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

Shunoyo - Assumption of St. Mary

Volume 4 No. 232 August 15, 2014

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Assumption of St. Mary - Michael Angelo
Assumption of St. Mary - Michael Angelo
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Bible Readings for Shunoyo (August 15)

Bible Readings For Shunoyo/The Assumption of St. Mary (August 15)

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_shunoyo.htm

2. Sermons for Shunoyo (August 15)

Sermons for Shunoyo/The Assumption of St. Mary (August 15)

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

3. Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 17)

Bible Readings For The First Sunday after Shunoyo

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_1st_sunday_after-Shunoyo.htm

4. Sermons for This Sunday (August 17)

Sermons For The First Sunday after Shunoyo

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_1st-sunday-after-Shunoyo.htm

5. Featured: The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary

In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. As mother of life, you departed to the source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions. ...

6. From Eden to Eternity: A Homily on the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Since it was through the heart of love that sin entered into the world, it will be through the heart of love that God effects salvation for the world. The covenant of love and life lost through the "No" of Eve, the "mother of all the living," will be restored in Christ through the "Yes" of Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. The Old Eve offered us fruit born from the tree that lead to death; the New Eve brings forth the fruit of her womb who gives us everlasting life. ...

7. The Assumption of Mary: Meditation On Luke 1:39-56

We can achieve much in this life, and of course, God wants us to aim high. But like Mary, we also have to recognize when God has given us something great, and thank him for it. As Paul said: "What do you possess that you have not received?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). The most precious of God's gifts, and the one that is nothing but pure gift, is eternal life. At least once a day, we should stop and think about the fact that Jesus died for each of us so that we could live with him forever. ...

8. Behold Thy Son! and Behold Thy Mother!

What does it really mean to be near the cross of Jesus? Perhaps the best thing we can do is just talk to the people who were there. Let's interview Mary Magdalene, Salome, the two Mary's and John and find out what it really means to be near the cross of Jesus Christ. ...

Near the Cross.... It is a place of Redemption.. Just come to the cross by faith and trust Him. It is a place of Rebuke.. All of our pride and selfishness fades away as we stand at the cross. It is a place of Reward: It is a place of Responsibility. ...

9. Why Don't You Honor Mary?

Another way to explain our devotion and love for Mary is that we are imitating Jesus. We love, honor, respect and entrust ourselves to her care because Jesus did all these things and we want to be just like Jesus. Consider that the very Son of God, dwelled in Mary's womb, nursed at her breasts, was held in her arms, sat on her lap and entrusted himself to her care. Our Lord could have chosen to enter our world in other ways. Perhaps He could simply have entered the world as a full grown man. The fact is that He freely chose Mary to be his mother and he was truly her Son. As her son he loved and honored her as any good son must and as her son he entrusted himself to her care. All of this serves to highlight Mary's dignity and to show us how devotion to her is in perfect imitation of Jesus himself....

10. You Can't Pick Your Family

We can't run away from our responsibilities to our families. You can choose to stop being friends with someone. But you can't choose to stop being related to someone. That observation is tremendously important when it comes to how Christians should think about the church. ...

11. Health: Eight Common Misconceptions About Calcium That Are Impacting Your Health

Believe it or not, the things you think you know about calcium might not be entirely accurate. Here, Thomas E. Levy, MD, addresses eight myths about calcium that may be impacting your health - and not in the way you'd hoped. ...

12. Motherhood: Story of Two Mothers

My Mom was my very best friend. Prior to her death, if I contemplated someone telling me, "Your mother is dead," I was certain I'd go to pieces. Yet somehow, I was OK. I felt an indescribable spiritual comfort; a deep and innate knowing that Mom had not merely died, but had gone somewhere amazing. ...

13. Christian Persecution: Religious Leaders Say ISIS Persecution of Iraqi Christians Has Become Genocide

Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of the Syriac Orthodox church said that Isis's capture of Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian city, had marked a turning point for Christians in the country.

"Now we consider it genocide – ethnic cleansing," he said. "They are killing our people in the name of Allah and telling people that anyone who kills a Christian will go straight to heaven: that is their message. They have burned churches; they have burned very old books. They have damaged our crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary. They are occupying our churches and converting them into mosques." ...

14. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for Shunoyo (August 15)

Sermons for Shunoyo (August 15)
Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 17)
Sermons for This Sunday (August 17)
This Week's Features

Featured: The Dormition of our Most Holy Lady the Theotokos and Ever Virgin Mary

From: The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Synaxarion:

Concerning the Dormition of the Theotokos, this is what the Church has received from ancient times from the tradition of the Fathers. When the time drew nigh that our Savior was well-pleased to take His Mother to Himself, He declared unto her through an Angel that three days hence, He would translate her from this temporal life to eternity and bliss. On hearing this, she went up with haste to the Mount of Olives, where she prayed continuously. Giving thanks to God, she returned to her house and prepared whatever was necessary for her burial.

While these things were taking place, clouds caught up the Apostles from the ends of the earth, where each one happened to be preaching, and brought them at once to the house of the Mother of God, who informed them of the cause of their sudden gathering. As a mother, she consoled them in their affliction as was meet, and then raised her hands to Heaven and prayed for the peace of the world. She blessed the Apostles, and, reclining upon her bed with seemliness, gave up her all-holy spirit into the hands of her Son and God.

With reverence and many lights, and chanting burial hymns, the Apostles took up that God-receiving body and brought it to the sepulchre, while the Angels from Heaven chanted with them, and sent forth her who is higher than the Cherubim. But one Jew, moved by malice, audaciously stretched forth his hand upon the bed and immediately received from divine judgment the wages of his audacity. Those daring hands were severed by an invisible blow. But when he repented and asked forgiveness, his hands were restored.

When they had reached the place called Gethsemane, they buried there with honor the all-immaculate body of the Theotokos, which was the source of Life. But on the third day after the burial, when they were eating together, and raised up the artos (bread) in Jesus' Name, as was their custom, the Theotokos appeared in the air, saying "Rejoice" to them. From this they learned concerning the bodily translation of the Theotokos into the Heavens.

These things has the Church received from the traditions of the Fathers, who have composed many hymns out of reverence, to the glory of the Mother of our God.

Apolytikion in the First Tone

In birth, you preserved your virginity; in death, you did not abandon the world, O Theotokos. As mother of life, you departed to the source of life, delivering our souls from death by your intercessions.

Kontakion in the Second Tone

Neither the grave nor death could contain the Theotokos, the unshakable hope, ever vigilant in intercession and protection. As Mother of life, He who dwelt in the ever-virginal womb transposed her to life.

From Eden to Eternity: A Homily on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

by Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers

Today's magnificent solemnity of the Assumption of Mary into heaven began back in the Garden of Eden. In God's mind from all eternity, when He decided to create beings made in His image and likeness, and fill them with the gift of His life-giving love, it is within a woman's being--within her heart and soul--where His love first established a foundation and home. The spirituality of a woman is rooted in the fact that she is the heart of love and through her special and unique relationship with the Holy Spirit (as one who gives life), a woman is truly the example of what it means to be fully human.

Satan knew this. He realized that if the heart of love were destroyed, that if a wedge were driven between the intimate communion of love and life, everything else in creation would fall. So Satan approached the woman first, intent on destroying her heart and introducing sin and death into the world.

The method of demise Satan employed in the Garden of Eden is the same method he has used successfully century after century, and that he still uses to this day to perpetuate a culture of death: subjective truth. God bestowed free will upon the man and woman mindful of the fact that, in covenant relationship, life-giving communion that is freely given must also be freely accepted and reciprocated. Covenant relationship hinges upon our response to God's invitation to love: a response of complete trust in and obedience to the absolute truth of God's will. Satan lies to the woman convincing her that she need only trust in herself, that truth is whatever she decides it to be ("the tree [not God's truth!] was to be desired to make one wise") and, in deciding truth for herself, she "will be like God, knowing good and evil." Hence, the woman, in rejecting absolute truth, says "no" to God's invitation to covenant intimacy and the heart of love is shattered ("she took of its fruit and ate") while her husband stood by and did nothing.

Yet the God of Love, in His infinite mercy, does not leave us without hope. He intervenes in human history, setting into motion a plan for man's redemption: since it was through the heart of love that sin entered into the world, it will be through the heart of love that God effects salvation for the world. The covenant of love and life lost through the "No" of Eve, the "mother of all the living," will be restored in Christ through the "Yes" of Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Redeemer. The Old Eve offered us fruit born from the tree that lead to death; the New Eve brings forth the fruit of her womb who gives us everlasting life. Today we celebrate the fact that, because of the dignity of her motherhood and her own personal submission to God's will at every stage of her life, the Blessed Virgin Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven, which is the destiny of all of us who die united with Christ her Son.

In the Gospel, we see Mary setting out with haste from Nazareth to a small town in the hills of Judea, not far from Jerusalem to visit her older cousin, Elizabeth. It is highly significant that it is Mary and Jesus who go to visit Elizabeth and John. Already in the womb, Jesus is showing that urge to serve rather than be served. And, at the presence of Jesus and his mother, the child in Elizabeth's womb leaps for joy. Elizabeth is deeply moved that it is Jesus and his Mother that come to her and John: "And why has this happened to me, that the mother of my Lord comes to me?" And yet that is what is happening to each of us all the time, especially in every celebration of the Holy Mass when the Lord comes to us and fills our hearts with joy through his Word and in the Eucharist.

"Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled." Mary's faith and total trust in God was expressed in her fiat ('Let it be done unto me'), when, even though not fully understanding what was being asked of her, she unconditionally accepted to submit to God's plan.

Mary's greatness was not only in being chosen to be the mother of Jesus but also in her total acceptance of that responsibility in faith and trust, accepting all that it might entail. She had no idea the price she would have to pay to be the mother of Jesus. But like her Son she had emptied herself in total service to Him and today we celebrate her reward: her being raised to the highest place among the human race.

"From this day forward all generations will call me blessed." This is not a statement made in arrogance but in humble thanksgiving to God. She rejoices and is deeply grateful for being chosen for this privilege. Her being chosen is simply another sign of God's desire that the poor, the weak, and the exploited of this world are to be the special recipients of God's love and care. Mary expresses this in the last part of her Magnificat:

"He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things; the rich He has sent away empty."

In this beautiful prayer, Mary foreshadows the mission of her Son who says those who hunger and thirst for holiness will be satisfied and those who are rich in arrogance have already received their reward.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, Jesus, the Son of God who died on the Cross is the very first among the risen, seated at the right hand of His Father. He is, in Paul's words, "the first fruits of those who have died . . . for as all die in Adam, so all shall be brought to life in Christ, but each one in proper order". Jesus is first of all but next in order surely comes his Mother. All of us, as followers of Christ with His Blessed Mother, look forward to the day when we too can share the glory of heaven with her. But for now, we ask her to remember us as we continue our journey on earth and to intercede for us with her Son that, like her, we may remain true to our call to holiness as faithful disciples of Christ.

May we know God's will for us at all times and, like Mary, give our unconditional "Yes" and allow God to work powerfully in our lives so that we may be with Him forever in heaven.

About The Author:

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers is the Founder and Director of Aurem Cordis, a Christian evangelization and apologetics organization. He has been featured on numerous radio and television programs including the Eternal Word Television Network's "Life on the Rock", "EWTN Live" and hosts "Behold the Man," an EWTN series on male spirituality. Deacon Burke-Sivers holds a Bachelor's degree in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master's degree in Theological Studies from the University of Dallas. He is a Benedictine Oblate of Mt. Angel Abbey, an associate member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars, a member of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, and a consultation team member for the National Conference of Catholic Bishops National Directory for Catechesis. He and his wife Colleen have four children.

Source: Insight Scoop

The Assumption of Mary: Meditation On Luke 1:39-56
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. (Luke 1:46)

Have you ever noticed how the world tries to convince us that nothing is ever good enough? If we're unhappy at work, we should just leave and get another job. Even if we like our jobs, we should still be searching for better opportunities. If we're having problems with our marriage, we should simply call it a loss and go look for another spouse - or a life partner.

The problem with this approach is that we will never find contentment. What we're really looking for is something that can't be found on earth - perfection.

Mary certainly didn't find perfection. She had to endure her neighbors' suspicions when her pregnancy began to show, and again when she had to give birth to her child in a stable. She and Joseph certainly weren't the wealthiest couple in Nazareth, and life must have been a challenge after Joseph died.

Yet from her words, we can see that Mary was as grateful as any human being ever has been. That's because her gratitude was for the awesome work that God would accomplish through her. By simply saying "yes" to God's plan, she could participate in the salvation of the whole human race!

We can achieve much in this life, and of course, God wants us to aim high. But like Mary, we also have to recognize when God has given us something great, and thank him for it. As Paul said: "What do you possess that you have not received?" (1 Corinthians 4:7). The most precious of God's gifts, and the one that is nothing but pure gift, is eternal life. At least once a day, we should stop and think about the fact that Jesus died for each of us so that we could live with him forever.

Today, try to make Mary's words your own: "My spirit rejoices in God my savior." If you are angry at someone, or if you are unhappy with your situation, or if someone has hurt you recently, believe that Jesus is still with you, offering you divine wisdom - and even more importantly, offering you a place in his eternal kingdom. Ask him to give you his perspective on your situation - it is sure to be a hopeful one!

"Lord, I put aside my worries, and I rejoice in you! I praise you for all that you have done for me!"

Source: The Word Among Us

Behold Thy Son! and Behold Thy Mother!

By Dr. Howard Mills

Gospel: JOHN 19:25-27

INTRO:

John 15:13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Our Lord Jesus said that, He not only died for His friends, He also died for His enemies....

Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, ... Jesus said, Woman behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! (John 19:25-27)

If you and I had been in Jerusalem that Passover afternoon when Jesus was crucified, I wonder how near the cross we would have stood. The four Roman soldiers were there, but they were there because of duty. The four women were there, with the Apostle John; but they were not there because of duty. They were there out of devotion; they loved the Lord Jesus.

What does it really mean to be near the cross of Jesus? Perhaps the best thing we can do is just talk to the people who were there. Let's interview Mary Magdalene, Salome, the two Mary's and John and find out what it really means to be near the cross of Jesus Christ.

I: A PLACE OF REDEMPTION:

Let's begin with Mary Magdalene, let's ask her "What does it mean to you?" I think she would have answered, "The cross to me is a place of redemption.

Mary Magdalene is mentioned in Luke 8:2 as a woman out of whom Jesus had cast seven demons. Mary Magdalene not only was at the cross, but also early on the morning of the resurrection she came to Christ's tomb.

She had been possessed with seven demons. All who are unsaved are controlled by demonic forces.. Ephes. 2:1-3 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: 3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (Satan was at work in Mary Magdalene's life, and then Jesus delivered her from those demonic powers.)

When you trust the Lord Jesus Christ, these marvelous changes take place in your life. You go from darkness to light.

You go from the power of Satan to the power of God. You go from guilt to forgiveness. You go from poverty to wealth. This miracle of redemption is a costly thing. When Jesus delivered Mary Magdalene from the power of the Wicked One, it cost Him something. Jesus had to die that we might be redeemed. For me to move out of the darkness into the light, He had to move from the light into the darkness. For me to be delivered from Satan to God. Jesus had to be forsaken by God.

For me to be delivered from guilt to forgiveness, Jesus had to be made sin for me.

For Him to make me rich, He had to become the poorest of the poor.

NO WONDER Mary was standing there at the cross.

Can you say, "I have trusted Jesus Christ, and He has moved me from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to the power of God, from the guilt of sin to forgiveness, from poverty to an inheritance through faith in Him?"

Ask Him to save you, and then you can take your stand near the cross, a place of redemption.

II: A PLACE OF REBUKE:

as the woman who came with her sons asking for thrones. (Matt: 20:20-28).

They had heard Him say that the apostles were going to judge the 12 tribes of Israel, that they were going to sit on thrones; and they wanted to be sure they had good seats! Jesus ask them, "Are you able to drink the cup I'm going to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism I'm going to experience?" They said Yes we are... James was the first of the apostles to be martyred.

John was the last of the apostles to die, and he went through great persecution and suffering before he was called home.

Salome would say the cross to me is a place of rebuke. I stand here rebuked because I was so selfish.

She might well be ashamed of herself-- As all of us should be when we pray selfishly! ( I want something for my sons; I don't care what it costs. I want It!)

We need to all remember "there is no crown without a cross.. Even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself did not return to the throne except by way of the cross. God will answer prayer, but we must be sure we can pay the price..... Are you willing to be baptized with the baptism of suffering.. Are you willing to drink the cup? (Maybe God is rebuking our selfishness, pride and desire for glory without suffering as we stand at the cross.)

III: A PLACE OF REWARD:

Mary the mother of our Lord Jesus, "What does it mean for you to be near the cross?" She might say, it is the place of reward.

We find Mary at the beginning of the Gospel of John and at the end of the Gospel of John. We find her in John 2 and in John 19. In John 2, Mary is attending a wedding and is involved in the joys of a feast. In John 19 she is involved in the sorrows of a funeral. In John 2 we find Mary speaking, but in John 19 Mary is silent.

Do you know why she kept quiet? She could not lie. As she stood there by the cross, her silence was testimony that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. If Jesus Christ were not what He claimed to be, Mary could have saved Him.

Jesus did not ignore her but rewarded her by sharing His beloved disciple with her. She was honored.

At the cross, Mary suffered because He died. She suffered because of the way He died-- on a cross numbered with the transgressors. She suffered because of where He died-- in public. But Jesus saw her, and Jesus assured her of His love. He said Woman, Behold thy son! He was establishing a new relationship. He was going back to heaven and now they would have a new relationship... But He gave her someone to look after her.

The longest will ever probated was made up of four volumes. There was 95,940 words in it! The shortest will on record is recorded in Great Britain, and it has only three words to it: "All for Mother." Jesus did not have any earthly possessions to give to anybody, The soldiers had gambled for his clothes and had taken them away. What could He give Mary? He gave John to Mary. (God will reward all His Children) Most of all those who suffer.... Amen.

IV: A PLACE OF RESPONSIBILITY:

John, what does the cross mean to you? A place of responsibility. John had forsaken Him and fled. All the disciples had done this. The Shepherd had been smitten and the sheep had scattered. But John came back to the cross. That was not the safest place to stand or the easiest place to stand. I have watched people die, but not in that kind of a situation. It took courage and love for John to come back.. But the Lord restored him.. Then John later wrote....If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.. (I John 1:9).

Jesus not only restored John, but He also honored him. He told John you are going to take my place. I will no longer be on earth to watch over My earthly mother, Mary, so you are going to take My place. You know what... All of us are taking His place... He said in John 20:21-- As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.. We represent Jesus Christ to others. John was to love Mary for Christ, we are to love others for Christ.

Near the Cross.... It is a place of Redemption.. Just come to the cross by faith and trust Him.
It is a place of Rebuke.. All of our pride and selfishness fades away as we stand at the cross. It is a place of Reward: It is a place of Responsibility.

Why Don't You Honor Mary?

by Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington

Most of us who are Catholics (and Orthodox) eventually get asked, "Why do you worship Mary?" More often than not, the question is not a real question it is a rhetorical question. For a few of you who might not know what is meant by the expression "rhetorical question," it refers to a "question" whose purpose is not to seek an answer, but, rather, to make a (usually hostile) point. For example, the expression "Who do you think you are!?" is in the form of a question but it does not seek an answer. Instead it is meant as a rebuke. And so it usually is when we are asked the question "Why do you worship Mary?", we're usually aware that it is not a sincere question seeking a sincere answer. However, for those cases where an answer really is sought, I might propose the following approach:

"Well, of course we don't worship Mary since that would be a terrible sin. Worship belongs to God alone. We DO honor her though. After all, she is Jesus' mother. But let me ask you a question. Why in your church, do you NOT honor Mary at all? Doesn't scripture say, Every generation will call [Mary] blessed because God who is mighty has done great things for [her]? (Luke 1:48-49) It seems to me that we are fulfilling scripture but that in your denomination you are not fulfilling or following it. So why don't you honor her at all? Why don't you call her blessed as the Bible says?"

Now stop there and wait for an answer. Don't keep going. Just stop and wait. Have them answer for a change. We are always on the defensive, always in answer mode. But we ought to ask a few questions too. And try to avoid a merely rhetorical or hostile tone. Try to allow this question to be genuine, respectful, one meant to provoke thought. It is possible that many Protestants have never been asked this question or pondered an answer.

Now it is also possible that your interlocutor will try to change the subject or evade an answer by piling on about Catholics/Orthodox; but just repeat the question respectfully and ask for an answer. Remember your point is not to argue, be hostile or win an argument. Your point is to provoke thought and get a real answer. And even if the conversation ends badly or with no answer, you've planted a seed, a question that they will ponder even if they don't admit it. Jesus often asked questions to provoke thought and conversion.

A final thought on Mary. Another way to explain our devotion and love for Mary is that we are imitating Jesus. We love, honor, respect and entrust ourselves to her care because Jesus did all these things and we want to be just like Jesus. Consider that the very Son of God, dwelled in Mary's womb, nursed at her breasts, was held in her arms, sat on her lap and entrusted himself to her care. Our Lord could have chosen to enter our world in other ways. Perhaps He could simply have entered the world as a full grown man. The fact is that He freely chose Mary to be his mother and he was truly her Son. As her son he loved and honored her as any good son must and as her son he entrusted himself to her care. All of this serves to highlight Mary's dignity and to show us how devotion to her is in perfect imitation of Jesus himself.

What more need we say? Jesus, our Lord and God, honors and loves Mary, and his very scriptures sing her praises; so too His Angel Gabriel and countless saints. When we honor Mary we imitate the very Son of God and fulfill Holy Scripture. Certainly our Lord is pleased that we love and honor his mother.

You Can't Pick Your Family

by Jon Pentecost

There's a line in To Kill a Mocking Bird; "You can choose your friends, but you sho' can't choose your family."

The point being, we can't run away from our responsibilities to our families. You can choose to stop being friends with someone. But you can't choose to stop being related to someone. That observation is tremendously important when it comes to how Christians should think about the church.

It's important because the church is a family. That's not just a sentimental way of describing how much you love your local church. It is a profound, radical truth that changes everything.

When told that his mother and brothers were asking for him, Jesus responded by saying "whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother" (Matt 12:50). In Matthew 17, Jesus teaches Peter that neither he nor Peter is required to pay the temple tax, because they are sons of the King.

For believers in Jesus Christ, our identity as his brothers and sisters is the core reality. The fact that we are now made sons of God (John 1:12) should be the primary lens through which we view the world.

What does that mean? It means you and your church should act like a family. A family is invested in its wellbeing as a whole. People are applauded when they make personal sacrifices for the sake of the family. Children are called to serve and honor their elders. Perhaps at the most basic level, it means you are called to work for unity with other Christians.

When Jesus warned his disciples not to be like the Pharisees, who are always puffing themselves up and putting others down, he exhorts them to remember that they all only have one Father, who is in heaven (Matt 23:8-10). This doesn't mean that Christians should deny the existence of any earthly father that they have. What it does mean is that Christians should remember which family their highest allegiance belongs to.

The unity of the church does not happen magically. Just like unity in our earthly families, it takes work. Loyalty to your family is a commitment which is often strained by reality. Just like in your earthly family, there will be people in your church whom you don't particularly care for. There will be people who are hard to be around.

The solution is not to leave and find a church where everyone gets along swimmingly. Local churches that are united are not united because people find it convenient. They are united because of priests/pastors, deacons, and regular members who work hard at unity, who work to bring the church together despite differences, because of the overarching, primary, binding similarity: they have all been bought by the blood of the Lamb.

An early critic of the young Christian faith named Lucian recognized that one of the most dangerous components of Christianity was that our 'first teacher' taught "that they are all brothers of one another." It was this fact that made Christians so disturbingly and attractively different from the world around them – they thought of each other as family.

The unity that we have in Christ is astonishing to the outside world. Why would people who have little in common, who are from different nations, different socio-economic backgrounds, and who even have different hobbies and interests do the hard work of living life together? Why would someone from Arkansas love and care for someone from China that they've only known for a few months? It's because the ties between those two are tighter than the ties that bind even biological family. The ties in the family of God are eternal, and eternally precious.

The church is your family. If you're a Christian, you have the same heavenly Father as any other Christian. So work to have unity with your brothers and sisters. Build them up in their faith. Encourage them. Spur them on to righteousness and good deeds.

Because as the family goes, so goes the members of that family. And you can't choose your family.

About The Author:

Jon Pentecost serves on staff at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and as a member at Third Avenue Baptist Church in Louisville, KY. He holds an M.Div from SBTS.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Health Tip: Eight Common Misconceptions About Calcium That Are Impacting Your Health
Editor's Note: Believe it or not, the things you think you know about calcium might not be entirely accurate. Here, Thomas E. Levy, MD, addresses eight myths about calcium that may be impacting your health - and not in the way you'd hoped.

From childhood on, we've all heard it: "Drink your milk." "Milk does a body good." "You never outgrow your need for milk." And most of us have accepted these statements at face value. We know that calcium is necessary in a host of bodily functions and that it builds strong bones and teeth. So after each milk mustache, cup of yogurt, or calcium supplement, we mentally pat ourselves on the back for helping stave off osteoporosis and general physical deterioration. If some is good, more must be better. Right?

Maybe not. Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, says that not only is our country's commitment to calcium not bringing about the desired benefits; it's undermining our health.

"Yes, calcium is essential for bodily function, but as is the case with many otherwise-healthy substances, pumping too much of it into our bodies is dangerous," says Dr. Levy, author of 'Death by Calcium: Proof of the Toxic Effects of Dairy and Calcium Supplements' (MedFox Publishing, 2013). "Believe it or not, most of the adult population has no need for significant calcium intake, and that need rapidly decreases with age."

Here's the truly concerning part: An excess of calcium reliably promotes heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, cancer, and other degenerative diseases. Needless to say, that's not why you're faithfully taking those supplements.

"Understandably, most people are shocked to hear this," Dr. Levy concedes. "Due to decades of convincing campaigns and marketing ploys, millions have embraced the ‘the more milk, the better' myth and other related misconceptions."

In his book, Dr. Levy presents compelling scientific evidence that systematically debunks much of what Western society believes about calcium. The book explains why calcium is dangerous in excess quantities, why limiting it promotes health, and provides strategies to help readers begin to get their calcium levels in balance.

Here, Dr. Levy addresses eight dangerous misconceptions about calcium and osteoporosis you probably accept as fact:

Misconception 1: Calcium is good for you. There's a reason why no one questions the popular wisdom that calcium is good for you: It seems completely plausible. After all, aren't bones largely composed of calcium? Isn't osteoporosis a calcium deficiency of the bone? It makes sense that drinking milk or downing calcium tablets will fix the problem!

"What people don't realize is that while osteoporosis involves a lack of calcium in the bones, it does not mean that there is a calcium deficiency in the rest of the body or in the patient's diet (more on that later!)," explains Dr. Levy. "And moving on from osteoporosis, excess calcium promotes a host of other health problems including heart attacks, strokes, cancer, and virtually all chronic diseases. In fact, it increases all-cause mortality by 250 percent.

"The bottom line is, there is no concrete evidence to support that calcium delivers any real health benefits - quite the opposite!" he adds.

Misconception 2: You need to eat dairy products to get enough calcium. If the government's recommended daily allowance (RDA) of calcium - between 1,000 to 1,300 mg per day for most adults - were correct, loading your diet with dairy products would be an easy way to reach that goal. However, says Dr. Levy, not only is the government's RDA far too high, the idea that you need dairy to get "enough" calcium is false.

"Cultures that drink little to no milk have a much lower incidence of osteoporosis than Americans," he shares. "Actually, the average person's need for calcium is more than adequately met with a diet that includes meat, eggs, and vegetables. If you want to consume dairy, that's your choice - but don't do so believing that avoiding these products will result in an inadequate intake of calcium."

Misconception 3: If you have osteoporosis, you have a calcium deficiency. This statement isn't entirely incorrect: If you have osteoporosis, you do have a calcium deficiency - in your bones. Because of this fact, many physicians and their patients believe that the entire body must be depleted of calcium as well. But that's a dangerous assumption. Throughout the rest of your body, it's actually likely that you have an excess of calcium.

"The problem with osteoporosis is that the body is unable to synthesize a new structural bone matrix and integrate calcium into it - an issue that more calcium doesn't even begin to fix!" explains Dr. Levy. "In fact, much of the calcium leached from the bones simply moves to other parts of the body, where it does you harm. It's both ironic and sad that because of this fundamental misunderstanding, so many motivated, health-conscious people are sabotaging their health in an effort to improve it."

Misconception 4: Calcium supplements will help prevent broken bones. Yes, there are studies that indicate that calcium supplementation is effective in decreasing the incidence of fractures in osteoporosis patients. But if you look more closely, says Dr. Levy, you'll uncover more questions than answers. Notably, most positive studies also included 800 or more units of vitamin D as a "co-supplement." Vitamin D, by itself, will decrease the chances of osteoporotic fracture. And that's not all.

"In some trials the number of subjects was very small, in others the duration was short, and in still others patient and observer bias wasn't tempered by double-blind placebo control," he comments. "Plus, some studies relied on the accuracy of the subject's self-observation and memory, which is questionable. Could you accurately remember how much calcium you've taken over the past ten years (or even one year)? On the other hand, in my book, I cite numerous studies that collectively provide more than enough data to conclude: Calcium supplementation does not prevent bone fractures.

"Remember, it's easy for various individuals and organizations to pick and choose the study results they'd like the public to believe, knowing that most people will take that information at face value," he adds.

Misconception 5: Increased bone density means stronger bones. Let's say that you have a rotting wooden fence bordering your yard. If you paint it with a new coat of bright white paint, it will look better, but the "fix" is only cosmetic - the fence's underlying structure is still continuing to deteriorate. That's essentially what happens when you use calcium supplements to treat bone density. Your bone density test score may well improve a bit with calcium supplementation, but this is not associated with stronger bones or a decreased risk of fracture.

"When you treat a disease like osteoporosis with increased calcium, the density can legitimately increase, but the quality of the bone itself doesn't improve unless other important factors are addressed," explains Dr. Levy. "The structural matrix of the bone still isn't normal and has no greater resistance to fracture than the diseased bone before the new calcium deposition."

Misconception 6: When you have osteoporosis, the biggest danger is breaking a bone. There's no disputing that when a person with osteoporosis fractures a bone, it's serious business. These fractures often cause incapacitation and other complications that may lead to death. But would you say that sustaining a fracture is more serious than suffering (or even dying) from a heart attack, stroke, or cancer? These are often the unrecognized consequences of osteoporosis.

"A groundbreaking study made it very clear that a fracture is not the major concern for a majority of osteoporosis patients," says Dr. Levy. "It found that in nearly 10,000 postmenopausal women, there was a 60 percent increase in the risk of death for individuals in the lowest quintile of bone density compared to those in the highest quintile. And most of those deaths did not relate to a fracture.

"The likely reason is straightforward: The more advanced the osteoporosis, the more calcium has been released from the bones over time," he explains. "This release literally showers all of the other tissues and organs in the body with a chronic excess of calcium - which, as I've already pointed out, is extremely detrimental to your health. There are many other studies that also support the conclusion that one of the biggest dangers of osteoporosis is the fact that it promotes and worsens so many other chronic diseases."

Misconception 7: Vitamin D just serves to increase calcium absorption. Vitamin D plays an essential role in regulating and modulating calcium absorption and metabolism via its interactions with the bones, gut, and kidneys. But despite data that has been accumulating since the 1980s regarding the many other roles vitamin D plays, many doctors still approach it as being "only" another way to supplement calcium.

"Vitamin D plays a role in the metabolism of virtually all cells in the body and is known to have a direct effect on around 200 genes, so it's very important," Dr. Levy shares. "However, I strongly caution you not to seek out vitamin D in foods with high calcium content, since vitamin D facilitates and even ‘overdoses' calcium absorption - which, as we've already covered, is not desirable."

Misconception 8: You get all the vitamin D you need from the sun. This statement would be true if you spent a minimum of 30 to 60 minutes a day in the sun with enough skin area exposed, in a part of the world fairly close to the equator. But let's be honest: For most of us, that's just not going to happen.

"The modern way of living is very effective in shielding people from the sun so completely that even a large percentage of individuals who live in tropical climates are chronically deficient in vitamin D," says Dr. Levy. "Therefore, for nearly everyone on the planet, vitamin D supplementation is a must in order to get its (bone) blood levels in the range that supports optimal bone health and general health. Again, just avoid getting your vitamin D in foods that also contain calcium!"

"A lot of fiction about calcium is currently accepted as fact," concludes Dr. Levy. "But the bottom line is, raising calcium concentrations in your body is not as beneficial as you probably believe, and is often dangerous. You need to realize this, change your diet accordingly, and start taking steps now to reverse the damage."

About the Author:

Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, is the author of 'Death by Calcium: Proof of the Toxic Effects of Dairy and Calcium Supplements.' He is a board-certified cardiologist and is also the author ofPrimal Panacea and Curing the Incurable: Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins; plus three other groundbreaking medical books. He is one of the world's leading vitamin C experts and frequently lectures to medical professionals all over the globe about the proper role of vitamin C and antioxidants in the treatment of a host of medical conditions and diseases. For more information, please visit www.deathbycalcium.com.

About the Book:
'Death by Calcium: Proof of the Toxic Effects of Dairy and Calcium Supplements' (MedFox Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-615-88960-3, $29.95, www.deathbycalcium.com) is available at www.deathbycalcium.com or Amazon.

Motherhood: Story of Two Mothers

by Linda Ryan

Whitney was a beautiful 8lbs, 3oz breech baby, delivered by C-Section. Babies born this way are predisposed to hip dysplasia, a condition wherein the hip socket is not completely formed. My (now ex-) husband was a physician and I am a nurse at the hospital where Whitney was born, so we felt confident in receiving the best medical treatment available. Thankfully, all the experts agreed there was no hip dysplasia.

Whitney's birth brought profound joy AND profound disorder to my life. The things I had come to take for granted - like sleeping, eating, showering - vanished overnight. During those first three months of motherhood, I was a hot mess! My saving grace was having my own mother not only show me the ropes, but also reassure me I was doing great. We'd always been close, but never did I feel more appreciation for my Mom than during those first few months.

The three-month mark of motherhood coincided with Father's Day and as we enjoyed a family barbecue, I remember thinking, "I'm starting to get the hang of this motherhood thing!" As I basked in the welcome glow of that normalcy, I was abruptly jolted into a new reality as I heard the most terrifying scream, followed by ba-boom, ba-boom, ba-boom, THUD! I sprinted to the staircase, to witness my husband flat on his back, and sweet, fragile, 3-month old Whitney lying motionless on the floor. I froze in terror! Whitney was not moving or crying and my husband was shrieking "Oh My GOD! I dropped the baby!!!"

I quickly scooped her up and held her very close. After a few moments, she began to cry inconsolably; a cry that days ago would have tortured my soul, but at that moment was music to my ears.

We whisked Whitney to the hospital where x-rays confirmed a broken right femur and a very slight hip dysplasia, which had been ruled out after birth. In the first of several ironies, the fall down the stairs was a blessing in disguise. If the dysplasia weren't detected until later in her life, she would require surgery. The worst she would endure now was a little leg cast. Right? Wrong!

Just days after concluding, "I can do this motherhood thing," my mindset melted into gut-wrenching drama. Our stay in the hospital was five days, wherein Whitney's little leg was suspended in traction. I never left her room and much of my time was spent watching helplessly, unable to hold and nurture her, contorting my body to breastfeed while standing next to her crib. On the 5th day, Whitney was placed in a full body cast, from her armpits to her toes and we were free to leave.

Finally home, the situation was significantly better, although it felt as new as when we brought her home after birth. She couldn't fit in a car seat, due to her new "tree-trunk" physique and none of her newborn clothing fit. During this traumatic time, my Mom stepped up again and demonstrated motherhood in a big way. The appreciation I'd always felt for her began to escalate tenfold.

With my husband working 50+ hours a week, he couldn't help much with Whitney. So for the next three months, my Mom moved in with us. She stayed from Monday until Friday, returning to Dad on weekends. In many ways, those were the best three months of my life. After living away from home for many years, it was quite unique to be living with my Mom again and she and I connected as never before. She helped me see that motherhood was not something to fear, but rather a privilege to embrace and enjoy. When I was tired she'd say, "go take a nap!" When I needed time with my friends, she'd say, "go out, enjoy yourself." And every afternoon at 1:00 we'd make a pot of coffee and watch our favorite soap, As the World Turns.

After three long months, Whitney's cast was finally removed. It was such a joy to hold her again and do all the things I had taken for granted before the fall: touching her skin, wiping her little butt, and blowing raspberries on her belly. I had my normal baby back; a baby who could fit in a car seat and wear regular clothes. Life was good again!

Mom moved back with Dad full-time, as there was no need for her to stay. I remember hugging her goodbye the day she left saying, "I don't know how I can ever thank you for all your help." And her reply..."oh honey, the pleasure was all mine!"

Just two short weeks later, the phone rang. It was my Dad, who said, "Mommy feels like she's having a heart attack."

As a nurse, my training screamed "CALL 911!", but instead I said, "Let me talk with her."

Trying to sound calm... "Mom, what's going on?"

In a shallow voice, barely audible, she responded, "I love you."

"I love you too, tell me about the pain."

Even quieter now, "I love you Lin..."

I told my Dad to call an ambulance right away and we would meet him at the hospital. As soon as I saw the doctor's face, I knew; I'd seen the look before. Mom was only 63 years old when she died that day.

My Mom was my very best friend. Prior to her death, if I contemplated someone telling me, "Your mother is dead," I was certain I'd go to pieces. Yet somehow, I was OK. I felt an indescribable spiritual comfort; a deep and innate knowing that Mom had not merely died, but had gone somewhere amazing.

Friends and family were so concerned about me, the youngest (and favorite!) of her three children. Everyone knew how close we were and worried I would fall apart. I kept saying, "I don't think it's 'hit me' yet," because I never did fall apart, as I would have expected. I had a sense of peace and gratitude about the whole experience that overrode the grief. I became fervently aware that life does not end when the physical body dies and that is, perhaps the greatest gift I've ever received.

I've always been a spiritual person, but never to the degree I experienced when Mom died. Even in death, she teaches me lessons of life and love. Today, 27 years later. I feel endless appreciation for the incredible string of circumstances that began with my husband dropping our baby (allowing me to spend the last three months of Mom's life living with her) and culminated with my last phone call with Mom (a conversation I would have missed if I'd told Dad to hang up and call 911); a moment when she managed, through her pain, to say the final words she would ever speak to me: "I love you Lin....."

About The Author:

Linda Ryan is an Intensive Care Nurse turned Personal Coach. Her expertise is helping you understand how powerful your thoughts and feelings are, when it comes to creating the life or business you want. She is the author of 'The Law of Attraction is B.S. (Basically Simple)'.

Christian Persecution: Religious Leaders Say ISIS Persecution of Iraqi Christians Has Become Genocide

by Sam Jones and Owen Bowcott, The Guardian

Isis's persecution of Iraqi Christians, which has already forced tens of thousands of men, women and children to flee for their lives, is fast becoming a genocide, religious leaders have warned.

Archbishop Athanasius Toma Dawod of the Syriac Orthodox church said that Isis's capture of Qaraqosh, Iraq's largest Christian city, had marked a turning point for Christians in the country.

"Now we consider it genocide – ethnic cleansing," he said. "They are killing our people in the name of Allah and telling people that anyone who kills a Christian will go straight to heaven: that is their message. They have burned churches; they have burned very old books. They have damaged our crosses and statues of the Virgin Mary. They are occupying our churches and converting them into mosques."

The archbishop, who leads the Syriac Orthodox church in the UK, urged the UK government to open the country's doors to those fleeing the violence. "We are dying, 100%," he said. "The British government needs to help people and to give them asylum. If they stay here, they will be killed."

His pleas were echoed by Patriarch Louis Sako, the Iraq-based leader of the Chaldean Catholic church, who said that about 100,000 Christians had abandoned their villages in the Nineveh plains earlier this week after Isis launched mortar attacks. He asked the EU and the UN to help them before it was too late.

"They fled their villages and houses [with] nothing but … the clothes on their backs," he said in a statement to the charity Aid to the Church in Need. "[It is] an exodus, a real via crucis; Christians are walking on foot in Iraq's searing summer heat towards the Kurdish cities of Irbil, Duhok and Soulaymiyia, the sick, the elderly, infants and pregnant women among them. They are facing a human catastrophe and risk a real genocide."

Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, described Isis's treatment of Christian, Yazidi and other communities as "a persecution of immense proportions" and urged the UK government to act.

The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, also called on the UK to follow other European governments by helping to protect Iraq's Christians and other minorities.

"It is extremely important that aid efforts are supported and that those who have been displaced are able to find safety," he said.

"I believe that, like France, the UK's doors should be open to refugees, as they have been throughout history."

However, Wilson Jaso, president of the UK Assyrian Society, was deeply pessimistic about the international community's slow response to the persecution.

"If we're not protected soon, there'll be none of us left in the country – which is our country – and no churches," he said.

"Obama has to act, as simple as that. The problem is that the Christians don't have oil. If we had oil, everyone would protect us."Urgent appeals for help also came from the leader of the Syrian Kurdish party whose fighters are resisting jihadist attacks in northern Iraq.

Saleh Mohamed, co-president of the Democratic Union party who is in London for meetings this week, said the DUP was "begging for any kind of support from anyone who can help us".

Syrian Kurdish fighters, who control the north-east of the country, have sent units across the border into neighbouring Iraq where they are supporting tens of thousands of refugees from the Yazidi minority community who have fled into the mountains near Sinjar.

The military wing of the Syrian Kurds, the Peoples Protection Units, had crossed over, Mohamed said, to help local Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Iraq who are facing Isis jihadists.

"These people want to change everything back to the way it was 1,500 years ago," he said. "We knew it was dangerous for Sinjar and the Yazidis. Isis fighters view them as unbelievers but the Kurdish regional government [in Irbil] withdrew their forces."

He said his party had warned the US and the UK six months ago that Isis was planning attacks. "No one took us seriously. [But] now the jihadists have advanced weapons and money, they can do what they want on their own."

Things had reached such a critical point that his organisation was know seeking support from anyone who was willing to step in, he said. "Without political conditions, we will accept help from anyone if they have an interest in defending freedom and humanitarian values. We have asked the Foreign Office in London for help."

Save the Children described the speed of the displacement caused by the Isis advance as unprecedented, adding that thousands of families had entered the Kurdistan region of Iraq from Qaraqosh in the last 48 hours. That exodus came days after almost 200,000 people fled Sinjar. According to the charity, 1.2 million Iraqis have been displaced in the past two months since the fighting began, placing the humanitarian relief effort under huge pressure.

"I have never known such a rapid moment of displacement," said its Iraq country director, Tina Yu. "We're seeing children and families who've fled their homes, often in the middle of the night, fearing for their lives and with nothing but the clothes on their backs.

"When they find somewhere safe to shelter they often don't have the means to buy basic necessities like food and medicine, and they don't know if their lives will ever be the same again."

Source: The Guardian, 8 August 2014

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