During the Palm Sunday, we experience Jesus' triumphal entry to Jerusalem; we are there holding palm leaves welcoming our savior singing 'Hosanna" like the crowd in Jerusalem.

On Pesho (Monty Thursday), we experience the Last Supper as well as the washing of the Feet of the disciples by Jesus.

On Good Friday, we experience what Jesus went through from the Garden of Gethsemane to various trials, and then to Calvary, his crucifixion, and burial. In fact, we participate in walking with Jesus, carrying the cross to Calvary; we watch as Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea take the body of Jesus from the Cross to be buried; we taste the bitter liquid given to Jesus; we cry with St. Mary watching her son persecuted and crucified.

On Easter Sunday, we experience Resurrection. We are with Mary when she asks the gardener where Jesus is. (Procession singing O Mariam).

We experience the arrival of Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus on the pentecost day. As the disciples did on that day, we wait for the arrival of the spirit, with bent knees and closed eyes to receive the spirit.

So, our liturgy is complete in itself. As instituted by Jesus Christ, it allows us to experience the events as well as read and hear about it. The experts who have done research into the learning and attention modes of people will tell you that 'show and tell' is much more powerful than just 'tell' and participation is even more powerful.

In fact, Jesus showed how powerful experience can be. He showed by example. His teachings were all centered around things that were familiar to his audience, like sheep/shepherds, wine/vineyards, marriage/bride waiting for the groom, laborers in the vineyards, etc. etc.

So, recalling the events that preceded the incarnation is a very powerful way of experiencing these events and understanding the role played by them in the redemption story.

So, this Sunday we learn about the story of the angel (Gabriel) appearing to Zachariah, the chief priest. When we look at the history of Israel, we will find that prior to this event there was a very long period of time when there were no prophets or prophesies - specifically 450 years. That is about 23 generations! The last prophet that they had, that shows up in the Old Testament is Malachi. There was silence for 450 years. When we read old testament, we see that prior to Malachi, they have been used to having some kind of prophet living within the community like Isaiah, for example, a prophet to rebuke you, to encourage you, and to give you the sense that God was still speaking to your situation. But the situation changed after Prophet Malachi. For 450 years there was silence and during that time Israel was overrun by the power of Gentile countries. They were in captivity. Most had lost hope. The only die-hard believers still believed in God fulfilling His covenant of sending messiah to liberate them. Life was quite dull and uneventful.

Suddenly the scene changed. Here comes an angel of God telling Zachariah of the pending birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner to messiah. The first prophecy in 450 years comes when Zachariah finally speaks as reported in Luke 1:68-79 when John, the Baptist was born.

So, this event marked a transition - the end of the age of prophesies. The time changes to the fulfillment of all the prophesies, beginning with the arrival of the messiah. So, this Sunday is aptly called 'The Sunday of Prophesies.' All the Messianic prophesies of the Old Testament becomes a reality from this day onwards. It is the time for fulfillment of the prophecies. So, this is an important milestone for the church.

Advent is the time of hope. It is the time of waiting for the promised savior - the light. The theme of this issue of Malankara World Journal is Suffering in Christian Life. Like the nation of Israel at the time of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, we, the Christians, are also under persecution, especially in the Middle East and Africa. We cannot often understand why God sends us the trials and tribulations. It is important to realize that they are all part of God's plan for us. The trials and tribulations will refine us and make us ready for the second arrival of the Christ. So, although all the sufferings do not originate from God, He does use them to make us better.

When you study the bible, the entire bible is the story of Jesus - not just the New Testament as some mistakenly believe. Yes, New Testament tells us about the incarnation, public ministry, death resurrection, ascension, and the second coming of Jesus Christ. But the Old Testament paves the way for the arrival of the Christ. From the Genesis to Malachi, Old Testament tells us the fall of man, and the God's plan for the redemption of mankind. There is one character in Old Testament that mirrors Jesus Christ. That is Joseph, son of Jacob. So, as we begin this liturgical advent season, Malankara World starts a series of articles about Joseph. As we go through the life of Joseph, we realize how close it was to Jesus'. The articles are written by my favorite evangelist, Dr. Ray Pritchard.

Here is a short comparison of Joseph and Jesus. A detailed analysis will be given in a later issue.

Parallels Between Joseph and Jesus

Source: christtheonlyway.com
Copyright 2013. Doyle Reno. All rights reserved.

  Joseph  Jesus
Both were the favorite son of a wealthy father.   Genesis 37:3 Matthew 3:17
Both were a shepherd of his father's sheep. Genesis 37:2 John 10:11-14
Both were taken into Egypt to avoid being killed. Genesis 37:28 Matthew 2:13
Both became a servant. Genesis 39:4 Philippians 2:7
Both began their ministry at the age of thirty years old. Genesis 41:46 Luke 3:23
Both were filled with the Spirit of God. Genesis 41:38 Luke 4:1
Both returned good for evil. Genesis 50:20 Matthew 5:44
Both were humble and unspoiled by wealth. Genesis 45:7-8 John 13:12
Both were taught by God. Genesis 41:16 John 5:19
Both loved people freely. Genesis 45:15 John 13:34
Both gained the confidence of others quickly. Genesis 39:3 Matthew 8:8
Both gave bread to hungry people who came to him. Genesis 41:5-7 Mark 6:41
Both resisted the most difficult temptations. Genesis 39:8-9 Hebrews 4:15
Both were given visions of the future. Genesis 37:6-7 Matthew 24:3
Both tested people to reveal their true nature. Genesis 42:25 Mark 11:30
Both were hated for their teachings. Genesis 37:8 John 7:7
Both were sold for the price of a slave. Genesis 37:28 Matthew 26:15
Both were falsely accused. Genesis 39:14 Mark 14:56
Both were silent before their accusers. Genesis 39:20 Mark 15:4
Both were condemned between two prisoners. Genesis 40:2-3 Luke 23:32
Both arose into a new life. Genesis 41:41 Mark 16:6
Both were not recognized by their own brethren. Genesis 42.8 Luke 24:37
Both returned to their father. Genesis 46:29 Mark 16:19
Both became royalty. Genesis 45:8 Revelation 19:16

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 17)

Bible Readings For the Annunciation to Zachariah

This Sunday is commemorated as the day when John the Baptist's birth was announced to Zachariah by Angel Gabriel.

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for This Sunday (November 17)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
"Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
Isaiah 40:31

Feeling weary or uncertain today? Then you need to trust in the Lord, who will renew your energy and focus and courage! He is our strength!

Featured: Story of Joseph - Chapter 1: The Hero Rises

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Scripture: Genesis 37:1-2

When James Boice published his exposition of this section of Genesis, he called Joseph "a man for all seasons." It seems like an apt title for a man who went through so many varied experiences.

He was chosen and rejected.
He was loved and hated.
He was favored and abused.
He was betrayed and rescued.
He was promoted and imprisoned.
He was tested and rewarded.
He was slandered and praised.

At no point did he ever take his eyes off the Lord.

Adversity didn't harden him.
Prosperity didn't ruin him.
Temptation didn't destroy him.
Imprisonment didn't embitter him.
Promotion didn't change him.

He was a truly great man.

His Story in One Paragraph

Here is his story in one paragraph. He was the favored son of his father Jacob. When he enters the stage of biblical history, he is 17 years old. Because his brothers hated him, he was sold as a slave and taken to Egypt. After being falsely accused of rape, he was imprisoned with no hope of getting out. Because he correctly interpreted Pharaoh's dream, he became the prime minister of Egypt. Eventually he welcomed his family to Egypt, which preserved the line of promise that had started with his great-grandfather Abraham.

That brief summary only hints at the drama that surrounded his life.

There is another way to put his life in perspective. If you know four events and four personalities, you know the basic structure of Genesis.

Genesis 1-11 concerns four great events:

Creation
Fall
Flood
Tower

Everything in those eleven chapters can be related to those four events.

Starting with Genesis 12, the story focuses on four great men:

Abraham
Isaac
Jacob
Joseph

Of those four men, Abraham and Joseph receive the most space. It may surprise you to know that Joseph's story takes up more space in Genesis than the story of Abraham. That one fact ought to alert us that this is no ordinary man and no ordinary life story. Joseph is the "hinge" that connects Genesis (the Book of Beginnings) with Exodus (the Book of Redemption).

If Exodus tells us how God delivered his people from Egypt, Joseph's story tells us how they got there in the first place.

Lessons Joseph Teaches Us

Though Joseph was God's man, he did not have an easy life. Here are some of the things his story teaches us:

Trusting God when in the pit of despair.
How to deal with sexual temptation.
How to redeem a painful past.
What to do while you wait.
How to see God's hand in all things.
How to make wise plans.
How God awakens a guilty conscience.
The marks of true repentance.
How to live for God in a pagan culture.
Overcoming lingering bitterness.
How to die well.

Besides those lessons, we should note that Joseph stands as an outstanding type or picture of Jesus Christ. The older commentators especially loved to note the points of correspondence. We do not have to look far to see the resemblance. He was . . .

Loved by his father.
Hated and betrayed by his brothers.
Sold for 20 pieces of silver.
Falsely accused.
Judged guilty of a crime he did not commit.
Abandoned and forgotten.
Promoted after his suffering.
The means of salvation even for those who betrayed him.

When W. H. Griffith Thomas had finished his Devotional Commentary on Genesis, he surveyed Joseph's life and declared that "it is impossible to avoid seeing the close, prolonged, and striking resemblances between Joseph and Christ" (Vol. 2, P. 214). He goes on to say that it is "in every way spiritually profitable to ponder the life of Joseph in the light of the history of our blessed Lord." That seems exactly right to me. Since Christ is the great theme of the Bible, all roads must eventually lead to him. In studying Joseph, we will see glimpses of the One who will be born centuries later in an obscure village in Judea.

What starts in the fields near Hebron leads on to the fields near Bethlehem.
Joseph of the Old Testament will lead us to Joseph's son in the New Testament.
We should not hesitate to make that journey ourselves.

Two Key Observations

As I have been preaching Joseph's story this summer, two thoughts have increasingly occupied my mind.

1. Joseph did not know how his story would end.

We have a problem that Joseph didn't face.
We know how the story ends.

No matter how hard we try, it is almost impossible to read it as the amazing, unpredictable adventure that it was. When you know the end of the story, you may lose the sense of how unexpected it all was.

How much did Joseph know about his future when he was a teenager tending the flocks with his brothers? Zero. Nothing. Nada.

How much did he know about his future when he was cast into the pit? Nothing at all.

How much did he know about what was about to happen when he was rising in Potiphar's house? Same answer.

How much did he know when Potiphar's wife falsely accused him of rape? He knew only that he was innocent of the charge.

How much did he know when he was languishing in an Egyptian prison? He had no clue what was about to happen.

How much did he know about God's purposes when he was elevated to being the prime minister of Egypt? He didn't see it at all.

Let me put it this way. How much do you know for certain about what will happen to you in the coming week? You have your plans, of course, but those could be changed. You have classes to attend, calls to make, people to see, appointments to keep, papers to write, plans to make, ideas to discuss, and decisions you have to make. But all of that is contingent on circumstances far beyond your control. When I was preaching in Michigan, I off-handedly commented how quickly life could change. "Just one phone call could change everything," I said. I ran into a woman who told me that when I said that, she felt that was meant for her. The next day she received an unexpected phone call saying that a dear friend had passed away.

Life is short, fragile, and uncertain.
No one knows what tomorrow may bring.

We will gain much more from Joseph's story if we read it the way he lived it - with no clear idea of the future, with no big picture to guide him, with no "happy ending" in view. In short, we should read Joseph's life the way we live our own lives - one day at a time.

And that leads me to the second key point.

2. God is the hero of the story.

On one level, we certainly know this is true. Joseph says as much when he declares to his brothers that "God meant it for good." But it's easy to forget that through all the ups and downs of Joseph's life, there was an "invisible hand" working through every single event to produce the desired result, which Joseph himself could not see until he arrived at the end.

If we read Joseph's story and do not come away with a new appreciation for God's providence over all things, then we have certainly missed the point. While there are many important lessons to be gleaned from his life, above all else Joseph's story points us to God. His story proves that


Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.


What's Your Wingspan?

When I preached this series at Word of Life Campground, I started the week by stretching my arms out and saying, "We need a big God." I must have done that a lot during the week because when I finished my last message, Jason Perkins (who oversees the Campground during the summer season) asked me about my "wingspan." He had noticed me stretching my arms out all week long to make my points. He said he thought my wingspan was greater than my height. That didn't seem likely to me but for the fun of it, he had me stand on the platform and stretch my arms out so he could measure them. Then he measured my height. The results surprised me.

I'm 6'3" tall with a wingspan of 6'8". Someone asked me if I ever played basketball, and the answer is no, just pickup games here and there. I have long arms but that's about it. My older brother Andy got most of the basketball skill in the family.

I mention that to emphasize the point that we need a big God.

When you've been betrayed by your brothers, a small God won't do.
When you've been falsely accused of rape, a "medium God" won't be enough to support you.
When you've been forgotten in prison, an "average God" will not sustain you.

You need a big God.
You need a God whose ways are vast beyond understanding.
You need a God whose purposes span the generations.
You need a God who cannot be stopped by the evil deeds of evil men.

We have a God like that!
The God of Joseph is our God too.

Check out your own wingspan.
Stand up and stretch out your arms as far as they will go.
Then say, "I need a big God."
Good news! You've got one.
He's the God of the Bible.

Working in the Family Business

Here is how Joseph's story begins:

Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. This is the account of Jacob's family line. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers (vv. 1-2).

With no other introduction, Joseph steps onto the stage of biblical history. At this point we know only three things about him:

He is a teenager.
He is working in the family business.
He doesn't have a clue about his own future.

When I preached this in Michigan, a teenage girl told me how much this meant to her because she too is 17 years old, and like Joseph she doesn't have a clue about what her future holds. I suppose that if we had asked Joseph about his career plans, he would probably have said, "I'm going to be a shepherd like my father and my grandfather and my great-grandfather." After all, that was the family business. Apparently Abraham and Isaac and Jacob had done pretty well at it. So we would expect Joseph to figure that his future would include sheep.

But God had other plans.

Before this story is over Joseph will become the prime minister of Egypt, but you couldn't tell it that day when he went out with his brothers to tend to the flocks.

Scattered Threads

As the story begins, the threads of his life are scattered in all directions. Only later will the grand design become apparent. But it is clear enough that Joseph was being prepared by God for his destiny long before he was aware of it. Marcus Dods emphasizes the traits he inherited from his ancestors:

He had Abraham's dignity and capacity, Isaac's purity and power of self-devotion, Jacob's cleverness and buoyancy and tenacity. From his mother's family he had personal beauty, humor, and management.

Although God had been preparing the way for Joseph long before he was born, it would take quite a while for him to discover his calling in life. But when he did, he saved his family and changed the course of history. For the moment he's seventeen years old, working in the family business, without a clue about the events that were about to unfold.

What, then, shall we say about this young man as we begin our journey through his story?

Joseph stands before us as a man whose life was filled with turmoil. It started early in his life and never really stopped. Through it all, he emerges triumphant by God's grace.

-- You betray him, and he ends up in Egypt.
-- You throw him in prison, and he ends up running the joint.
-- You travel to Egypt, and he's the prime minister.
-- You try to trick him, and he turns around and forgives you.

Joseph always lands on his feet. Here is a man who conquers crisis by supreme confidence in God. Though he came from an extremely dysfunctional family, God turned him into a hero who delivered the family that sold him into slavery.

He became a key link in the chain of God's plan that would 2000 years later bring the Messiah to the earth. As Joseph saved his own family, so Christ would come as the Savior of the world.

What a man!
What a story!

In studying Joseph . . .

We will learn about life itself. This is how it works. This is what we should expect. Life isn't easy for any of us, and for most of us it can be quite difficult. To say it another way, anyone looking for an easy life has picked the wrong planet to be born on.

We will learn how this life works for our good. Spurgeon remarked that "God is to be seen in small things." Since God himself stands behind the universe he created, we should not be surprised to find his fingerprints everywhere, even in the tiniest details of life.

We will learn how Christ is the power to make life worthwhile. Note that I did not say that Christ "has" the power, which is true, but that Christ "is" the power, which is slightly different. Because Christ himself lives in us, he himself is the power that gives meaning and purpose to life.

As we will see in our next study, the hero arises out of the turmoil of a dysfunctional family. His brothers don't like him. There is trouble on the horizon.

Joseph proves you can come from a crazy, mixed-up family and do amazing things for the Lord.

But it won't be easy and definitely not predictable.
Hang on - it's going to be a bumpy ride for Joseph and for us.

Stay tuned. Much more to come.
You won't believe what his brothers do to him.

As we take our leave of Joseph for the moment, remember this. His God is our God too. We need a big God, and we have one. Let that thought give strength to your heart this week.

Copyright © 2013 Keep Believing Ministries, All rights reserved.

Next Week: 'Story of Joseph' continues - Chapter 2: Do You Know Why You Were Born?

What to Say When There's Nothing to Say

by C. Adam Clagg

"Why would God do this?" his grandmother asked me as we stood in front of her grandson's casket. Was there an answer that would calm her troubled heart? Nothing I could say would take away her pain. I told her that I did not know why her grandson died, but that God cares for us when we are suffering.

First Peter is about suffering. Certainly not a topic I like to read about or hear preached, but Peter casts it in a new light. And he has reasons for doing so.

Reason 1: Peter's Experience

The apostle Peter understood suffering from identifying with Jesus and his years serving the fledgling church. Sometimes his suffering was self-induced, caused by his own mistakes. The simple, rugged fisherman failed when he took his eyes off Jesus while walking on the water. Peter even denied Christ during the last few hours before the crucifixion. Despite all this, Jesus never forsook Peter, and God used these experiences to mold him.

In [Christ] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith - of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined size="3" by fire - may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Pet 1:6–7 NIV).

Peter's view is ironic (to say the least). When we endure pain, most of us doubt God's love, or even question our salvation. Peter reminds us that suffering isn't punishment from God. It is temporary. Even though God didn't cause the pain, He will refine us through it. Peter seems to be echoing what Job said after he endured a tremendous trial: "But [God] knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I shall come out as gold" (Job 23:10 NIV).

If Job and Peter could find purpose in their pain, then there must be something to what they are saying. The mystery of suffering is never fully expressed. But it does seem that suffering leads us to pray more - whether out of anger, protest or petition. And thus, in the midst of tragedy, our relationship with God can improve.

Reason 2: Christ's Suffering

As odd as it sounds, we have the opportunity to become more like Jesus by suffering.

Jesus gave us the ultimate example of godly endurance when He died for our sins. He had a purpose in mind. Peter says that "Christ suffered for [us], leaving [us] an example … [We] should follow in his steps" (1 Pet 2:21 NIV). But why do we need to suffer like Jesus? Wasn't He crucified "once and for all" for us?

These questions delve further into the mystery of anguish. It is not that we need to suffer just like Jesus. Because Christ suffered and "bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed" (2:24).

The last line of 1 Pet 2:24 is an allusion to the servant in Isaiah.

Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isa 53:4–6 NIV, emphasis added).

For Peter, Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment of the suffering servant prophesied about 500 years earlier. Peter directs the words of Isaiah at his community by exchanging the pronoun "we" for "you": "By his wounds you have been healed." Jesus bore our sin and lifted our iniquities so that we will no longer be separated from God (1 Pet 2:24; Isa 53:8). We don't have to endure ultimate suffering - separation from God - because of the ultimate sufferer's actions. All we have to do is believe, and then begin "living for righteousness" (the right purposes) (1 Pet 2:24).

The example of Christ's suffering in 1 Pet 2:24 also clarifies Peter's point in 1 Pet 2:21: We should react to suffering like Jesus did, being willing to suffer for other people. When we suffer, we share something in common with Jesus. We have an opportunity to show people Christ's faithfulness in how we react. Jesus was rejected, humiliated, beaten and murdered. When tragedy happens to us, it is not caused by God, but it is certainly an opportunity to show ourselves faithful.

When you are going through horrible times, people will watch to see how you react. It may seem strange and even unfair, but God might be answering your prayers in a round-about way. A friend who needs Christ may accept Him because you believed that God would continue to work through you - even in the midst of your pain.

Above all, Peter wants us to remember that we are not alone. When we cry out to Christ, He understands our pain and weaknesses because He endured the same thing.

Reason 3: Blessings

Peter's audience was suffering at the hands of other people, because they believed in Jesus. If you have endured persecution for Christ, you know how traumatic it can be. Peter offers some advice: following the example of his Savior, he encourages us not to repay evil for evil or insult for insult.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing (1 Pet 3:8–9 NIV).

"Bless" those who harm me? You have got to be kidding. What is Peter talking about? The Greek words Peter uses (eulogeo and eulogia) both have to do with wishing favor upon someone - specifically the type of favor wished on someone through prayer. We don't need a Greek dictionary to figure this out. Just look at the context:

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with eulogeo, because to this you were called so that you may inherit eulogia.

From the context, we find the sense of the word. "Favor" works nicely:

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with favor, because to this you were called so that you may inherit favor.

If we turn the other cheek, those attempting to inflict pain will be thrown off their game. They will be taken aback. They may even suddenly begin to favor us.

We see the English word "blessed" again in 3:14 "But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed (makarios)." First Peter 3:14 uses makarios, not eulogeo or eulogia. This is a different kind of "blessing" than what we see in 3:9. Makarios is the word we find in Jesus' "Blessed are you" sayings in Matt 5. Jesus says:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled (Matt 5:3–6 NIV).

All of Jesus' sayings are about how God will vindicate His people - what He will do for them in the future. In His next statement, Jesus even echoes Peter's logic in 3:9: "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matt 5:7 NIV). If you show mercy, God will be merciful. If you show kindness to other people when they are cruel, they will likely be kind to you. Giving someone what they don't deserve changes everything, and it results in God's favor - His future blessing.

The apostle talks about this in depth in his second letter.

Reason 4: God's Faithfulness

One day, our suffering will end. We will be united with our suffering Lord and those who came to know Him because we suffered well. This is what Peter says near the end of his second letter, which he wrote very close to his execution:

Since everything will be destroyed … what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. [The day God comes] will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation (2 Pet 3:11–15 NIV).

Suffering does not last forever. Not only do we follow Christ's example by suffering, but we also follow in His resurrection. One day, God will raise us up out of our suffering.

First and Second Peter gives us a complete picture of suffering. These letters remind us that suffering is only temporary and that it exists because we live in a fallen world. But one day Christ will return and redeem this world and make everything right. One day God will vindicate us. In the meantime, we have to act like Christ by being kind to those who do not deserve kindness. In doing so, we will realize the profoundness of suffering - the mystery. For this reason, Peter says at the end of his letter, "Cast all your anxiety on [Christ] because he cares for you" (1 Pet 5:7).

-------

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Logos Bible Software. More information is available at www.biblestudymagazine.com. Copyright Bible Study Magazine (May–June 2010): pgs. 29–31.

Source: Live It Devotional

Redemptive Suffering - Your Daily Sacrifice of Love

by Tiber Judy

Here are a few things that make me crazy: being stuck in traffic; poor customer service; unloading the dishwasher; those cards that fall out of magazines; littering (possibly including those cards that fall out of magazines); and people who don't listen.

Here are a few things that can make me holy: being stuck in traffic; poor customer service; unloading the dishwasher; those cards that fall out of magazines; littering (possibly including those cards that fall out of magazines); and people who don't listen.

Seeing a pattern here? Good. Whatever causes me to suffer, a little or a lot, can be offered to God and He can take our offering and use it for His good purpose. We Catholics call this "redemptive suffering" or in more everyday terms "offering it up." All religious faiths try and make sense out of suffering. Whether it's karma (Hinduism) or the result of sin (some televangelists) we can all agree that to be alive is to be acquainted with suffering, whether great or small. Catholics understand suffering (and sin and death) as a result of original sin, when our first parents disobeyed God in the garden of Eden. Since that time, God has allowed us to suffer for our benefit. We may not know while we are suffering what that benefit might be but we can usually see His purpose for it when we look back at our past trials. Maybe He allowed it so we'd become more dependent on Him, or maybe by our suffering we'd correct those behaviors or attitudes that had led us away from His path for us. The bottom line is that we're all going to suffer in this life. The question is: how are you going to handle it?

Christ suffered betrayal, mockery, humiliation, abandonment, was beaten and scourged, spat upon and nailed to a Cross to die. If God Himself suffered so much, we shouldn't expect not to suffer. As Christ offered Himself to the Father, so must we. We are the Body of Christ and our love for Him unites us in a profound and mystical way. When we offer our sufferings back to Him, He sanctifies them. In that way, we participate in Christ's redemption of the world. St. Paul writes about this when he says: "…whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His Body, which is the Church" (Colossians 1:23-24).

Redemptive suffering means that you offer God whatever you might be undergoing and allow Him to make use of it. No pain or disappointment or inconvenience or sadness ever "goes to waste" in this economy of salvation. This has changed my life in a profound way. I'm not perfect at it by any means but "offering it up" has set me free from so much of what used to burden and annoy me. Those things that I said "make me crazy" in the first paragraph are small examples of what I can let go of. Every time I do, I grow a little. I offer my impatience as a gift to the Lord. If I'm inconvenienced by slow traffic, I give this tiny "suffering" for Him to use as He will. When customer service fails me, I say a prayer for the harried telephone rep and give it over to God. When I walk by trash on the sidewalk, not only can I pick it up and give that act back to Him, I can ask for His blessing on the one who threw it down. Nothing is lost to the Lord if we offer it back to Him in love. We can ask Him to use our suffering in a particular way, if we want to. "Lord, please accept this pain (or whatever our sacrifice might be) to help bring my co-worker to know Your Son…" We learn to accept our suffering with peace and we ask God to use it for something good. This is truly taking up our cross and following Jesus.

Living in this sacrificial way transforms our pain and suffering into redemptive acts. It reminds us how we are all connected as members of His Body. For me, it helps me grow in patience and in humility. It helps me react more thoughtfully. It helps me to whine less and be more thankful. It unites me to folks for whom I might never have otherwise offered a prayer. I have a long way to go in learning to "offer it up" but it's one of the great blessings of my Catholic faith. In my own small, deeply-flawed way it helps me to be just a tiny bit like Jesus. As St. Alphonsus Liguori (1696-1787) wrote: "I have had crosses in plenty–more than I could carry, almost. I set myself to ask for the love of crosses–then I was happy." Amen!

"Each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ." – Pope John Paul II

How to Conquer Discouragement

by Felicia Alvarez

"I have a tough life," my five-year-old cousin said.

"Really? Why is that?" I asked.

Folding his arms, he looked up at me with his big blue eyes as he rattled off his complaints. "Well, I get spankings, I get time out, and I have to clean my room!"

I couldn't help bursting out in laughter. In return, he just looked at me quizzically as if silently asking, "Why are you laughing? I'm serious!"

After regaining my composure, I shook my head and said, "I don't think that's too terrible, buddy. I think you're gonna be okay."

Later that day my cousin's complaint made me wonder: How often does God smile down at us and say, "Everything is going to be all right, my child"?

In our fallen world, we're constantly bombarded with situations that tempt us to complain about how tough our lives are. Sometimes our troubles are miniscule (like traffic or a cranky boss), but other times they are genuinely difficult and can be quite discouraging (like an abusive spouse or a dying loved one). Our worries can weigh us down and cloud our perspective, causing us to forget:

that, since we are citizens of heaven, our problems on earth are only for a season (Philippians 3:20).
that God works out everything - even tough situations - for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
that we can trust God with our lives (Psalm 55:22).

When trouble hits, we tend to see only challenges. So, how can we get a fresh perspective on life when discouragement is weighing us down?

Here are a few things that have helped me:

1) Determine if the cause of discouragement is worth being discouraged about. First, I ask myself: Am I upset about something important or something trivial? Often a long line at the supermarket or a rude stranger can put a damper on the entire day. But are those worth being upset about?

2) Determine if the loss is imagined or real. Frequently I'm only upset because of my own "what if…" thoughts: What if she thinks this? What if they do that? What if I don't do well? What if they don't like it?

When "what ifs" or imagined thoughts weigh you down, ask God to help you take those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5). Choose instead to dwell on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).

3) Talk to the right people about the problem. In 1 Samuel we find the story of Hannah, a woman deeply grieved because she was unable to have children. In her sorrow, Hannah cried out to the Lord for comfort. She went to the temple year after year to pray, and the Lord heard her prayers and opened her womb. Her story is an excellent reminder that we should, first of all, talk to God about our sorrows. "Cast all your anxieties upon Him because He cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7).

We can also dialog with encouraging Christians who will speak God's truth into our lives. However, we need to be careful when selecting these confidants. Discussing the matter with those unable to provide wise advice doesn't help us. It may even deepen our discouragement or spread it to others.

4) Dive into the Word. God's truth is the best defense against Satan's schemes. Several years ago I had two stress fractures which kept me from being active. It put my hobbies - and career - on the line. Needless to say, I was very discouraged. But during that time I dove into the Bible and, in the depths of my sadness, He spoke to me in deeper ways than I had ever experienced. The trial didn't disappear, but God's Scriptures lifted me out of the valley of discouragement. It empowered me to endure the trial with contentment and peace instead of depression and bitterness. Sometimes our lows in life are what bring us closest to God. Don't miss the opportunity by pushing away from God; run to the open pages of the Word!

5) Pour into others. I once heard someone say that it's better to live life giving away than pulling away. Giving to those in need reminds us of what we have to be thankful for. So, visit a lonely person. Help an elderly neighbor with their yard work. Write a letter to someone who needs cheering up. Are there children at your church that need a mentor? Take the opportunity to disciple them and point them to the Lord. The more you serve, the more you'll find that your perspective change from gloominess to thankfulness.

6) Rest in the Lord. Psalm 55:22 says, "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken." During an extremely difficult situation in the life of Christian author and pastor, Andrew Murray, he eloquently penned:

"First, He brought me here; it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.
Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.
Then, he will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.
Last, in His good time He can bring me out again - how and when He knows.

Let me say I am here,

1) by God's appointment
2) in His keeping
3) under His training
4) for His time"

No matter what your trial, God will see you through it. "Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge" (Psalm 62:8).

About The Author:

Felicia Alvarez lives in Southern California and loves avocados, sunshine, and serving her Savior. Currently, she teaches dance to over one hundred students and is working on her second book.

Source: Live It Devotional

What Kind of Trial Are You Going Through?

by Trillia Newbell

When disaster strikes, Americans run to God in heaps. According to a Lifeway Research survey conducted in May 2013 after the Oklahoma tornado tragedy, approximately six in 10 Americans (57 percent) agreed that they had a greater interest in God. Studies like this are useful and only confirm what we already know to be fact. During tragedies, masses flock to God. Communities gather for prayer rallies. Television programming, usually reserved for sitcoms, is transformed into special coverage highlighting vigils, ceremonies, and prayers ending in "the name of Jesus."

The Trial of Adversity

Trials of adversity bring us to our knees and to our Comforter. I know this to be true in my own life. When troubles are many, my face is to the ground, my Bible is worn, and my prayers are overflowing. But what happens when when worries are few and life seems wonderful? I'd like to say that I'm still crying out to God daily with a similar passion. I'd like to say that I am reading Scripture with the same ferocity. But the truth is I do not. When I don't feel my need, I can forget that God continues to be my every moment, every single day need regardless of my circumstance and how I feel.

The Trial of Prosperity

Everyone tends to forget God during times of prosperity. Hosea 13:6 says, "It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me." Their hearts were lifted but not to the Lord. So it is with us. We tend to worship ease, to become self-sufficient, and thus lack genuine prayer and worship. Trembling before the Lord and the mystery of His providence ceases. Thanksgiving becomes minimal. Complacency seeps into our hearts like a leaky faucet - eventually becoming a pool of self-absorption and laziness towards the Lord.

Prosperity can look different for all of us. For me it doesn't mean a time of great wealth, it's simply a time when not as much as usual is going on. There's general peace in the home, perhaps my kids are doing well in obedience and my husband and I are enjoying a season of sweet conversations and time together. It doesn't take much for my heart to become satisfied with my circumstances and forget that God is the giver of all good things (James 1:17). We aren't thankful because we have forgotten the giver. We are self-sufficient because we've forgotten the provider of strength (Isaiah 40:29). It's simply easier to forget our need when we aren't being pressed.

Here's the good news. God is the giver of all good things including the faith to follow him. If I ever desire God, ever, it's only because he has done a work in my heart. In a video answering question 35 of the New City Catechism, which asks: "Since we are redeemed by grace alone, through faith alone, where does this faith come from?" Crawford Loritts explains:

"All of salvation, really, is of God. None of it is of ourselves. The Holy Spirit gives us new life and the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith. In Ephesians 2:1 the Apostle Paul tells us, we are dead in our trespasses and sin. There's nothing we could do to give ourselves life and to give us the ability to believe, and the Spirit of God comes the moment of salvation and gives us new life. Down in verse 8 and 9 in Ephesians 2 we are told that by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God. God through His Holy Spirit gives us the gift to believe Him for our own salvation. He does it all for us."

Why does this matter? Because if we remember our salvation and where our faith comes from and if we remember that all good things come from God and if we ask him, God will give us a heart of thanksgiving and worship during "good" times. The grace to believe and to obey and worship at all comes from him. And God will never allow us to be satisfied with anything in this world. This is great news for the Christian. So even when we forget him, he will remind us who he is, we can't ignore him (Romans 1:20).

But even greater, we have his spirit and "he yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us" (James 4: 5). He won't allow us to be complacent and apathetic for long because for those who are in Christ there will be something in our spirit that will convict and remind us of the Giver of life. And by His grace, which is abundant for you, we can turn to him in worship and give "thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Ephesians 5:20).

About The Author:

Trillia Newbell is a freelance journalist and writer. She wrote on faith and family for The Knoxville News-Sentinel, and serves as the Lead Editor of Karis, the Women's Channel of CBMW. She guests post frequently at The Gospel Coalition and Desiring God. She is the author of 'United: Captured by God's Vision for Diversity' (Moody 2014). You can learn more about her via her site www.trillianewbell.com.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Happiness During Holidays - Those Suffering From Terminal Diseases

Would Your Holidays be Different If You Knew You Had a Terminal Illness?

Woman Living with Incurable Cancer Offers 3 Ways to Get the Most Out of Every Day

Jane Schwartzberg cringes when she hears someone say that a terrible accident or frightening medical diagnosis made them realize what's important in life.

"In some ways, I do wish everyone could experience a taste of terminal, if that's what it takes to make them appreciate the intangible gifts we receive not just during the holidays, but all year," says Schwartzberg, co-author with Marcy Tolkoff Levy of "Naked Jane Bares All," www.nakedjanebaresall.com, a new book that shares Jane's story with candor and humor.

"But I wish they'd known all along, and I hate the thought of goodness coming at the expense of so much suffering."

Schwartzberg says she was clear about what's most important before she was diagnosed with stage four incurable breast cancer. As a mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend, she knew that all that really matters is how much love we give and receive.

The holidays are a wonderful opportunity for people to remember that and to focus on who they love. But, too often, they become a source of anxiety, stress, and tension. Financial concerns, having too much to do, and missing loved ones were among the top causes of holiday stress, according to a recent Mental Health America survey.

"Although I won't attribute any revelations about what's most important in life to my illness, I can say that there are a few things that I am trying to do better since getting sick," Schwartzberg says.

"The holidays are a great time to cultivate a spirit of gratitude and to re-focus on the things that are most meaningful."

For Schwartzberg, those include:

Showing up. If you're worried about yesterday or always planning for tomorrow, you're missing the present moment and any wonderful experiences it may hold.

"Although my clock ticks louder than others, I know we are all here for a short time," Schwartzberg says. "I am determined to find joy in every single day. It may come from the simplest of things: a view from my window, a great conversation or a hot cup of coffee. But I know I need to be always present and available, with an open mind and open heart, to experience any of it."

Riding her love train. We all have people in our lives who care about us, and it's important to let them know how much we appreciate them. Schwartzberg's "love train" is a metaphor for all of the people she chooses to share her life with. "They are rooting me on and giving my family and me love and support," she says. "I try to be as meticulous and thoughtful as I possibly can be with those on board, and that means making sure they know how much I love and value them."

Knowing my place in the world. There is a Jewish teaching that says everyone should carry with them two pieces of paper, each in a separate pocket. One paper should say, "I am but dust and ashes." The other, "The world was created for me."

"I constantly remind myself that both statements are true," Schwartzberg says. "I am capable of incredible things to improve the world, and I am just a tiny speck in the universe. Powerfulness and humility can, and do, exist for me side by side."

As the holidays approach, keep in mind that the best gift you can give – or receive – is love.

"It's not a table full of food or gadgets you can't afford," she says. "Approach this holiday season as if it could be your last, and you'll probably find much more to revel in than to stress about."

About Jane Schwartzberg

Jane Schwartzberg, 45, is the co-author of the newly released book, "Naked Jane Bares All," the many-layered story – told with humor and candor -- of how she learned to embrace life when she was down for the count. Jane is a financial services executive and founder and former CEO of a start-up technology company.

"Naked Jane Bares All" was co-written by veteran writer Marcy Tolkoff Levy. Following a year of interviews and many late nights with Jane, her family and friends, Marcy formed the foundation of a colorful, poignant and even humorous collection of vignettes about how Jane continues to get back up when life throws her down.

Recipe: Apple Pecan Crisp

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

We had the first snow fall of the season this week. It reminds us of the arriving winter. However, there are plenty of apples and nuts available in farm stands and grocery stores. How about baking some delicious Apple Crisps your kids will love?

Apple Pecan Crisp

Ingredients

1 cup pecans (about 4 ounces)
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
pinch salt
6 tablespoons very cold unsalted butter, cut into ½” dice
½ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 ½ pounds tart baking apples (about 5 large), peeled, quartered, cored and sliced crosswise ¼” thick

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 deg C). Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and bake for 6 – 8 minutes, or until very lightly toasted. Let the nuts cool completely, then coarsely chop them. Leave the oven on.

2. In a food processor, pulse the flour with the brown sugar, ¼ cup of the granulated sugar and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal (see photo below). Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and stir in the toasted pecans and oats (be sure pecans are cool). Set aside.

3. Generously butter a shallow medium baking dish (I used a 12”L x 8”W x 1” deep ceramic oval baking dish). In a medium bowl, toss the apples with the remaining 6 tablespoons granulated sugar. Transfer the apple mixture to the prepared baking dish and cover with topping. Bake in the middle of the oven for about 40-50 minutes, or until the apples are tender when pierced and topping is toasted. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream if desired.

Adapted from Food & Wine by Jennifer

Family Special: Rut Busters - When Life Turns Into a Routine
Come, my beloved, let us go out into the country. . . . There I will give you my love.
SONG OF SOLOMON 7:11-12

I don't know what "routine" means to you, but this was ours when the kids were still at home:

Up before sunrise, have a few words together, maybe enjoy a little breakfast or a cup of coffee, exchange a kiss on the cheek and it's goodbye for the day.

I take kids to school and then drive on to the office, while Barbara stays home to get busy with her own work. She deals with endless issues involving the children—school, laundry, chores, errands, doctors and conflicts.

Meanwhile, I juggle budgets and meetings and problem solving all day long. Our paths cross again around 6 P.M., after both of us have emptied about 90 percent of our tanks. We take a glance at the news, eat dinner, flip through the mail, pay some bills, clean up the dishes, help with school work. Then an hour of getting the kids to bed. Barbara tries to get in some reading before sleep overtakes her.

That's the drill.

But there is no imagination in that. I'm not saying that a typical day can routinely accommodate wild swings of adventure, but I'll tell you this (if you haven't noticed already): A routine is just a few letters away from being shortened to a rut. A rut you will never escape unless you make a deliberate effort to do so. And I guarantee that your "rut" will never be on the same page as "romance" in your marital dictionary.

When the TV show Desperate Housewives first began its iconic rise into our national awareness, Newsweek did a feature article on the phenomenon. I remember one of the women who was interviewed lamenting, "Don't you remember the time when he kissed you with a kiss that launched a thousand kisses?"

Is there ever room for that in the middle of your routine?

DISCUSS

Ready to spice up the routine? How would you do it if you could? (You can, you know.)

PRAY

Ask the Creator for a delightful dose of His creativity to give you a break from the routine.

Source: Moments with You

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