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

Great Lent week 3, Sin

Volume 5 No. 266 February 27, 2015

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Jesus Healing Paralyctic
Jesus Healing the Paralytic
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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I. This Sunday in Church - Great Lent week 3

1. Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 1)

Bible Readings For Third Sunday of Great Lent (M'Shariyo/Paralytic)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_3rd_sunday_of_Great-Lent.htm

2. Sermons for This Sunday (March 1)

Sermons For Third Sunday of Great Lent (M'Shariyo/Paralytic)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_3rd-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 3 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week3.htm

II. Reflections on This Week's Bible Readings

4. Reflection on Mark 2:1-12; Implications of Jesus Calling The Man 'Son'

When Jesus calls the man, "Son," he breaks the social barriers that normally isolate disabled persons. This is actually the real miracle in this story. While the man is still paralyzed; while his sins are still unforgiven; Jesus draws the man back into a full, honored, place in the village social circle. ...

5. Jesus Heals a Lame Man at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-15)

The same God who occasionally sent an angel, sent His Son one day to the same pool. And just as when the angel visited, only one person was healed that day as well. Did Jesus want to convey to the sick people present that He loved only one person enough to heal him? No, like His Father, He was trying to show them that He had the power to heal them all, hoping that all would trust Him for their healing. ...

6. The Paralytic Versus the Pharisees (Luke 5:17-26)

Jesus didn't perform this miracle for himself or his own glory. He sought only God's glory. We see how everyone glorifies God after the miracle. It's almost as if Christ is forgotten. Christ sought only to do what would glorify the Father. How often do we seek our own glory when we work on the apostolate or perform an act of charity? ...

7. Jesus Has Authority Over Sin - Meditation on Luke 5:17-26

Jesus has authority over sin. Who can forgive sins but God alone? Of course, no one else can. That's why it shocked everyone within earshot when Jesus told the man: "Your sins are forgiven." In this passage, Jesus shows us that he has the power to remove the stain of sin and make us right before God. Not only does he wipe the slate clean; he can set us free from sinful habits that continue to trip us up - patterns like moodiness or a sharp tongue. ...

III. This Week's Theme: Sin

8. Four Reasons to Hate Sin

We don't want Satan to win; we don't want sin to win. We want God to get the glory, and Christ to be viewed as beautiful. Therefore, we must loathe sin. Then it will not have any corner of our heart and ever square inch will belong to God. ...

9. The Gift of Sorrow for Sin

A worthy Lenten practice is going to the foot of the Cross and allowing the Lord to anoint us, so that we see both how serious our sins are and at the same time how deep His love for us is. When it finally begins to dawn on us that the Son of God died for us, our heart breaks open, light pours in, and we can begin to weep for our sins and in gratitude for His love. ...

10. Confession of Sin

Confession affects the heart with sin, and engages the heart against it. Every confession of the evil we do-is a new obligation not to do it any more. Confession of sin shows us more clearly our need of mercy-and endears God's mercy more to us. How good and sweet is mercy-to a soul that has tasted how evil and bitter a thing it is to sin against the Lord.  ...

11. Cured from the Contagion of Sin

Perhaps the worse thing about the disease of sin is that it so deadens our moral and spiritual sensibilities that we don't even see what's happening to us. Like Hansen's disease, better known as leprosy, sin so damages our moral nervous system that we persist in devastating, dehumanizing behavior, tragically unaware of the self-destruction we're causing. That's why Scripture warns us again and again about the dangers of a hard, or calloused, heart. ...

12. Find and Replace - Replace The Old Sinful Nature With New

When tempted to throw a pity party with only ourselves on the guest list - because let's face it, no one fancies the company of a whiner - let's replace our negative notions with insight from God's Word. ...

IV. General Articles of Interest

13. Health: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week Encourages Early Intervention

Some 30 million people in the U.S. will be affected by an eating disorder in their lifetime. Many people, including males, die from this disease. ...

14. Recipe: Funghi Cappelle Infarcite (Stuffed Mushrooms)

A classic Italian recipe.

15. Family Special: The Seventh Commandment

The Creator God directly devotes two of His ten great laws to protecting family relationships. In the fifth commandment, we see how important honoring parents is in maintaining a Christian family relationship. God gave the seventh commandment, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18), to protect the honor and sanctity of marriage. It is through marriage and the family that we learn how to conduct proper relationships, both with other people and with God.  ...

16. Historian Says Last Generation of Aramaic Speaking Christians are the Target of Persecution

As horrific atrocities continue across world news headlines this week – raids on villages across the Middle East, people kidnapped, children beheaded – Bible historian and international authority on Biblical Aramaic and Hebrew languages, Ewan MacLeod said, "The recent news about the barbaric way that ISIS repeatedly kidnaps Assyrian Christians highlights the plight of this minority of Christians and that they are the target of persecution. ...

17. Christians Flee Islamic State Jihadists After Mass Abduction in Syria

The kidnapping of dozens of Assyrian Christians by the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria has prompted an exodus of terrified families fleeing their homes.

Nearly 1000 Assyrian Christian families have fled their villages in the northeastern province of Hasakeh since Monday's kidnappings, said Osama Edward, director of the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network. ...

18. About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church - Great Lent week 3
Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 1)
Sermons for This Sunday (March 1)

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 3 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week3.htm

Malankara World Journal Issues:

Malankara World Journal Issue 266 - Great Lent - Week 3 (Feb 27 2015)

Malankara World Journal Issue 202 - Great Lent - Week 3 (Mar 13 2014)

Malankara World Journal Issue 126 - (Feb 21 2013)

Volume 2 No 60: March 04 2012
Special Edition: Great Lent Week 3

Reflections on This Week's Bible Readings

Reflection on Mark 2:1-12; Implications of Jesus Calling The Man 'Son'

by David Ewart, www.holytextures.com

Gospel: Mark 2:1-12

1 When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3 Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.

5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 "Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and take your mat and walk'?

10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"- he said to the paralytic - 11 "I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home." 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"
- Mark 2:1-12 (NRSV)

This story always fascinated me as a young boy: They removed the roof! Wow. How did they do that? Forgiving sins, and causing people to walk was nothing compared to removing a roof.

With all "miracle" stories in the Bible it is important NOT to get distracted by the special effects.

The most important questions to ask are not:
How did they do that? How was the physical situation changed?

The most important questions to ask are:
How did they do that? How were the social relationships changed?

Earlier we read about Jesus beginning his ministry in Capernaum. (Mark 1:21-28) That lesson introduced a theme that has been building week by week: the fame of Jesus is spreading and he is attracting larger and larger crowds. He is teaching like one with authority - and not like the scribes.

And today, back in Capernaum again, for the first time some scribes are now in the crowd.

Being "at home" in Capernaum is a significant social locator. I was born into a small village, and being "at home" in a village is about a lot more than merely having a house to live in there. It is all about everyone knowing everyone else (preferably from birth) - and everyone knowing everyone's place in the village social life. It is not surprising that it took the folks of Capernaum a couple of days to respond to Jesus again after he turned his back on them a few weeks ago. (Mark 1:29-39)

Now we come to the part of the story that fascinated me so many years ago. How did those four friends get their paralyzed friend up on the roof? How did they remove the roof so that it didn't simply fall in on top of Jesus? Young inquiring minds want to know! Alas, that is not the point of the story.

What does Jesus see?
He sees their faith.

How does anyone SEE faith?
At the time of Jesus, "faith" did NOT mean "belief," or agreement with a set of ideas. Whenever we see "faith" or "belief" in the Bible it is almost always better translated as "trust," "commitment," or "loyalty."

Trust, commitment, and loyalty can be seen by the actions of the four friends. Somehow they got that guy up on the roof, and then they removed the roof, and then they had brought with them a mat and some ropes with which to gently lower their friend before Jesus. Trusting that Jesus could and would heal their friend. That is what trust, commitment, and loyalty look like.

The next thing that Jesus says is actually the turning point and key to this whole story.

What does Jesus say?

He says:
Son

When Jesus calls the man, "Son," he breaks the social barriers that normally isolate disabled persons. This is actually the real miracle in this story. While the man is still paralyzed; while his sins are still unforgiven; Jesus draws the man back into a full, honoured, place in the village social circle. Wow. How did he do that?

What does Jesus say next?

He says:
Your sins are forgiven.

And note that Eugene Peterson's, The Message, translation, "I forgive your sins," mistranslates the Greek and commits a profound theological mistake as well. As Malina and Rohrbaugh notes:

Nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus say, "I forgive you." Passive-voice statements (such as, "Your sins are forgiven.") imply that God is the doer. It is God who forgives.

In Verses 7 and 8, Mark now reports on what we in the Western world would regard as personal, hidden, inner, experiences. Wow. How does he do that? How does he know what they are thinking?

Again, Malina and Rohrbaugh provide some helpful insights:

The honorable man had a finely tuned sense of shame. This is positive shame, that is, sensitivity to one's honor standing in the community, and a keen sense of awareness of when that was or was not being challenged. Success (in meeting a challenge) required this kind of sensitivity. Here Jesus senses the challenge coming and meets it head-on.

Jesus demonstrates his honour precisely by being able to read the behaviors of the scribes that indicate they are doubting him (i.e., they are not trusting, committed, and loyal to him) and are ready to challenge his newly acquired high status among the people as a Holy Man and healer.

This is the first of many occasions where Jesus will successfully defend his honour against the religious elite leaders.

And he does it in his usual brilliant way by asking a question:

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Stand up and take your mat and walk?"

This is a trick question of course since both options are impossible possibilities. Well, impossible for us, but not for God.

And it is also a trick question for us because it gets us thinking about forgiveness and physical miracles and diverts us away from when the miracle really happened in this story; when Jesus called the man, "Son."

Don't get me wrong. It is a good thing to have one's sins forgiven. And it is a good thing to have one's paralysis ended. But it is a better thing to belong and to be loved.

The real question that Jesus did not ask the scribes and his fellow villagers is this:

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Stand up and take your mat and walk," or to say, "You belong and are beloved."

Wow. How does he do that? How does he nail the fear and hardness of our hearts so neatly?

No wonder they all proclaim, "We've never seen anything like this!"

But I'm still wondering how those guys removed the roof!

Jesus Heals a Lame Man at the Pool of Bethesda
Gospel: John 5:1-15

Praise God for what Jesus did for this lame man at the pool of Bethesda! He had been suffering for thirty-eight years from his sickness, and perhaps had been unable to walk all that time. But he still had hope of being healed. He'd heard that an angel of the Lord would occasionally stir the waters at the pool of Bethesda. Afterwards, whoever stepped into the water first was healed of whatever ailed him. So the lame man joined many other sick people who sat around the pool each day, watching and waiting for the troubling of the waters. He had been present a number of times when the waters were previously stirred, but others who had more mobility reached the water before he did. So he kept on waiting for another opportunity, and hoped that the next time the waters were stirred, someone would care enough to help him be the first to get in.

Angels, of course, don't work independently of the Lord, and so we can be sure that the only time an angel stirred the Bethesda waters was when God sent him. So why didn't God send an angel every five minutes to stir the water so that everyone could be healed? Can we conclude from this story that it wasn't God's will for everyone there to be healed?

Actually, all the sick people at Bethesda could have been healed without ever stepping into the pool of Bethesda, because God promised health for every obedient Israelite in His covenant with them. God said in Exodus 23:25 (NASB), "But you shall serve the Lord your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst." In Deuteronomy 7:12-15, God promised the Israelites that, if they obeyed Him faithfully, He would remove all sickness from them. If any of the sick people at Bethesda had believed what God had promised, acting in faith, they would have been healed. Even if they had been disobedient to the Lord, thus not meeting the conditions of their covenant with God, they could have repented, received forgiveness, and then received healing. Anyone who disagrees with that is saying that God is a liar, and that His promises can't be trusted. It's true: He promised health to obedient Israelites!

By occasionally sending an angel to stir the waters of the pool of Bethesda, perhaps God was also trying to stir up His people by way of reminder that He was still in the healing business. Every time someone was healed, God was sending a message to all Israel that He'd spoken centuries earlier to their ancestors: "I am the Lord who heals you" (Exodus 15:26). Surely God didn't want all those sick people waiting at the pool to think His mercy was limited, or that His love was greater for sick people who were more watchful and mobile than other sick people. Surely He wasn't trying to encourage a selfish competition that would make the majority of suffering people continual losers. No, the God whom the Bible says shows no partiality (see Deut. 10:17; Rom. 2:11; Gal. 2:6) wanted His covenant people to know that He was their healer. And He was not choosing to heal specific ones and choosing not to heal specific others, because anyone who got into the water first was healed. Individual responsibility was a factor.

The same God who occasionally sent an angel, sent His Son one day to the same pool. And just as when the angel visited, only one person was healed that day as well. Did Jesus want to convey to the sick people present that He loved only one person enough to heal him? No, like His Father, He was trying to show them that He had the power to heal them all, hoping that all would trust Him for their healing. Numerous times in the four Gospels, we can read about Jesus healing everyone who came to Him requesting healing. This healing at the pool of Bethesda was an advertisement for Jesus and an encouragement for the rest to trust Him and be healed. This healing should encourage us today, because the Bible says that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).

Discussion:

Q. Was this lame man at the pool of Bethesda healed through his faith?

A. No, this man, unlike so many others whom Jesus healed, was not healed through his faith. Here is the evidence: First, the man was not seeking Jesus, rather, Jesus found him. Second, Jesus said nothing to him about his faith healing him as He often did with others. And third, the lame man had no idea who Jesus was, even after he'd been healed. When he first conversed with Jesus, he wasn't looking to Him as someone who could heal him. In his mind, Jesus was no different than any other person present.

This healing, then, is an example of a "gift of healing" working through Jesus. Gifts of healings operate as the Holy Spirit wills (see 1 Cor. 12:11), and faith is not necessarily a requirement for the sick person to be healed. It is a sovereign act of God.

Q. Jesus later told the man He'd healed, "Stop sinning, or something even worse may happen to you" (John 5:14). What can we learn from that statement?

A. We can learn that sin can lead to God's judgment. If the healed man didn't repent and quit sinning, there was the possibility that he might wind up worse than he previously was. God is a loving God, but He is also holy. He will punish evildoers. We must be careful, however, that we don't conclude that all sick people are being punished for their sins. Then we would be guilty of passing judgment.

Application: The people of the world often need signs from God to open their hearts to the gospel. Let's pray today that God would mercifully grant that more signs and wonders would be shown to the unbelieving world. Also that even people who have no faith would be healed, that more attention would be given to the good news of Jesus Christ.

Source: Heaven's Family

The Paralytic Versus the Pharisees (Luke 5:17-26)

by Father Frank Formolo, LC

Gospel: Luke 5: 17-26

One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there, and the power of the Lord was with him for healing. And some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed; they were trying to bring him in and set him in his presence. But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "As for you, your sins are forgiven."

Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?"

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, "What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he said to the one who was paralyzed, "I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home." He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God.

Then astonishment seized them all and they glorified God, and, struck with awe, they said, "We have seen incredible things today."

Introductory Prayer:

Lord you are the author of all things and you have power to forgive sins. Though my faith is still weak I do believe in you. And I also trust in your goodness and mercy. Here I am before you in prayer, longing once more to love you with all my mind, heart, soul and strength.

Petition:

Lord, help me to seek you in my life above all else.

1. The Pharisees' Faith:

The Pharisees sat in front of Christ watching him cure the sick. Earlier they had seen many other miracles, but despite what they saw they could not bring themselves to believe in Christ. Miracle after miracle couldn't change their mind. Jesus decides to give them a decisive miracle so that they will believe. He decides to cure the paralytic to show his power to forgive sins. Since disease for the Pharisees was a sign of sin, they should have been ready to accept Jesus' message of healing and forgiveness. But they were too wrapped up in seeking their own plans and protecting their own honor to discern God's loving mercy behind what they witnessed. How often do we want God to give us a sign so we can follow his plan? And how often are we not open to what he tells us, simply and directly because we're too focused on achieving our own plans?

2. The Paralytic's Faith:

The paralytic needed no signs. He believed Jesus could help him. His faith was so strong he would not let the difficulties overcome him. He couldn't walk so he found someone to carry him. When he arrived he couldn't get to Christ, so his men brought him in through the roof. He was determined to see Christ because he knew what Christ could do for him. His faith was so strong it moved him to action. He had a living faith, which goes far beyond mere ideas. His faith moved him to find our Lord no matter the difficulties. What have I done to seek Christ, to meet him face to face? What have I been prepared to do in order to receive his grace? Do I give up my prayer or my apostolate at the first difficulty?

3. For God's Glory:

Jesus didn't perform this miracle for himself or his own glory. He sought only God's glory. We see how everyone glorifies God after the miracle. It's almost as if Christ is forgotten. Christ sought only to do what would glorify the Father. How often do we seek our own glory when we work on the apostolate or perform an act of charity? How often do we hope someone will remember us and say "Thank You" although we are here to build Christ's Kingdom for God's glory alone? We need to constantly renew our purity of intention.

Dialogue with Christ: Lord, how great was the faith of the paralytic! He was humble enough to find you and strong enough in his faith that nothing could keep him from you. Grant me the gift of a humble heart and a strong faith so I can be constant and dedicated in seeking to encounter you in my life and in fulfilling your will for your glory and the good of others alone.

Resolution:

Today I will look for solutions to the problems that come my way, and I will renew my intention to perform my duties for God's glory throughout the day.

Jesus Has Authority Over Sin - Meditation on Luke 5:17-26
"The Son of Man has authority on earth." (Luke 5:24)

We don't have to wonder what Jesus was trying to say to the people who witnessed his healing and forgiveness of the man lowered through the roof. He made it perfectly clear: he is someone with authority.

Jesus has authority over sin. Who can forgive sins but God alone? Of course, no one else can. That's why it shocked everyone within earshot when Jesus told the man: "Your sins are forgiven." In this passage, Jesus shows us that he has the power to remove the stain of sin and make us right before God. Not only does he wipe the slate clean; he can set us free from sinful habits that continue to trip us up - patterns like moodiness or a sharp tongue. He can break the power of guilt and shame over our past so that we can see how bright a future he has in store for us. All this because Jesus took our sin and disarmed it, nailing it to his cross (Colossians 2:14-15). Now that's authority!

Jesus has authority over sickness. When some Pharisees objected to Jesus' statement of forgiveness, he proved his authority by healing the man as well. If he could restore atrophied muscles and re-knit weakened bones with just a word, surely he could remove sin as well! You may know someone who has been healed through prayer, whether it was at a healing Mass, at a prayer meeting, or in some other venue. Some of these healings are dramatic, like cancer remission, and some are more modest, like relief from a headache! But no matter how big or small, there are people around us who can testify that Jesus is still in the business of healing.

Jesus doesn't exercise his authority like a tyrant. He isn't motivated by greed or a lust for power. No, he is a wise ruler, a just king, a merciful sovereign. We have nothing to fear from him. There is no need to avoid him or try to set ourselves up as a rival to his throne. In fact, coming under his authority is the most sensible thing we could do. Who else can forgive our sins and heal our hearts?

"Lord Jesus, I believe that you are Lord and God. Come and reign over me; I want to spend my days in the shelter of your authority."

Source: The Word Among Us

This Week's Theme: Sin

Four Reasons to Hate Sin

by Joey Cochran

Should we hate sin? Absolutely! Psalm 97:10 makes this plain: "O you who love the Lord, hate evil!" That's simple enough. Right? But why should we hate sin?

God's Glory is Supreme

This first reason to hate sin takes supreme precedence. God's salvation narrative more than anything is about his glory. He is a glory hound who does not share with anyone or anything. His collective attributes give us confidence that His glory is for our good. He's righteous, so seeking glory is His righteous pursuit. He's holy, so seeking glory is His holy pursuit. He's beautiful, so seeking glory is His beautiful pursuit. We must trust this because, well, He's trustworthy!

This being the case, then our aim is to maximize God's glory. The sinfulness of sin by design is a barrier to it, one that ultimately is overcome at the cross of Christ. Yet, until He returns and puts sin to death, we await and minimize sin's work to foil God's glory. We do this by seeking His glory and running from sin. The supremacy of God's glory should evoke us to loathe sin.

Christ is Beautiful

Another reason to hate sin is because Christ is beautiful. Understanding the beauty of Christ begins by putting it in the context of his love for us. Reciprocal affection makes anything more lovely. This is the case with Christ. We love Christ because he first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19). The oft quoted verse, John 3:16reminds us that Christ's love brings life, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

Not only does Christ love us and in turn is lovely, but he is Holy and in turn deserves our holiness. Look at John 3:16in context of John 3:19-21:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works has been carried out in God. (Jn 3:19-21)

When Christ is found lovely, then we will despise the darkness of sin and come to the light of Christ. His loveliness stirs us towards his holiness. David Wells says in God in the Whirlwinds:

We have been thinking about the heart of sanctification, its very core, as consisting in loving God and loving our neighbor. These twin loves, these two commandments, are at the same time an expression of holiness. God's character is that of holy-love, and that is what the Holy Spirit is working to restore to us through the process of sanctification. (Kindle loc. 3065)

Do you find Christ so beautiful that sin is despising? You must. Jesus' loveliness should move us from sinfulness towards holiness.

Sin's Ugly. So Is Its Outcome

If finding Christ to be beautiful isn't enough to instill malice for sin, perhaps the ugliness of sin and its outcome will.

Have you read the Portrait of Dorian Gray? Oscar Wilde's portrayal of sin is haunting. Dorian Gray, the main character, is a handsome man who loves sin. He lives his life without feeling sin's mar. How? His friend Basil Hallward, whom he later murders, paints a beautiful portrait of Gray in his youth. That portrait bears the burden of Gray's sin. Gray lives his life freely indulging every desire while remaining flawless and untouched by his choices. He becomes a murderer, a cheat, and a hypocrite. In the last chapter, he looks at the hideous portrait that was once beautiful and sees how loathsome he really is. He takes the same knife with which he murdered the painter and stabs the portrait. The stab slays Dorian Gray.

Sin is ugly and always leads to death. Paul says that sin produces death in us (Rom. 7:13). That's our outcome. Oscar Wilde, an indulgent, sensual man who himself died of syphilis understood this well. The ugliness of sin and its outcome should cause revulsion of it.

Satan is Our Great Enemy

A final reason to despise sin is because Satan is our great enemy. Satan prowls about like a roaring lion: devouring, scheming and ensnaring saints into sin (Eph. 6:11; 1Tim. 3:7; 1Pet. 5:8). Why does he do this? He wishes to thwart and thieve God's glory at every turn. Satan can't have glory to himself. He failed that conquest and ever since – notably in the Garden of Eden – he attempts to rob God of glory.

Do you view Satan as your great enemy? He is actively bent against your holiness. In the Christian in Complete Armour, William Gurnall says, "When the Christian is a praying, then Satan and the flesh are a prating." By "prating" he means that our enemy tries to out shout our prayers and drown them out with his chatter. He does not want you in close communion with God, and every time we give into sin, Satan wins.

And We Don't Want That

We don't want Satan to win; we don't want sin to win. We want God to get the glory, and Christ to be viewed as beautiful. Therefore, we must loathe sin. Then it will not have any corner of our heart and ever square inch will belong to God.

About The Author:

Joey Cochran, a ThM graduate of Dallas Seminary, is the church planting intern at Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, Illinois.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

The Gift of Sorrow for Sin

By Msgr. Charles Pope, Archdiocese of Washington

Most pastors and confessors are aware that in any parish there are going to be a few who are scrupulous, even in times like these. Some have a kind of scrupulosity that is mild and almost admirable. A sensitive conscience is a beautiful thing and bespeaks a kind of innocence that is rare today.

Some others have a more unhealthy form of scrupulosity, rooted too much in cringing fear of a God who is seen more as a punishing adversary than a delivering Father who wants to help us overcome our sin.

But saddest of all are the large majority who have very little compunction (sorrow) for sin. Most Christians have lived so long in a culture that dismisses, excuses, or makes light of sin that they have very little notion of just how serious sin can be. That God had to send His only Son to die in order rescue us from our sins shows just how serious they are; weeping for our sins is not some "extreme" reaction.

Tears of Sorrow

Indeed, a worthy Lenten practice is going to the foot of the Cross and allowing the Lord to anoint us, so that we see both how serious our sins are and at the same time how deep His love for us is. When it finally begins to dawn on us that the Son of God died for us, our heart breaks open, light pours in, and we can begin to weep for our sins and in gratitude for His love.

Consider that Jesus looked at a paralyzed man and, "not noticing" his paralysis, said to him, "Courage son, Your sins are forgiven" (Mat 9:2). In a sense, He saw the man's sins as more serious than his paralysis. Jesus says elsewhere,

I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell (Matt 5:28-30).

Now the Lord does not mean literally to gouge out eyes and cut off appendages. But what He is saying is that it is more serious to sin (in this case through lust) than to lose our eye, hand, or foot.

Now we don't usually think like this, but we should. Sin is much more serious than most of us imagine. It is our most serious problem. It is more serious than lack of money or poor physical health. Sin is our most serious problem; whatever is in second place isn't even close.

In times like these, when self-esteem is overemphasized, personal responsibility is minimized, and excuses abound, we do well to ask for the gift of tears. We do well to ask for a profound and healthy grief for our sins.

More than ever, this is a gift to be sought. Note that these tears are not meant to be tears of depression, discouragement, or self-loathing. The tears to be sought here are tears of what St. Paul calls "godly sorrow." Godly sorrow causes us to have sorrow for our sins but in a such a way that it draws us to God and to great love, gratitude, and appreciation for His mercy. St. Paul writes,

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it - I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while - yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation [at sin], what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done.
- 2 Cor 7:8-11

Consider these Beautiful Prayers from the "Mass for the Gift of Tears:"

Collect:

Almighty and most gentle God,
who brought forth from the rock
a fountain of living water for your thirsty people,
bring forth we pray,
from the hardness of our heart, tears of sorrow,
that we may lament our sins
and merit forgiveness from your mercy.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God forever and ever.

Prayer over the gifts:

Look mercifully, O Lord, upon this oblation,
which we offer to your majesty, for our sins,
and grant, we pray, that the sacrifice
from which forgiveness springs forth for the human race,
may bestow on us the grace of the Holy Spirit,
to shed tears for our offenses.
Through Christ our Lord.

After Communion:

May the reverent reception of your Sacrament O Lord,
Lead us to wash away the stains of our sins
with sighs and tears, and in your generosity
grant that the pardon we seek may have its effect on us.
Through Christ our Lord.

So beautiful, scriptural, and spiritual. Pray these prayers. We need the gift of tears today.

[Editor's Note: Minor editing was done for clarification.]

Confession of Sin

by Joseph Caryl, 1645

"Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Surely you desire truth in the inner parts."
- Psalm 51:1-6

The holiest man on earth has cause to confess that he has sinned. Confession is the duty of the best Christians. While the ship leaks-the pump must not stand still. Confession is a soul-humbling duty, and the best have need of that, for they are in most danger of being lifted up in pride. To preserve us from self-exaltations, the Lord sometimes sends the messenger of Satan to buffet us by temptations, and commands us to buffet ourselves by confessions.

Confession affects the heart with sin, and engages the heart against it. Every confession of the evil we do-is a new obligation not to do it any more. Confession of sin shows us more clearly our need of mercy-and endears God's mercy more to us. How good and sweet is mercy-to a soul that has tasted how evil and bitter a thing it is to sin against the Lord.

Confession of sin advances Christ in our hearts. How does it declare the riches of Christ-when we are not afraid to tell Him what infinite sums of debt we are in-which He only, and He easily, can discharge! How it does commend the healing virtue of His blood-when we open to Him such mortal wounds and sicknesses which He only, and He easily, can cure! Woe to be those who commit sin aboundingly, that grace may abound-but it is our duty to confess sin aboundingly, that grace may abound.

Sincere confession of sin makes the soul very active about the remedies of sin. "I have sinned" said Job; his next word is, "What shall I do unto you?" (Job 7:20). Many make confession of sin-who are never troubled about the cure of it; nay, it may be that their next action is to sin over the same sin they have confessed.

When the Jews heard of the foulness of their sin in crucifying Christ and the sadness of their condition, they also asked, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). A soul truly sensible of sin is ready to submit to any terms which God shall put upon him: "What shall I do?"-I am ready to accept them. That was the sense of the Jews' question in Acts 2:37: Show us the way, let it be what it will; we will not pick and chose.

So too when the Jailor found himself in the bonds of iniquity, he was ready to enter into any bonds of duty.

God is to be consulted and inquired after in all doubtful cases, especially in our sin-cases. "I have sinned; what shall I do unto you, O you Watcher of men?" (Job 7:20). He calls upon God to know what course he should take. Though when we have opportunity to speak unto men, that is good and a duty; yet we must not rest in the counsels of men what to do in sin-cases-God must be consulted.

Though to speak a general confession is an easy matter and every man's duty-yet to make a genuine confession is a hard matter and a work beyond man. As no man can say (in a spiritual sense) Jesus is the Lord, "but by the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:3), so no man can say (in a holy manner) I have sinned-but by the Holy Spirit. Good and bad, believers and unbelievers, speak often the same words-but they cannot speak the same things, nor from the same principles: nature speaks in the one; in the other, grace. One may say very passionately he has sinned, and sometimes almost drown his words in tears; but the other says repentingly, "I have sinned," and floods his heart with godly sorrows.

The general confessions of the saints have these four things in them:

1. Besides the fact of sin-they acknowledge the blot of sin: that there is much defilement and blackness in every sin; that it is the pollution and abasement of the creature.

2. They confess the fault of sin: that they have done very ill in what they have done, and very foolishly, even like a beast that has no understanding.

3. They confess a guilt contracted by what they have done: that their persons might be laid liable to the sentence of the Law for every such act, if Christ had not taken away the curse and condemning power of it. Confession of sin (in the strict nature of it) puts us into the hand of justice; though through the grace of the new covenant, it puts us into the hand of mercy.

4. Hence the saints confess all the punishments threatened in the Word to be due to sin, and are ready to acquit God whatever He has awarded against sinners-see Daniel 9:7.

The manner in which saints confess sin, widens the distance between theirs and the general confessions of wicked men.

The saints confess freely: Acknowledgments of sin are not extorted by the pain and trouble which seizes on them, as in Pharaoh, Saul, Judas. But when God gives them best days-they are ready to speak worst of themselves; when they receive most mercies from God-then He receives most and deepest acknowledgments of sin from them. They are never so humbled in the sight of sin-as when they are most exalted in seeing the salvations of the Lord. The goodness of God leads them to repentance-they are not driven to it by wrath.

The saints confess feelingly: When they say they have sinned-they know what they say. They taste the bitterness of sin, and groan under the burdensomeness of it, as it passes out in confession. A natural man's confessions run through him as water through a pipe, which leaves no impression or scent there, nor do they any more taste what sin is, than the pipe does of what relish water is.

The saints confess sincerely: They mean what they say-see Psalm 32. The natural man casts out his sin-as seamen cast their goods overboard in a storm, which in the calm, they wish for again.

The saints confess believingly: While they have an eye of sorrow upon sin-they have an eye of faith upon Christ. Judas said he had sinned in betraying innocent blood-but instead of washing in that blood, he defiled himself with his own blood. No wicked man ever mixed faith with his sorrows, or believing with confession.

Cured from the Contagion of Sin

by Brian Hedges

A couple of years ago, my wife and I went to see the disturbingly interesting film Contagion, which has been described as a "medical thriller disaster" movie. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, the film is about the rapid spread of a virus that results in a pandemic, until a team of researchers are finally able to produce a vaccine.

One of my friends who did his graduate work in infectious diseases said the film did a good job with the science, except the discovery of the vaccine was unrealistically fast. That's pretty scary and enough to turn any normal person into a germaphobe.

Maybe that movie wasn't the best choice for a date night, after all.

The Contagion of Sin

As scary as infectious diseases are, there's a more deadly virus that you and I already have - the sin virus. As the 16th Century Reformer John Calvin wrote in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, "all of us, who have descended from impure seed, are born infected with the contagion of sin." [1]

The disease is hereditary, of course, passed down to us from our earthly father, Adam. In the words of the Apostle Paul, "just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned" (Rom. 5:12, ESV). To put it simply, we aren't sinners because we sin, we sin because we're sinners - fallen from our created perfection in our earthly father, Adam. To quote Calvin again, "not only has punishment fallen upon us from Adam, but a contagion imparted by him resides in us, which justly deserves punishment." [2]

The symptoms of this disease are apparent to all. Just read your morning news feed. Politicians are caught lying to their constituents and cheating on their spouses. Yet another Hollywood star has had an affair and is getting a divorce. Violence and war tear apart third-world countries. The streets of our major cities are haunted by the dark specters of crime: drugs, rape, robbery, murder and assault.

But evil isn't just out there, disturbing our already troubled world. It's in here, in my heart, my soul. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the famous 20th century Russian writer and activist, was right: "the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being." That's what Jesus repeatedly taught, as he relentlessly probed the deepest motives of the human heart. Just try reading the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and see if you don't get nailed.

Sin also infects the entire human personality. It is pervasive. To quote Calvin once more, "corruption subsists not in one part only…none of the soul remains pure or untouched by that mortal disease." [3] This means that sin touches us in mind, heart, and will. Our minds are darkened by sin (Eph. 4:18), leaving us with an innate propensity towards self-deception and denial. But our hearts and wills are also infected, as our slavery to disordered passions and fundamentally self-centered pleasures continually show (Titus 3:3).

But more than that, the disease of sin is both chronic and terminal. It gets worse and worse and it ends in death. "The wages of sin is death," writes Paul (Rom. 6:23, ESV). And the balance of Scripture shows that this death isn't just physical death, but eternal separation from God - what the book of Revelation describes as the "second death" (Rev. 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).

Perhaps the worse thing about the disease of sin is that it so deadens our moral and spiritual sensibilities that we don't even see what's happening to us. Like Hansen's disease, better known as leprosy, sin so damages our moral nervous system that we persist in devastating, dehumanizing behavior, tragically unaware of the self-destruction we're causing. That's why Scripture warns us again and again about the dangers of a hard, or calloused, heart (Psa. 17:10; Heb. 3:14).

The prognosis, then, isn't good. We've all got this infection and left unchecked it will lead us all, both as individuals and as a society, to destruction.

The Great Physician

The good news is that there is a physician who can cure this deadly disease. When Jesus came, much to the chagrin of the uptight moralists and religious do-gooders, he hobnobbed with social outcasts like prostitutes and tax collectors who were guilty of the worst forms of extortion. When questioned about his poor choice of friends, Jesus said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Mark 2:17, ESV).

The most amazing thing is that our Great Physician heals us, not by prescribing us with an astringent new moral medicine (though, of course, following Jesus always starts us on a path towards genuine moral health) but by becoming a donor who fully gives himself up for our sake, exchanging his own health and righteousness for the fatal guilt of our sins. As Peter says, quoting the prophet Isaiah, "'He himself bore our sins' in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; 'by his wounds you have been healed'" (1 Pet. 2:24, NIV).

One of the best descriptions of the healing of sin that I've seen, comes from John Newton, the vile slave-trader who became a tender pastor and gave us the beloved hymn "Amazing Grace." In one of his lesser-known hymns, Newton wrote:

How lost was my condition
Till Jesus made me whole!
There is but one physician
Can cure a sin-sick soul

Next door to death he found me,
And snatched me from the grave,
To tell all around me
His wond'rous pow'r to save.

The worst of all diseases
Is light compared with sin;
On ev'ry part it seizes,
But rages most within;

'Tis palsy, plague, and fever,
And madness--all combined;
And none, but a believer,
The least relief can find.

From men, great skill professing,
I sought a cure to gain;
But this proved more distressing,
And added to my pain;

Some said that nothing ailed me,
Some gave me up for lost;
Thus ev'ry refuge failed me,
And all my hopes were crossed.

At length this great Physician,
How matchless is His grace!
Accepted my petition,
And undertook my case;

First, gave me sight to view him,
For sin my eyes had sealed--
Then bit me look unto Him;
I looked, and I was healed.

A dying, risen Jesus,
Seen by the eye of faith,
At once from danger frees us,
And saves the soul from death;

Come, then, to this Physician,
His help he'll freely give,
He makes no hard condition--
To Jesus look and live! [4]

Newton's experience of God's healing grace, revealed in Jesus and applied by the Spirit, changed his life. It can change yours, too. "To Jesus look and live!"

References:

[1] Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Ed., John T. McNeil, Trans., Ford L. Battles. Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1960. Bk II, chap 1, sect 5; p. 248.

[2] Ibid., II.1.8, p. 251.

[3] Ibid., II.1.9, p. 253.

[4] Newton, John, "How Lost was My Condition," from Olney Hymns in The Works of John Newton, vol. 3. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1988 reprint of original 1820 edition, pp. 375-376.

About The Author:

Brian G. Hedges is  the author of 'Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change' (Shepherd Press, 2010) and 'Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin' (Cruciform Press, 2011). Brian blogs at Light and Heat.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Find and Replace - Replace The Old Sinful Nature With New

by Karen Ehman

"... throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God - truly righteous and holy."
- Ephesians 4:22-24 (NLT)

There's a nifty editing tool on my computer called "find and replace." It allows me to locate an existing word and exchange it for one more suited to the meaning of my sentence.

At times I wish I had such a feature on my brain; a "find and replace" option that would help me keep my thoughts in a healthy place and in line with God's Word. Especially when it comes to setting my own agenda and getting my own way. (Better known as selfishness.)

Even though I can't press a button and instantly swap out my old thoughts for new ones, I can still apply this "find and replace" process to my sometimes-selfish line of thinking.

When tempted to throw a pity party with only ourselves on the guest list - because let's face it, no one fancies the company of a whiner - let's replace our negative notions with insight from God's Word.

Here are some "find and replace" examples to help pull a selfishness switch-a-roo. When we find ourselves thinking one of the thoughts listed in bold, let's replace it with what God says in the verse that directly follows it.

"If I don't look out for myself, who will?"

"What is the price of five sparrows - two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." (Luke 12:6-7 NLT)

"What about my rights?"

"You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being." (Philippians 2:5-7 NLT)

"I'm entitled to my opinion."

"Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it. For the Scriptures say, 'If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.'" (1 Peter 3:9-11 NLT)

"I gotta look out for number one."

"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 2:3-5 ESV)

"Who cares about them? It's all about me."

"I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ's return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation - the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ - for this will bring much glory and praise to God." (Philippians 1:9-11 NLT)

"But what about what I want?"

"Carefully determine what pleases the Lord." (Ephesians 5:10 NLT)

How about it? Could your thought patterns benefit from some "find and replace" therapy? It is sure to center our minds on God and, as a result, make our relationship with Him - as well as with others - healthier, happier and whole. Let's pursue an unselfish and God-pleasing attitude. Find and replace.

Dear Lord, at those times I'm tempted by selfishness, may I align my thinking with Your will and Your Word. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Reflect and Respond:

Why is it so easy to let our thoughts and resulting actions be selfish in nature?

Was there a time when you intentionally chose to not be selfish even though you wanted to be? What happened?

Power Verse:

James 3:16: "For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil. (HCSB)

© 2012 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.
Source: Encouragement for Today

General Articles of Interest

Health: National Eating Disorders Awareness Week Encourages Early Intervention

By Susan Young

Some 30 million people in the U.S. will be affected by an eating disorder in their lifetime. Many people, including males, die from this disease.

It's not about the food.

Life-threatening conditions that affect a person's emotional and physical health are at the root of disordered eating. This week, health care providers, mental health advocates, patients and families are spreading the word about how friends and relatives can help detect eating disorders and get the necessary help.

The theme of the 2015 campaign is "I Had No Idea." It's centered on the warning signs that are often missed as people suffering from EDs manage to hide their symptoms and internal chaos from others.

Most of those affected by anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are pre-teen and teenage girls. Eating disorders can include extreme emotions, attitudes and behaviors surrounding weight and food issues, according to NEDAwareness.org.

Using NEDAwareness resources, a sorority at Southern Connecticut State University brought the topic to their campus.

Southern CT Tshirts

NEDAwareness uses a variety of messaging to reach parents whose children are affected by eating disorders. One poignant video made by a mother who lost her daughter to an ED is helping with intervention and prevention.

Someday Melissa

In Durham, North Carolina, Veritas Collaborative is highlighting body image acceptance and social media distortion. Several community events tied to their #BeRealBeYou theme are being held, including a photo booth that reminds people that the "perfect" images they see every day are often just digital illusions.

The social distortion

Celebrities and selfies aren't helping impressionable children with low self-esteem and body image challenges. Kids and young adults are bombarded with talk and images that don't encourage healthy eating and emotions.

Priory Hospital Group , based in the U.K., specializes in eating disorders, addictions and mental illness. Dr. Allen Yellowlees says there's a growing trend among young women to document their weight loss by taking selfies of their thinning frames. Then, they share images with friends on social media, a practice that‘s fuelling dangerous eating disorders.

He warns about proanorexia-type websites that feature emaciated people offering tips on how to starve yourself thin. Engagement from around the world is particularly disturbing.

"The competitive selfie dieting 'diaries' were contributing to damaging psychological pressures that exacerbate anorexia and other potentially fatal illnesses," says Yellowlees.

Long before social media and selfies, the death of Grammy-award winner Karen Carpenter pushed eating disorders into the national spotlight. It was 32 years ago this month that the silky-toned singer died at age 32. She succumbed to heart failure that was related to her years-long battle with anorexia.

Recipe: Funghi Cappelle Infarcite (Stuffed Mushrooms)

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

This is a classic Italian recipe.

Ingredients:

Mushrooms
Bread
Stock
Garlic
Parsley
Salt
Parmesan Cheese
Butter
Eggs
Cream

Directions:

1. Choose a dozen good fresh mushrooms, take off the stalks and put the tops into a saucepan with a little butter. See that they lie bottom upwards.

2. Cut up and mix together half the stalks of the mushrooms, a little bread crumb soaked in gravy, the merest scrap of garlic and a little chopped parsley.

3. Put this into a separate saucepan and add to it two eggs, half a gill of cream, salt, and two tablespoonsful of grated Parmesan cheese.

4. Mix well so as to get a smooth paste and fill in the cavities of the mushrooms with it. Now add a little more butter, strew some bread crumbs over each mushroom, and cook in the oven for ten to fifteen minutes.

Family Special: The Seventh Commandment

by Martin G. Collins

The Creator God directly devotes two of His ten great laws to protecting family relationships. In the fifth commandment, we see how important honoring parents is in maintaining a Christian family relationship. God gave the seventh commandment, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18), to protect the honor and sanctity of marriage. It is through marriage and the family that we learn how to conduct proper relationships, both with other people and with God. Since it is such an important institution to character development, God does not tolerate its defilement. Within marriage, sex is fully sanctioned by God, but otherwise, its practice causes great harm. In principle, this commandment covers all forms of illicit sex, including fornication, homosexuality, bestiality and pedophilia.

1. Is adultery only a physical act? Matthew 5:27-28, 31-32; Luke 16:18. Does adultery lead to death? Leviticus 20:10; Proverbs 2:16-22; 7:22-27.

COMMENT: According to the letter of the law, adultery is sexual intercourse outside of marriage, but Christ emphasizes the spirit of the law. If a man even looks at a woman to lust after her, he has committed adultery. This sin so defiles the land and its inhabitants that it must be removed. Thus, the law's penalty for adultery is death.

2. Does the adulterer care if he or she is found out? Job 24:15-17. Is adultery and divorce considered treachery? Jeremiah 9:2; Malachi 2:14-16.

COMMENT: No one wants to be found guilty of adultery! It is not only an offense to the aggrieved husband or wife involved, but also to their home and their children. It strikes at the very basis of a decent society. Treachery is a violation of trust and confidence, like that placed in us by our spouses and by Almighty God.

3. Is violence associated with adultery? II Samuel 12:9-10; Hosea 4:2. Does adultery curse the land? Hosea 4:3; Jeremiah 23:10, 14.

COMMENT: Violence is a fruit of adultery because of its treachery and self-centeredness. It destroys loyalty and submission to authority, and it teaches disrespect for others.

4. What does the act of fornication and adultery bring upon a man? Proverbs 6:24-29, 32-35; 29:3.

5. How does God feel about divorce? Malachi 2:16. Can marrying a divorced person be adultery? Matthew 5:32; 19:3-9; Romans 7:2-4. Can sexual immorality be grounds to exclude someone from Christian fellowship? I Corinthians 5:1-13.

COMMENT: Although God hates divorce, He allows it in rare cases under certain circumstances (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; I Corinthians 7:15). If someone is continuously and flagrantly committing sexual immorality, it is necessary for the spiritual health of the church "not to keep company with sexually immoral people."

6. Is committing adultery a sin against God? Genesis 39:7-9; Psalm 51:3-4. Does it merit God's judgment? Malachi 3:5; Hebrews 13:4; Jeremiah 5:7-9.

COMMENT: Psalm 51 is David's confession after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11:4-5; 12:13-14).

7. Can adulterers inherit the Kingdom of God? I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21. Can adultery be forgiven? II Samuel 12:13-14; John 8:10-11.

COMMENT: God will forgive an adulterer if he genuinely repents, and He will give him eternal life. However, the consequences of sin still have their harmful effect, as we see in the death of David and Bathsheba's child. Although forgiven, David and his household endured violence from that point forward because of his adultery and murder.

8. What is spiritual adultery? Judges 2:11, 17; Hosea 4:12-14; Malachi 2:10-11; James 4:4; Revelation 2:14-15, 20-22.

COMMENT: Symbolically, adultery is used to express unfaithfulness to God, and we can easily see this in Israel's idolatry. God is represented as the husband of His people. Ezekiel 16:15-59 gives a graphic description of Israel's spiritual adultery, and Hosea 1:1-2 shows the same symbolism in Hosea's marriage. We can fall into spiritual adultery by relying on the world and its false teaching rather than God.

Revelation 19:7-9 shows that the Bride of Christ will be a chaste and pure spouse. As verse 9 states, all those who are part of this righteous Bride are truly blessed!

Source: Forerunner, "Bible Study," August 1997 © 1997 CGG

Historian Says Last Generation of Aramaic Speaking Christians are the Target of Persecution
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Feb. 25, 2015 /Christian Newswire/ -- As horrific atrocities continue across world news headlines this week – raids on villages across the Middle East, people kidnapped, children beheaded – Bible historian and international authority on Biblical Aramaic and Hebrew languages, Ewan MacLeod, B.Sc. Hons., M.Sc., said, "The recent news about the barbaric way that ISIS repeatedly kidnaps Assyrian Christians highlights the plight of this minority of Christians and that they are the target of persecution. These people are the last generation of Aramaic speaking Christians in the Middle East, whose liturgy is still in Aramaic, and who still follow the Aramaic New Testament after 2000 years. The world should be protecting the lives and rights of these Christians."

MacLeod recently launched a distinguished, interactive website, JesusSpokeAramaic.com, which covers the history and background of Aramaic, the language that Jesus and His disciples spoke and the language in which the Gospels were first preached. The website was created to bring Aramaic to the mainstream world in a way that anyone can learn it.

On hearing about the plight of the Assyrian Christians, MacLeod believes the contrast between ISIS and Israel could not be any clearer. He continued, "While ISIS is persecuting and killing this last generation of Aramaic speaking Christians in the Middle East, Israel recognizes them as a minority within Israel and protects their culture and identity."

"Aramaic speaking Christians arose out of Israel 2000 years ago and amazingly they exist as a distinct group in Israel even today," MacLeod said, noting that Israel recently created a new category for the Aramaic speaking Christians called "Arameans" to distinguish them from Muslim Arabs.

"On the Jesus Spoke Aramaic website," MacLeod said, "most pages have a banner at the top saying, 'Did you know that Aramaic is still spoken by communities throughout the Middle East and the diaspora today?' The "Assyrians" who are persecuted by ISIS and the "Arameans" who are protected by Israel are the world's last remnant of Aramaic speaking Christians, scattered in villages across Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Many have long since emigrated to places like the United Kingdom and the United States where their sizable communities make up the Church of the East – still conducting their liturgy in Aramaic down to the present day, as they always have done.

Christians Flee Islamic State Jihadists After Mass Abduction in Syria

by Rana Moussaoui, AFP

The kidnapping of dozens of Assyrian Christians by the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria has prompted an exodus of terrified families fleeing their homes, activists said Wednesday.

The United States condemned the mass abduction of Christians - the first of its kind in the war-torn country - and demanded the release of over 150 hostages.

Nearly 1000 Assyrian Christian families have fled their villages in the northeastern province of Hasakeh since Monday's kidnappings, said Osama Edward, director of the Sweden-based Assyrian Human Rights Network.

About 800 families have taken refuge in the city of Hasakeh and 150 in Qamishli, a Kurdish city on the border with Turkey, Edward said, adding that the number of displaced individuals came to about 5000.

Most of the hostages were women, children or elderly, he added.

Edward said he believed the mass abduction was linked to the jihadists' recent loss of ground in the face of US-led coalition air raids against IS that began in Syria in September.


The jihadists, who are battling Kurdish fighters on the ground, may try to exchange the Assyrian Christians for IS prisoners, according to Edward.

He said the aim of the jihadists is to take over the Assyrian Christian village of Tal Tamer, which is located near a bridge over the Khabur river that links Syria to Iraq.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Kurdish fighters battling the jihadists on Wednesday recaptured three Assyrian villages and a nearby Arab village.

"The (Kurdish) People's Protection Units (YPG) have reclaimed Tal Shamiran, Tal Masri, Tal Hermel and Ghbeish," said Observatory Director Rami Abdel Rahman.

But fighting continues in the area, he added.

'Brutal and inhumane'

In Tal Shamiran, the jihadists burned down part of a church.

And in the Arab village of Ghbeish, IS decapitated four men, and burned down several houses and a school. They accused the villagers of "collaborating" with the Kurdish fighters.

IS, which also holds swathes of Iraqi territory, last year declared an Islamic "caliphate" in areas under its control and has committed widespread atrocities.

Assyrian Christians, who are from one of the world's oldest Christian communities, have been under increasing threat since IS captured large parts of Syria.

Last week, the IS branch in Libya released a video showing the gruesome beheading of 21 Coptic Christians, mostly Egyptians.

Edward, a native of an area of Hasakeh province where 35 Assyrian villages are located, said the jihadists broke into houses during the night while everyone was asleep.

He also said the hostages were taken to Shaddadi, an IS provincial stronghold.

The jihadists had been intimidating the Assyrian villagers for weeks, he said, including by threatening to remove crosses from their churches.

"People were expecting an attack, but they thought that either the Syrian army - which is just 30 kilometers from there - or the Kurds or the (US-led) coalition's strikes would protect them," Edward said.

The United States on Wednesday condemned the abductions as "brutal and inhumane".

"ISIL's latest targeting of a religious minority is only further testament to its brutal and inhumane treatment of all those who disagree with its divisive goals and toxic beliefs," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, using another acronym for IS.

"To bring an end to these daily horrors, we remain committed to leading the international coalition to degrade and defeat ISIL."

The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Hasakeh-Nisibi meanwhile accused Turkey of allowing jihadists responsible for the persecution of Syrian Christians to cross its border unchecked, while preventing Christians from fleeing the conflict.

"In the north, Turkey allows through lorries, Daesh (IS) fighters, oil stolen from Syria, wheat and cotton: all of these can cross the border but nobody (from the Christian community) can pass over," Jacques Behnan Hindo told Vatican Radio.

There were 30,000 Assyrians in Syria before the country's conflict erupted in March 2011. At that point Syria had an estimated total Christian population of about 1.2 million people.

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