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

Great Lent - Week 2

Volume 4 No. 201 March 7, 2014

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Psalm 23:3 He restores my soul
After this cruel arctic blast in most of North America for the past 2 months, let us hope for some warm weather.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 9)

Bible reading for Second Sunday of Great Lent (Lepers' Sunday)
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_2nd_sunday_of_Great-Lent.htm

2. Sermons for This Sunday (March 9)

Sermons for the Second Sunday in Great Lent (Leper Sunday)

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_2nd-sunday-in-Lent.htm

3. Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

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

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

Week 2 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week2.htm

4. Inspiration for Today: What Really Matters

Advertising bombards us with the message that life is all about me, it is all about now. Such messages may sell products and services, but they will cause us to sell our souls if we follow this philosophy. ...

5. The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part One)

Throughout history, few diseases have been as dreaded as the horrible affliction known as leprosy. It was so common and severe among ancient peoples that God gave Moses extensive instructions to deal with it (Leviticus 13 and 14). Biblically, leprosy refers to several skin diseases and even some kinds of fungus, such as those found in the walls of houses and in clothing. The leprosy that Christ healed was similar to what is today called Hansen's Disease, a detestable infection that can greatly disfigure and destroy the human body. Though not as contagious as scarlet fever, it can still be transmitted through an infected person's secretions. ...

6. The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part Two)

His advanced disease had certainly put the leper who approached Jesus Christ in a bad way. His situation seemed hopeless - until God sent His Son as Healer and Savior. The man, having heard Jesus' message of hope, and realizing that this unique, godly Man was nearby, sought out His help. He would not be disappointed. Jesus' kindly answer to him, "I will," showed His willingness to cleanse him quickly. In an instant, the leprosy disappeared; he was restored to full health (Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15).

The humble leper exhibits at least five notable virtues - sincerity, reverence, faithfulness, truthfulness, and wisdom - that provide insight into how we should approach Christ for healing. We will consider each of these in turn. ...

7. The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part Three)

In performing the healing of the leper, "Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed'" (Mark 1:41). In this miracle, we receive a glimpse of how cleansing works to prepare us for salvation. The physical cleansing of the leper resulted from God's grace, power, and faithful word. Similarly, spiritual cleansing of sins and flaws results directly from God's grace, power, and word, preparing us spiritually for His work in us. We see Christ's love and mercy in cleansing the leper in the words "compassion," revealing his tenderness of heart, and "touched," showing His power near at hand. ...

8. My Thoughts on Lent

Why do we observe Lent? Is it just as a remembrance of the fasting that Christ went through or do we take the opportunity to focus on God and our spiritual life? I was wondering what does Lent mean for me. Of course fasting is the emphasized area of Lent. Fasting is good. Fasting is good for the physical health; but the main reason for us to fast is that it helps us to focus on God and our spiritual duties. It was because of Christ's focus on God and His laws and teachings during his fast that inspired him to give those specific answers to the devil during his temptation. ...

9. The Collision of God and Sin

The Cross of Christ is the revealed truth of God’s judgment on sin. Never associate the idea of martyrdom with the Cross of Christ. It was the supreme triumph, and it shook the very foundations of hell. There is nothing in time or eternity more absolutely certain and irrefutable than what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross - He made it possible for the entire human race to be brought back into a right-standing relationship with God. He made redemption the foundation of human life; that is, He made a way for every person to have fellowship with God...

10. Driven to Grace

What is your hope? This may seem strange to read at this point, but it must be said: the hope of your life isn't all the principles, insights, and perspectives found in Scripture. No, the hope of your life can be captured in one glorious, powerful, and transforming word - grace. Without rescuing, empowering, forgiving, transforming and delivering grace, the principles of the Bible would only leave you discouraged and overwhelmed. ...

11. Health: Relief From Hemorrhoids Comes From Simple Strategies

DEAR DOCTOR: What are some self-help strategies to treat hemorrhoids?

DEAR READER: Hemorrhoids are a common but painful and uncomfortable problem. Fortunately, simple measures can ease most hemorrhoid discomfort and help them heal. ...

12. Family Special: Home-Shaping

Thida made a choice. Rather than choosing the false god of her ancestors, she chose the true God of the Bible. And she and her husband desire nothing more than to build their home and grow a family someday according to the ways of the Lord. ...

13. Humor: Note from the Kerala Tourism Board

After the heavy duty spiritual material in the Two Centum Mega Issue, I am sure you are ready for a break and need some time to relax. So, enjoy. ...

14. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 9)
Bible reading for Second Sunday of Great Lent (Lepers' Sunday)

Sermons for This Sunday (March 9)

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

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

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

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

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

Week 2 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week2.htm
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: What Really Matters
Advertising bombards us with the message that life is all about me, it is all about now. Such messages may sell products and services, but they will cause us to sell our souls if we follow this philosophy.

We will be challenged to ask whether in the final analysis our life really mattered and, if so, in what way. If we live, die, and that is all there is, then it may not matter what we do. But if we believe that something about life matters because of the lasting implications our actions have, this should cause us to leave a different legacy.

I believe the spiritual side of our lives really does matter. To believe otherwise is to define persons as little more than animated protoplasm hopelessly going about our routines. If we do possess a soul capable of living beyond our lifetimes, then the seeds we plant in this life will yield fruit forever.

-- Mike Huckabee (from Living Beyond Your Lifetime)

"Whoever mocks poor people insults their Creator; gloating over misfortune is a punishable crime."
Proverbs 17:5 The MESSAGE

The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part One)

by Martin G. Collins

The Bible shows Christ healing people of leprosy twice during His ministry. The first case, in which a single man is healed, appears in Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; and Luke 5:12-16. The three parallel accounts provide a more complete witness by adding valuable details. The second healing of lepers, involving ten men, is found only in Luke 17:12-19.

Throughout history, few diseases have been as dreaded as the horrible affliction known as leprosy. It was so common and severe among ancient peoples that God gave Moses extensive instructions to deal with it (Leviticus 13 and 14). Biblically, leprosy refers to several skin diseases and even some kinds of fungus, such as those found in the walls of houses and in clothing. The leprosy that Christ healed was similar to what is today called Hansen's Disease, a detestable infection that can greatly disfigure and destroy the human body. Though not as contagious as scarlet fever, it can still be transmitted through an infected person's secretions. Dr. Richard H. Pousma, a missionary in Asia and a hospital superintendent in New Mexico, explains:

Leprosy was greatly feared by the Israelites, not only because of the physical damage done by the disease, but also because of the strict isolation laws applying to leprosy, making patients feel like feared outcasts of society. . . . Leprosy [in the Bible] appears in two principle forms. The first, and by far the more dangerous, is called lepromatous; and the other, more benign type is designated tuberculoid. Both start with discoloration of a patch of skin. . . . In the lepromatous type of leprosy, the patch may spread widely in all directions. Portions of the eyebrows may disappear. Spongy, tumor-like swellings grow on the face and body. The disease becomes systemic and involves the internal organs as well as the skin. Marked deformity of the hands and feet occur when the tissues between the bones deteriorate and disappear. . . . Untreated cases may be sick with lepromatous leprosy from ten to twenty years, death occurring from the disease itself. . . . The tuberculoid type is less severe. . . . [It] tends to be limited and even untreated cases heal completely in from one to three years.
(The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, "Leprosy.")

In biblical times, it was almost universally believed that only God could heal. Even the king of Israel, to whom the king of Syria sent his general, Naaman, for healing, remarks, "Am I God, to kill and make alive, that this man sends a man to me to heal him of his leprosy?" (II Kings 5:7). The prophet Elisha intervenes, suggesting how Naaman could be healed. The belief that only God could heal leprosy is key to Christ's use of this miracle to prove who He was. Beyond that, in His healing of the leper are timeless spiritual truths applicable to our lives today.

1. What can we learn personally from leprosy in Scripture?

Comment: Leprosy vividly illustrates sin and it fruits. The disease's effects on the body demonstrate the effects of sin on the mind. Leprosy represents God's view of sin, as detestable, deforming, and unclean. Both leprosy and sin begin small then grow relentlessly until they infect the whole person. They also both cause heartrending social problems, as the quarantine laws suggest. Families are often split. Lepers suffer both the disease and ostracism from society. In the end, they both destroy their victims' lives.

Luke the physician, in describing the man as "full" of the dreadful disease (Luke 5:12), implies that he was about to die. In this advanced stage of leprosy, he was living apart from other people. According to Leviticus 13:45, he had to wear a cloth over his mouth and cry, "Unclean, unclean."

In this situation, as in others, Christ performs a miracle in which there can be no doubt that God alone healed him. God's healing power is most obviously seen when He provides deliverance in a "hopeless" situation. He often works this way with us, allowing trials to become increasingly worse before He works His will. Though He seems deaf to our prayers as the situation deteriorates, He may simply be letting the situation progress so that we have no doubt about who has come to our aid and whose power solved the crisis. In persevering, we grow spiritually, and He receives greater glory.

2. What national lesson can we learn from leprosy in Scripture?

Comment: The condition of the leper parallels the spiritual condition of today's sinful society, which is reminiscent of ancient Israel as Isaiah the prophet describes it in Isaiah 1:6-7:

From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire; strangers devour your land in your presence; and it is desolate. . . .

Source: Forerunner, "Bible Study," June 2007; © 2007 CGG

The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part Two)

by Martin G. Collins

His advanced disease had certainly put the leper who approached Jesus Christ in a bad way. His situation seemed hopeless - until God sent His Son as Healer and Savior. The man, having heard Jesus' message of hope, and realizing that this unique, godly Man was nearby, sought out His help. He would not be disappointed. Jesus' kindly answer to him, "I will," showed His willingness to cleanse him quickly. In an instant, the leprosy disappeared; he was restored to full health (Matthew 8:2-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-15).

The humble leper exhibits at least five notable virtues - sincerity, reverence, faithfulness, truthfulness, and wisdom - that provide insight into how we should approach Christ for healing. We will consider each of these in turn.

1. How does the leper show sincerity?

Comment: The three accounts tell us that a leper "came and worshipped Him" (Matthew 8:2), "imploring Him, kneeling down to Him" (Mark 1:40), and "fell on his face and implored Him" (Luke 5:12). That the leper "came" and "implored" shows his sincerity in seeking and pleading with Christ. He earnestly determined to reach Him, despite the obstacle of the crowd and the spectacle of his horrid disease. Coming before Christ was the great challenge of his life, so he did what was necessary to overcome his disadvantages.

"Implored" suggests the leper's sincerity in pleading with Him, implying that he pled earnestly, desperate for a resolution to his condition. Sadly, few of us can see the true devastation that sin has caused in our lives and how much we need spiritual healing.

2. How does the leper exemplify reverence?

Comment: All three Gospels record the leper's reverence for Christ, though each reports it a bit differently: Matthew says that the leper "worshipped Him" (Matthew 8:2); Mark, that he came "kneeling down to Him" (Mark 1:40); and Luke, that he "fell on his face" (Luke 5:12) before Him. Each account describes him bowing down before Him - even Matthew's worshipped means "prostrated before." The leper's humble approach conspicuously honored Him, for, unlike many today, the leper did not hide his respect for Christ out of fear of other's opinions.

In contrast, the arrogant will not gain His favor. This society dishonors Christ at every turn with its repeated profanity, its banning of God from public venues, and its rejection of truth and acceptance of the flawed reasonings of men. Such dishonoring of Christ is bringing on our nations an avalanche of curses rather than blessings, and it will not stop until the people repent.

3. How does the leper demonstrate faithfulness?

Comment: The leper says, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2), indicating confidence and trust in Christ. True faith always honors both Christ's power and person. Never doubting His power to heal, the leper submits himself to His will. Some prayers we know God will answer positively, as when we ask in faith for forgiveness. However, when we ask for healing or other physical needs, we must faithfully respect God's decision, whatever it may be. By faith, we must acknowledge His superior wisdom in granting our request or not. The leper, in his humility and faith, would never demand God's healing, as though God owed him. It is not our right to be healed, and truly, we deserve death as the penalty for our sins (Romans 6:23). Yet, God heals us according to His mercy and will. A faithful person realizes that reverence should not stop him from asking God for blessings, but he submits to the wise will of God.

4. How does the leper manifest truthfulness?

Comment: The leper does not downplay his condition, making it sound less offensive or serious than it was. He is truthful about his case, confessing his uncleanness, as the Bible considers leprosy (Leviticus 13:45). Interestingly, the leper asks to be cleansed, not to be healed. Of course, the cleansing is a healing, but "cleansing" is the more proper term. Christ makes the distinction between cleansing and healing when commissioning the apostles: "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers" (Matthew 10:8).

The filthiness of sin can be removed only by the cleansing blood of Christ (I John 1:7). Isaiah writes, "We are all as an unclean thing" (Isaiah 64:6), and David, recognizing that his immorality and murder had polluted him, prays, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10). We all must be cleansed of sin. Even so, until we are truthful about our sinfulness, shown in sincere repentance, we will not be cleansed.

5. How does the leper exhibit wisdom?

Comment: Mark 1:40 refers to Christ six times: "Now a leper came to Him, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, 'If You are willing, You can make me clean.'" The leper wisely chose the right Person to go to for help, for Christ was the only One who could cleanse him. Proverbs 1:5 says, "A wise man will hear and increase learning," and the leper, hearing what Jesus taught and learning what He could do, made a wise choice.

Similarly, Christ is the only One who can cleanse us from sin and lead us to salvation. Peter says in Acts 4:12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Paul writes, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (I Corinthians 3:11). If anyone comes to Christ for salvation, he is acting wisely. Seeking it from anyone or anything else is foolish because no one else can truly deliver us.

Source: Forerunner, "Bible Study," July 2007; © 2007 CGG

The Miracles of Jesus Christ: Healing a Leper (Part Three)

by Martin G. Collins

In performing the healing of the leper, "Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, 'I am willing; be cleansed'" (Mark 1:41). In this miracle, we receive a glimpse of how cleansing works to prepare us for salvation. The physical cleansing of the leper resulted from God's grace, power, and faithful word. Similarly, spiritual cleansing of sins and flaws results directly from God's grace, power, and word, preparing us spiritually for His work in us. We see Christ's love and mercy in cleansing the leper in the words "compassion," revealing his tenderness of heart, and "touched," showing His power near at hand.

1. Does Christ show compassion to just anyone? Mark 1:41.

Comment: Christ moved with compassion on behalf of a person who, from the world's viewpoint, was repulsive and undesirable, totally unappealing in any situation. Jesus did not cleanse him because he was nice-looking or wealthy. Similarly, God does not choose to call us into His church due to our good works, beauty, or money; in us is nothing spiritually appealing. Spiritually, we are like the leper was physically - repulsive and undesirable in terms of holiness. We can thank God that His grace "brings salvation" (Titus 2:11) and "by grace we are saved" (Ephesians 2:8). God does not call us to salvation because of what we are but because of what He is. According to His mercy, God decides on whom to have compassion (Psalm 86:15; Romans 9:15-16).

2. Why is Jesus not defiled in touching the leper? How does His touching of him show God's power in the healing? Matthew 8:3; Mark 1:41; Luke 5:13.

Comment: Under the Old Covenant, touching the unclean defiled a person (Leviticus 5:3), but Christ showed that under the New Covenant, this was not so. Instead, evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies are what defile a person (Matthew 15:18-20). Jesus never did any of these evil acts, and contrary to what the Jews thought about touching a leper, He could never be defiled. However, when we view His touching the leper as a defiling act according to the Old Covenant, it reveals a realistic picture of the distinction between man and God. God put the filthy sins of the world on Christ so that we may be cleansed and forgiven. Christ "who knew no sin [took sin on Himself] that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (II Corinthians 5:21).

God's power to intervene is apparent in this healing, as the cleansing of the leprosy occurred immediately, instantaneously, upon touching him. If the healing had taken a prolonged time, the world would have had an opportunity to deny that Christ had healed the leper. They would likely have claimed that the natural healing process of the body made him well. Following Jesus' example, the apostles also laid hands on the sick, by which the power of God's Holy Spirit healed them (see Acts 10:38; I Corinthians 12:9).

3. How is the Word of God important to cleansing? Matthew 8:3; Mark 1:41-42; Luke 5:13.

Comment: God's Word is obvious in this miracle. If something requires cleansing, "the washing of water by the word" must be actively present (Ephesians 5:26). God does not work apart from His Word. From the creation of the world to the present, the place of God's Word in His work has been essential: "In the beginning was the Word [the One who became Jesus Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:1-3). In addition, the phrase "God said" is found ten times in the creation account (Genesis 1).

The Bible is God's written Word, as the Father had the Word (Jesus Christ, the Spokesman) inspire and reveal it. Many professing Christian churches have pushed Scripture to the back burner, into irrelevance, taking an a la carte spiritual meal from it as if they have the authority to choose which doctrines to swallow and which to refuse. If the true church is to do a work for God, it must be established and built on God's Word rather than on tradition.

4. Why does Christ command the healed leper to say nothing? Matthew 8:4; Mark 1:43-45; Luke 5:14-15.

Comment: Mark says Christ strictly warned the healed leper: "Say nothing to anyone." He was to show himself to the priest and offer the proscribed gift as a witness of what Jesus had done. By showing himself to the priest, the healed leper fulfilled the requirement of the law as to his fitness to return to social life (Leviticus 13:17). As far as we know, this was the first case of an Israelite leper being cleansed since the instructions given nearly 1,500 years before (Leviticus 13:34). The appearance of a cleansed leper at the altar with his gift in his hand testified that God had come to His people and totally satisfied priestly requirements and ordinances.

Yet, this man allowed his zeal to overrule good judgment and obedience to his Healer's command. In fact, his self-absorption in broadcasting his healing seriously impeded Christ's work. Due to the leper's spreading of his news, large numbers of lepers in the region pursued Jesus relentlessly for healing. Thus, "Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction" (Mark 1:45; Luke 5:15-16). However, it was not His purpose to heal all of Israel then but to reveal the Father and His relationship with Him. Being sensational does not mean we make a better testimony for Christ. Rather, this incident illustrates that, generally, the obedient person whom only a few know about makes the better-quality witness.

Source: Forerunner, "Bible Study," August 2007; © 2007 CGG

My Thoughts on Lent

by Dr. Susan Jacob MD, Malankara World Board Member

Lent conjures up in that part of the New Testament describing the baptism of Christ by John the baptist. After that, the Spirit led Jesus to the desert where he fasted for 40 days. (Matthew 4) When he was at his weakest point, God allowed him to be tempted. It was after this period of his testing, which he "passed" with flying colors, that Jesus started his ministry.

Why do we observe Lent? Is it just as a remembrance of the fasting that Christ went through or do we take the opportunity to focus on God and our spiritual life? I was wondering what does Lent mean for me. Of course fasting is the emphasized area of Lent. Fasting is good. Fasting is good for the physical health; but the main reason for us to fast is that it helps us to focus on God and our spiritual duties. It was because of Christ's focus on God and His laws and teachings during his fast that inspired him to give those specific answers to the devil during his temptation. When Christ was asked to change the stones into bread (Jesus used the well known verses of the Torah) he said " Man does not live on bread alone but every word that comes from the mouth of God." (Deuteronomy 8:2-4)

With his second temptation the devil challenged him to jump off the highest point of the temple on the premise that if he was the Son of God he would be protected by the angels. Satan probably thought he could "challenge" God as well. The answer was "you shall not test God." Don't we do this often? I have heard people of faith challenge God by saying, 'if you are truly God change this or that or do not let this particular disaster happen or why did you let 9-11 happen?' Instead Christ said: "do not test God" (or questions Him). If you have complete faith in God, you will know that He will never let real harm come your way.

The third temptation was very dramatic - Satan took Jesus to a high point and showed him the whole world and said that he would be prince of everything if he would bow down and worship the devil. Now I want each one of us to think and answer honestly. Who would reject all that power and wealth? How often do we, in our lives, manipulate, lie and cheat to out-maneuver someone to achieve some of this. But what did Jesus say? "Worship the Lord your God and Him only."

So, to me Jesus, through his fasting, learned to focus on God and His laws and teachings. Even though he was at his weakest, he was able to reject the devil and was able to quote the Bible correctly to counter Satan.

What is the reason for our earthly life? I believe that it is an opportunity given to us to learn and follow God and his teachings. Take nature, for instance. There are definite laws into which every life falls. There are actions and equal and opposite reactions. In other words, there are consequences to every action: e.g. all the pollution created by man is causing health problems today. Christ is our role model. He was tempted in all the ways humans can be tempted. Yet he, a human, rejected and overcame the temptations.

If Christ had made one mistake in his reactions or answers, none of us would be here today as Christians. But by his temptations and responses he has shown us that focus on God and spirituality is important. Faith is very important but deeds and faith work together. Just knowing what is in the Bible is not enough. The deeper challenges lay when asked to obey the Bible. There have been many non-believers who were well versed in the Bible; yet they have not followed Christ. Faith in Christ is the core of Christianity.

Christ showed that for faith and for following God's teaching, money, power, fame, etc are not necessary. Pure focus on God and spirituality and following His laws in words and deeds are all that is needed to develop a relationship with God. We will find His grace and help in our time of need. St. Paul made this clear in Hebrews 4:14-16:

Jesus the Great High Priest

14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. - Hebrews 4:14 to 16

Read the following passage about fasting: Isaiah 58

True Fasting

1 "Shout it aloud, do not hold back.
Raise your voice like a trumpet.
Declare to my people their rebellion
and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.

2 For day after day they seek me out;
they seem eager to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that does what is right
and has not forsaken the commands of its God.
They ask me for just decisions
and seem eager for God to come near them.

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,
'and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying in sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The LORD will guide you always;
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.

12 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

13 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
and from doing as you please on my holy day,
if you call the Sabbath a delight
and the LORD's holy day honorable,
and if you honor it by not going your own way
and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land
and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

According to the church calendar, lent begins before the passion week. This time should be used to reflect, pray, repent and to prepare our hearts and lives to be ready to embrace the cross again.

The Collision of God and Sin

by Oswald Chambers

". . . who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree . . ."
- 1 Peter 2:24

The Cross of Christ is the revealed truth of God’s judgment on sin. Never associate the idea of martyrdom with the Cross of Christ. It was the supreme triumph, and it shook the very foundations of hell. There is nothing in time or eternity more absolutely certain and irrefutable than what Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross - He made it possible for the entire human race to be brought back into a right-standing relationship with God. He made redemption the foundation of human life; that is, He made a way for every person to have fellowship with God.

The Cross was not something that happened to Jesus - He came to die; the Cross was His purpose in coming. He is "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8). The incarnation of Christ would have no meaning without the Cross. Beware of separating "God was manifested in the flesh. . ." from ". . . He made Him. . . to be sin for us. . ." (1 Timothy 3:16 ; 2 Corinthians 5:21). The purpose of the incarnation was redemption. God came in the flesh to take sin away, not to accomplish something for Himself. The Cross is the central event in time and eternity, and the answer to all the problems of both.

The Cross is not the cross of a man, but the Cross of God, and it can never be fully comprehended through human experience. The Cross is God exhibiting His nature. It is the gate through which any and every individual can enter into oneness with God. But it is not a gate we pass right through; it is one where we abide in the life that is found there.

Driven to Grace

by Paul Tripp

Perhaps, sometime recently you've been thinking, "Life is hard. I don't know if I have what it takes to live God's way." Or maybe you've wondered how in the world you can do what God calls you to do as a husband or wife, a parent, friend, relative, worker, neighbor, citizen, or member of the body of Christ in the middle of the busyness of your schedule and the catalog of other responsibilities you carry.

Maybe you've been thinking, "It seems exhausting just to maintain the status quo let alone working to make things in my life better!" Maybe God's street-level call of daily self-sacrificing love for God and neighbor has left you a bit hopeless and discouraged. Or maybe you've had to face the fact that you simply don't have it inside you to fight the good fight in this fallen world.

Perhaps yesterday's failure has left you despondent and discouraged. Maybe a situation, relationship, conversation or a book has given you a lens on yourself and, sadly, you've realized that things aren't what you thought.

Perhaps you're feeling the standard is too high and the work too hard.

Maybe all this has revealed how selfish your heart really is and left you feeling weak and unable. Well, I am about to say something that will surprise you. If this has been your response, then you're in a very good place. Let me remind you that this is one of the uncomfortable gifts that God is working to give you. He's designed the right here, right now situations of life to expose the neediness of your heart and, in so doing, to bring you to the end of yourself. Why does God do this? He does it because he knows that its only when you abandon your own wisdom, strength, and righteousness that you'll begin to get excited about his grace.

What is your hope? This may seem strange to read at this point, but it must be said: the hope of your life isn't all the principles, insights, and perspectives found in Scripture. No, the hope of your life can be captured in one glorious, powerful, and transforming word - grace.

Without rescuing, empowering, forgiving, transforming and delivering grace, the principles of the Bible would only leave you discouraged and overwhelmed.

God's grace guarantees that you, in your struggle, will never be alone.
God's grace assures you that when you've blown it, there's forgiveness to be found.
Grace means that there's strength available when you're weak.
Grace assures you that there's wisdom for the moments when you don't know what to do.
Grace gives you hope when there seems little to be found.
Grace enables you to get up and move forward when inside you want to quit or run away.
Grace reminds you again and again that you're not alone.

You see, God knows that this side of heaven there are ways in which we all are weak and unable. There are ways we all fall below his standards. So he's given us the only thing that will rescue, restore, and mobilize us. He's given us himself!

In his grace he invades our situations, locations and relationships.
He comes with power we don't possess, wisdom unnatural to us, and love beyond anything we've ever known.
He's willing to let you see how weak you actually are so that you'll begin to seek what you can find only in him.

What you should be afraid of in your life isn't your weakness; being needy is a good place to be. No, what you should be afraid of are your delusions of arrival and strength. When you think you've arrived, and when you're convinced you're strong, you don't reach out for the incredible resources of grace that God freely offers, which will give you what you need to live in a way that by yourself you could never live.

Jack and Shannon were exhausted and discouraged because they had no hope; nothing they did made things better. They felt helpless and alone with no place to turn. Jack knew that he shouldn't be so angry, but he was. Shannon knew she shouldn't be bitter and judgmental, but she didn't know how to deal with her disappointment. There were moments of peace, but those moments were increasingly infrequent and fleeting. The distance and tension between them seemed to grow every day. Their home was no longer a refuge to either one.

Rather than doing the hard work of dealing with their problems, Jack and Shannon developed the skill of working around their problems. But as their problems grew, it became impossible for them to work around them anymore. Their marriage was no longer peaceful and enjoyable. Their home was no longer a place of rest and retreat.

So they sat in front of me, exhausted and discouraged. But I knew that it was the exhaustion and discouragement of grace. I knew that God hadn't turned his back on them but was with them, in them, and for them. And I knew that God had their attention in fresh and new ways.

I didn't start by laying on them all the insights and principles about marriage that Scripture contains. I knew that that would leave them even more overwhelmed. No, for the first few weeks we met together, I did only one thing: I worked to help them see Jesus. I knew that when they began to see and trust his presence, promises, power, and faithfulness, they would begin to think that maybe they could hope to experience what marriage was designed to be, and they would be willing to do the hard work that would get them there. I knew that they would live with the assurance that God would always give them what they need in order to do what he called them to do.

Jack and Shannon didn't need a lecture in God's law. They knew their marriage was a mess and that what they were doing was wrong. What they needed was a fresh vision of God's grace; a vision of grace so huge and glorious that their problems would seem tiny in comparison. It was God who drove them to the end of themselves so that they would do the one thing they hadn't done for a long time, reach out for his transforming grace.

Are you reaching out?

About The Author:

Paul Tripp is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries, a nonprofit organization whose mission statement is "Connecting the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life." Tripp has written many books on Christian living that are read and distributed internationally.


Source: Christianity.com Daily Update
Health Tip: Relief From Hemorrhoids Comes From Simple Strategies

By Dr. Anthony L. Komaroff

DEAR DOCTOR K: What are some self-help strategies to treat hemorrhoids?

DEAR READER: Hemorrhoids are a common but painful and uncomfortable problem. Fortunately, simple measures can ease most hemorrhoid discomfort and help them heal.

Hemorrhoids are swollen veins. Veins carry blood back to the heart. Hemorrhoids can develop in the anus and the rectum, just inside the anus. Many people have both. These swollen blood vessels can bleed. When they get inflamed, they can make bowel movements intensely painful.

I spoke with my long-time colleague Dr. Jacqueline Wolf, a gastroenterologist and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. She offered this advice to care for hemorrhoids:

* Step up the fiber.

Start by adding fiber to your diet. Fiber makes stools softer and easier to pass. It also reduces bleeding. Aim for 25 to 30 grams a day.

The best food sources of fiber include beans, broccoli, carrots, bran, whole grains and fresh fruits. You can also take a fiber supplement. Try an over-the-counter powder such as psyllium (Metamucil) or methylcellulose (Citrucel). Some of my patients prefer the newer soluble fiber preparations, such as dextrin. (There are several brand names, but you can find dextrin in the "ingredients" list on the bottle.) To avoid bloating and gas, add fiber to your diet gradually over several days.

Dr. Wolf also recommends the following during flare-ups:

Mix a tablespoon of mineral oil with applesauce or yogurt and eat it at breakfast or lunch. This allows stool to slide by more easily. Strain less. Don't sit or strain on the toilet for long periods of time. This can cause more hemorrhoids and worsen symptoms.

Don't delay bowel movements during flare-ups. Putting off bowel movements can worsen constipation, aggravating hemorrhoids. Elevate your feet with a step-stool as you sit on the toilet. Doing so changes the position of the rectum, making stools easier to pass.

* Consider off-the-shelf remedies.

Many over-the-counter products, such as witch hazel-infused pads and soothing creams, are effective. Your doctor can also prescribe stronger preparations if needed.

* Don't forget sitz baths.

Simply soaking the inflamed area in warm water can help reduce inflammation and discomfort. The easiest way to do this is to sit in a bathtub filled with enough water to soak your behind. Some people alternate hot and cold water baths; some add vinegar, salt or baking soda to the water. I'm not sure any of this adds value.

If, despite these measures, symptoms worsen or don't improve, you may need to talk to your doctor about various medical procedures. Some can be done in the office; some involve minor surgery. But the self-help strategies outlined above give relief to most people with hemorrhoids.

Source: Jewish World Review

Family Special: Home-Shaping

by Karen Ehman

"My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge."
Psalm 62:7 (NIV)

They piled high on the living room coffee table: colorfully wrapped boxes with curly, coordinating bows and snappy gift bags with crisp tissue paper peeking out of their tops in anticipation. They accented the festivities as nearly three-dozen friends eagerly gathered for an open house for my friend Thida.

A Cambodian native, Thida met Keith when he was studying abroad in her country. Now married and living in the United States, our circle of friends showered Thida with well-wishes and the heartfelt welcome of an old-fashioned housewarming party.

What domestic treasures she opened that night! New fluffy towels in deep jewel tones, contemporary metal candleholders and spicy-scented candles, kitchen utensils and casserole dishes, picture frames and pots. Ever a soft-spoken and grateful soul, this sweet twenty-something new bride was visually humbled and verbally thankful with each package she unwrapped.

Every so often, she would look at the crowd and utter the same phrase, "Oh ... I want to thank you so much for helping me to shape our home."

We knew what Thida meant. She meant to "furnish" her home, to decorate and outfit it with needed and useful items. However, somehow when trying to get her sentiments across by speaking in English (her second language) the phrase she continually chose was "shape our home."

As I heard sweet Thida utter these words many times that night, it struck a chord within my soul. In essence this group of siblings, aunts, cousins, and grandparents-by-marriage, along with an abundance of new friends, were doing exactly that!

Thida is from a country where, of the 14.5 million inhabitants, only a few thousand claim to follow Christ. Over 95% of Cambodians are practicing Buddhists.

Thida began a relationship with Jesus through the example of an aunt and, although the rest of her family is still Buddhist, this strong woman now loves and serves the God of the Bible. She chose to break from her parents' tradition to begin a new life with Christ. And, aside from her aunt, she had no one who could help her learn what it meant to live as a woman and wife according to God's ways.

Thida made a choice. Rather than choosing the false god of her ancestors, she chose the true God of the Bible. And she and her husband desire nothing more than to build their home and grow a family someday according to the ways of the Lord. And now we, as her circle of support in her new country of residence, will try our best to encourage her in her endeavors; to model a Christian home with our actions and decisions. Yes, you could say in essence that we all have made a covenant to help precious Thida do exactly what she declared—"shape her home."

Do you know another woman who has made a decision for Christ? One who left her former ways to walk in the ways of the Lord? If so, there are eyes upon you, watching, soaking and learning. What will she see? Will you help her shape her earthly home, and her heart's home, with God's truths while building on the foundations of Christ?

Home shaping is significant business. May we all be mirrors that reflect Christ to those who are watching, soaking and learning. And yes...perhaps even shaping.

Dear Lord, may I be ever mindful there are others looking to me for an example of how to shape our lives according to Your ways. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:

What are some ways you try to weave the Bible's commands into your home life?

How can you help others who are new in the faith to ground their hearts in God, His Word and His ways?

Power Verse:

Luke 4:8 "And Jesus answered him, 'It is written, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve."'" (ESV)

© 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Source: Encouragement for Today

Humor: Note from the Kerala Tourism Board
[Editor's Note: After the heavy duty spiritual material in the Two Centum Mega Issue, I am sure you are ready for a break and need some time to relax. So, enjoy.]

Welcome, friends, to Kerala, God's Own Country.

Here, you can sip coconut (plucked by our wiry-legged, bronze-chested Kuttappans and Kochu Thomas) juice or dig into a plate of karimeen pollichathu on the wind-swept deck of a houseboat in Kumarakom. Or you can go on a forest safari to Thekkady.

If you don't get a fresh Malayali tiger sighting, we guarantee you a fresh Malayali tiger dropping sighting.

We also offer you many other sightings:

Our YWCA women in their kota saris and their weekly games of rummy. Our Marthoma achens on their Bajaj scooters with their cassocks billowing behind them like capes. Our nasrani achayens with their scotch whiskey and their waxy moustaches.Our gelf returnees with suitcases full of foreign scents.

Our men are hairy and so are our women. We believe in equality, a what's-yours-is-mine policy, including your wife's Tata Estate, rubber estate and the three gold teeth in her mouth.

To see our men in form, attend a Malayali wedding. When they're sober, they'll discuss the stock market, insurgency in Pakistan and global oil prices. Two Johnny Walkers down, they'll hitch up their lungis (Jockey Bermudas peeking from beneath) and break into inebriated renditions of 'Lajjavathiye, Ninte Kallakkadakkannill.'

To see our women in form, attend a Syrian Christian church service on Sunday and watch the Mariammas, Eliyammas and Shoshammas in the front pew belch out verse after verse of Suriyani hymns – lusty, off-key and hitting notes that will make the Mar Baselios Bavas turn in their graves.

And what about our superstars? Can your Tom Croose or Brad Peet vanquish a dozen gun-toting villains with a single, gold-ringed knuckle punch like Mohanlal or spew English like Suresh Gopi ('Just remember that') or own a courtroom like Mammooty ('That's all, Your Honor')?

But all in all, we are a simble, humble people with simble, humble pleasures: watching Idea Star Singer on Asianet, scouting the obituary section of Malayala Manorama, getting our dentures stuck in plates of chakka velayachathu,  finding bridegrooms for our daughters (must be minimum an ingineer), going for second show and hooting when the power fails.

And why are we the way we are? Simblee. Coz we are Malayalee. We are like this wonley.

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