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

 Great Lent - Week 5

Volume 5 No. 269 March 13, 2015

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when you try to control everything
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

We are in the Second Half of the Great Lent. With the erection of the Golgotha in the center of our churches, the church is pointing out to us that God has descended from heaven and is in the midst of us, doing his miracles, healing the sick, experiencing and sharing our grief and suffering. But most importantly, Jesus knew his mission. The father has sent his only begotten son to pay for our sins so that we will be saved from eternal damnation. So, Jesus is ready to face his Golgotha and that day will be arriving soon as indicated by the Golgotha in the midst of us. ...

This Sunday in Church: Great Lent Week 5

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 15)

Bible Readings For The Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (Kfiftho/Crippled Woman)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_5th_sunday_of_Great-Lent.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (March 15)

Sermons For The Fifth Sunday of Great Lent (Kfiftho/Crippled Woman)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_5th-sunday-in-lent.htm

4. 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 5 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week5.htm

5. Bent in Half

I'm a big believer that the healing stories of Jesus are true stories, AND that they contain deeper Truth. In other words, I think they actually happened to real sick, blind, paralyzed, and bent-over people AND I think they are also parables for a people and a society that are spiritually blind, spiritually sick, and spiritually doubled over. ...

6. The Law of Love

But as important as law is -- and notice that Jesus doesn't set aside the law but rather offers a different interpretation of it -- it must always bow to mercy, to life, to freedom. Law helps us live our lives better, but grace creates life itself. Law helps order our world, but grace is what holds the world together. Law pushes us to care for each other, but grace restores us to each other when we've failed in the law. ...

7. Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath

Right before this synagogue leader's eyes, a woman who had suffered for eighteen years was instantly healed. And what did he see? He didn't see a woman who was healed, he saw a man who sinned by "working" on the Sabbath, performing a healing. His words revealed what was in his evil heart and his actions exposed his hypocrisy. ...

8. Abe's Daughter

A strange word was spoken on the Sabbath,
but Abe's daughter couldn't see who said it,
or who touched her,
until she straightened her back and saw him. ...

This Week's Features

9. Clearing The Blockages to The Light of Christ

We can consider fasting as a way of dealing with the clutter and repentance as a way to clean off the dust. By fasting, we reorder our lives so that Jesus gets top priority, and in repentance we let his light shine in us - and through us - more brightly. Fasting is like spring cleaning, as we spruce up our spiritual lives and put away some unnecessary baggage. Often, as we take up the call to fast, we get a better view of the sins that have been blocking the light in the first place. ...

10. The Power of Fasting

Some people associate fasting with dieting. But the self-control in an effective weight-loss program is not God's idea of power fasting. To be sure, He wants us to avoid gluttony and other physical excesses, but He also wants something deeper from us, something infinitely more precious and spiritual - a disciplined holy lifestyle that gets us as close to Him as we can get: into His mind, conformed to His will, and after His heart. ...

11. Family Special: When Your Marriage Is In Trouble

Satan is at work in our marriages, our families, and our friendships, and some of his favorite tools are his lies. He and his comrades have woven a web of deception and deceit. If you believe those lies, your relationships can disintegrate before your eyes and you'll wonder what happened - at least, that's what happened to us. ...

12. Seven Key Insights From The Book 'The Millionaire Next Door'

"The Millionaire Next Door" encourages the view that the real millionaires of America - the frugal spenders, the self-made entrepreneurs, the savers "next door" who don't seek attention or flaunt their wealth - haven't actually done anything all that extraordinary to achieve financial success. ...

13. Health: Why Dental Health Has a Profound Effect on Heart Health

Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, and Robert Kulacz, DDS, explain why your dentist may play a much more integral role in your cardiovascular health than you ever suspected. ...

14. Recipe: Potato and Pea Soup

15. Humor: How to Keep Busy When Retired

16. Rev. Franklin Graham Warns U.S. Christians: 'Storm Is Coming'

Rev. Franklin Graham issued a dire warning for Christians in the United States over the weekend that persecution will hit like a "storm" in this country. "I believe we're going to see persecution in this country," Graham said. "We've already seen many laws that have been passed that restrict our freedom as Christians." ...

17. Indian Prime Minister's Ambivalence Encourages Persecution of Christians

Christianity is the second oldest religion in India and has been practiced since the first century. A small minority with less than 2.5 percent of India's population of over 1.2 billion and with little economic or political power, for most of the two millennia Christians have been tolerated by the dominant Hindus who constitute 80 percent of the population. ...

18. About Malankara World

Foreword

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

Golgotha

We are in the Second Half of the Great Lent. With the erection of the Golgotha in the center of our churches, the church is pointing out to us that God has descended from heaven and is in the midst of us, doing his miracles, healing the sick, experiencing and sharing our grief and suffering. But most importantly, Jesus knew his mission. The father has sent his only begotten son to pay for our sins so that we will be saved from eternal damnation. So, Jesus is ready to face his Golgotha and that day will be arriving soon as indicated by the Golgotha in the midst of us.

During this Great Lent, we were examining a few selected miracles performed by Jesus. We started with the first miracle (or 'sign' as St. John calls it) changing the water into wine at Cana. Following Sunday, we looked at the healing of the Leper. This was followed on the Third Sunday by healing of the paralytic. On the Fourth Sunday, we met the Canaanite woman and healing of her daughter.

Now we come to the fifth week. We meet the Crippled woman. Interestingly, she didn't know Jesus or sought him. She just came to the synagogue like she always did on Sabbath to worship the Living God. Due to her infirmities, she could not look up to God. She always looked down. Jesus saw her and his heart melted with compassion. He wanted to restore this Daughter of Abraham so that she can look upto God and thank Him for the blessings received. But Jesus also knew that physical ailments are only part of the problem. They are just symptoms. The root cause is the emotional problems and spiritual problems like sins that need to be addressed before the physical ailments can be completely cured. Jesus knew that persons like this crippled woman has a low self esteem that need to be addressed too. By restoring her to the position of "the Daughter of Abraham" or "Child of God" Jesus provided her complete healing - healing of the mind, body and soul - something only the son of God can do.

We don't really appreciate how lucky we Christians are. We have a savior who is truly special. Christianity is the only religion with a resurrected God. Jesus will seek us even when we are proud and arrogant to acknowledge him. We have a God who cries with us such as when Jesus cried when He saw His best friend Lazarus' sisters and friends crying at the tomb. Jesus cried even though he knew that he will bring Lazarus to life in a short time. Jesus still comforts us and cares for us even though He knows that grief only lasts till the end of the night and good news comes on the dawn of the morning. He provides a shoulder for us to lean on. In short, Jesus cares. That makes Him very special.

I came across an explanation of what we can learn about Jesus from this healing event written by Prof. Will Willimon, Professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke Divinity School, Durham, NC. In an article titled, " Jesus: The Truth About God," Prof. Willimon wrote:

Christians believe that Jesus is the whole about God. When we look at Jesus in action, we really believe that this is who God is and what God does. For some (the sick woman) that's good news. For others (the religious authorities), the conviction, that Jesus is the whole truth about God, is bad news.

God? "God is high and lifted up, distant, great, all powerful but very far away," most people seem to think. Listen to some of the words people use to describe God, big, abstract, high sounding words: omnipotent, omniscient, eternal, immortal. The sum of these words is this: God is a long way from here and, whatever God is doing, God is not doing that with us.

Then we met Jesus, the truth about who God is and what God is up to in the world. One of Jesus' names was Emmanuel, "God With Us." Jesus is God up close and personal; God as God really is rather than whom we had imagined God to be; God (if you happen to be a religious authority like me!) too close for comfort. And one of the main things we learned about God after watching God With Us in action was this: God is merciful.

I know someone who says, "I spent the first thirty years of my life thinking God was mad at me for something. Then I saw Jesus."

Jesus could have passed by that suffering woman that day, could have preached to her some sweet sermon on bearing up under misfortune. He could have averted his eyes from her and focused instead upon the well-heeled and more attractive people, the defenders of scripture, the keepers of religious rules. Jesus didn't do any of that. What he did was to feel her pain and to respond to her in mercy.

Prof. Willimon concludes, "When people open up the Bible, one over-riding question is on their minds: Who is God? That question is often related to an even more pressing question: Does God care?"

Yes, Jesus cares. Yes, God cares.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
- John 3:16-17

Jesus is in our midst ready and willing to grant us everlasting life. We need to repent and believe in Him. Are we ready?

This Sunday in Church: Great Lent Week 5
Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 15)
Sermons for This Sunday (March 15)

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 5 of Great Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Lent_week5.htm

Malankara World Journal Issues:

Malankara World Journal Issue 205 (March 27, 2014)

Malankara World Journal Issue 129 (March 7, 2013)

MW Journal Issue 64 - Great Lent Week 5

MW Journal Issue 63

Bent in Half

by Fr. Rick Morley

On Memorial Day this year I took my daughters for a hike at Jockey Hollow State Park. General George Washington's army camped at Jockey Hollow for two brutal winters, and so it's a place of great historical interest. It was also a beautiful day, and so getting out and enjoying the blue sky and warm air sounded like a good idea. The hike to the old replica-cabins that the troops would have wintered in is a good 1.5 miles from the parking lot. My 6 year old daughter walked by my side, and I put my 3 year old on my shoulders.

She sat up there for the whole 3 miles hike there and back taking in the scenery.

The next day I went to my car to get something out before I had to go and pick my oldest daughter up from kindergarten. When I reached into the car there was a pull in my back that felt like I had been shot. The spot of pain stretched into my chest, and for a moment I couldn't breathe or speak.

Was I having a heart attack? Was something seriously wrong? Was this it?

I didn't know.

But, about an hour later I was in an ambulance taking me to the emergency room, not far from where Washington wintered with his troops.

I was fine. I had strained my back, and I just had to take it east for a few days.

That wasn't going to be so hard to do with the narcotic pain killers and the muscle relaxers that I was prescribed. I could barely talk and gesture at the same time.

I was fine, sure, but I couldn't move. Everything was difficult. I had trouble feeding myself, going to the bathroom, and walking up and down the stairs. I had trouble laying down in bed, and I had trouble getting out of bed.

You don't know how much you need your back until it hurts like hell to use it.

Needless to say, I have a whole new appreciation for the woman who was bent over. What could she do? What couldn't she do? And what things caused her great difficulty that most of her contemporaries didn't think twice about?

I'm a big believer that the healing stories of Jesus are true stories, AND that they contain deeper Truth. In other words, I think they actually happened to real sick, blind, paralyzed, and bent-over people AND I think they are also parables for a people and a society that are spiritually blind, spiritually sick, and spiritually doubled over.

You don't have to read much further to see the religious leader who chastises Jesus for healing a woman by an act of God on the sabbath day to see the "bent-over" nature of the religious system of Jesus' day.

It couldn't move. Everything was difficult including, apparently, rejoicing at the healing of someone else. The religious system was so bent over that it was crippled in terms of basic ministry and connection to God and neighbor.

And Jesus wanted to heal it. Jesus wanted to see the faith be straightened out and stand up straight.

Even on the sabbath. Maybe especially on the sabbath?

Where does your faith need straightened? Where does the Church need straightened?

Because, when it's bent over, not much good can happen.

The Law of Love

by Dr. David Lose

Gospel: Luke 13:10-17

There are two sides to every story, and that includes this one. Maybe especially this one. So one way to preach a meaningful sermon on this week's passage might be to help us spend more time and sympathize with each of the two characters with whom Jesus interacts.

Let's start first with the leader of the synagogue. That may be challenging, both by habit and because of the way the story runs. But inviting a sympathetic reading of this character is crucial to inviting people into this story. Why? Because what he offers is a clear and compelling reading of the law. He is, in other words, right: you are not supposed to do any work on the Sabbath.

Sabbath is a day for rest and renewal, and the rather negative view we take toward the various "restrictions" associated with the Sabbath would have been very foreign to the Israelites. Keep in mind that the law -- including laws about the Sabbath -- were given to the Israelites after their Exodus from Egypt. You remember Egypt -- where the Israelites were slaves and worked whenever their masters commanded them, likely never getting a day off. And so when they receive a command to rest -- to actually set aside one day of the week to rest their bodies and their livestock and retreat for a time of renewal and prayer -- trust me, they heard this only as good news.

Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't be better off taking Sabbath more seriously. We aren't slaves, certainly not in the way that the Israelites were or some people still are, but certainly plenty of our folks have to work long hours and sometimes more than one job to make ends meet. And many more of us have a harder and harder time disconnecting from work -- from emails or texts or the endless grind of a 24/7 world that never stops. Life, for people at all levels of the economic ladder, is both hectic and demanding. Might we also benefit from a proscribed time of rest?

Which is what the leader of the synagogue is worried about. Once you start making exceptions for this reason or that, pretty soon no one is really keeping the Sabbath and it's lost its point altogether. And it's not just the Sabbath. The whole law is like that -- keep making exceptions and it's not really a law anymore; it's more like a suggestion, with little or no power to protect and preserve us.

Truth be told, we regularly agree with this leader. Perhaps not about the Sabbath, but most of us have laws that we think are particularly important and we get nervous if we see people not respecting them. Maybe it's little things like eating only organic foods, our children's bedtimes, refusing to take any calls on our day off, or not singing Christmas carols during Advent -- OK, maybe for some that's not so little :). Or maybe it's a much larger issue, like traditional gender roles or human sexuality. Whatever it is, there are some laws we feel you should just keep. Period. And if you don't, who knows what will unravel next?

And that's exactly what this well-intentioned, law-abiding leader of the synagogue believes. But his isn't the only perspective.

So now let's turn to the woman, she who has viewed the world from waist level for years, she who hasn't been able to look anyone in the eye for as long as she can remember. She is, I imagine, also a faithful, law-abiding member of this very synagogue. After all, she's right there that Saturday, in spite of her condition, worshiping with her community.

And who knows, perhaps she also harbored concerns about keeping the Sabbath. Perhaps she was downright conservative in her approach to the law more generally. Yet whatever principles or resolutions she may have entered with, I have to imagine that they all took a back seat to a sense of overwhelming relief and gratitude when Jesus approached and healed her, when he called her a daughter of Abraham and restored her to full health. What were those first breaths of air like, taken in by lungs no longer cramped from stooping over? And whose eyes did she first meet, as she stood up straight for the first time in anyone's memory.

Or maybe, more importantly, what happened to all those laws and rules and concerns and regulations? Did they fall away, as if they were of no importance? No. They were just suspended, perhaps temporarily forgotten, in those first few moments of sheer grace and gratitude.

Which is always the way it is with law. The law matters because helps us order our lives and keep the peace. The law matters because it sets needed boundaries that create room in which we can flourish. The law matters because it encourages us -- sometimes even goads us -- to look beyond ourselves so that we might love and care for our neighbor.

But as important as law is -- and notice that Jesus doesn't set aside the law but rather offers a different interpretation of it -- it must always bow to mercy, to life, to freedom. Law helps us live our lives better, but grace creates life itself. Law helps order our world, but grace is what holds the world together. Law pushes us to care for each other, but grace restores us to each other when we've failed in the law.

Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, and while the law helps us make sense of and get more out of life in the kingdom of the world, it must always bend to the grace that constitutes the abundant life Jesus proclaims. For above and beyond all the laws ever received or conceived, the absolute law is love: love God and love your neighbor. Or, perhaps, love God by loving your neighbor.

And so of course Jesus heals on the Sabbath. And of course she gives thanks. And of course the crowd rejoices. That's what always happens when grace invites us simultaneously to value the law and at times suspend it out of mercy, compassion, and love.

So invite your folks to sympathize with both of these characters, Working Preacher, whether through imaginatively retelling this story from the perspective of each, or inviting them to role play or simply identify with one or the other character. But then also announce to them the good news, the good news that

  • God gave law out of love to grant us freedom from the tyranny of all manner of slavery whether external or self-imposed;
  • God forgives us when we fail in the law and invites us to try again; and
  • Finally, God insists that the law does not and will not have the last word, for there will always be times when law must bend to compassion and love.

And then, from this place of good news, also challenge us; challenge us to look at those around us as children of the same heavenly Father, to resist the urge to assume we know the law better than others, to sympathize with those who are living with very different realities than we are, and to wonder how Jesus is inviting us even now to release others from bondage and set them free, even if it means suspending or revising our sense of the law.

I know this last part is scary. When to insist on law and when to suspend it? For whom? Will things fall apart if we get it wrong? And all the rest. That's the way it is with love: no guarantees, no assurance of having it turn out the way you thought it was supposed to, no absolutes. Except this: the God who gave the law out of love continues to love us and all the world, no matter what.

So there it is. Commands and promises, good news that comforts and challenges, law and gospel. This is the stuff of our proclamation, and I am so grateful that you will once again dare to speak it into being. Blessings on your life and ministry.

About The Author:

David Lose is the President of Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Penn. Prior to that he held the Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching at Luther Seminary, where he also served as the Director of the Center for Biblical Preaching. He is the author of 'Preaching at the Crossroads: How the World -- and Our Preaching -- Is Changing' (2013), 'Making Sense of the Cross' (2011), 'Making Sense of the Christian Faith' (2010), 'Making Sense of Scripture' (2009), and 'Confessing Jesus Christ: Preaching in a Postmodern World' (2003).

Source: 2015 Luther Seminary

Jesus Heals a Crippled Woman on the Sabbath
Gospel: Luke 13:10-17

When faultfinders want to find faults, they find them! Right before this synagogue leader's eyes, a woman who had suffered for eighteen years was instantly healed. And what did he see? He didn't see a woman who was healed, he saw a man who sinned by "working" on the Sabbath, performing a healing. His words revealed what was in his evil heart and his actions exposed his hypocrisy. Jesus said that everyone takes care of the needs of his animals on the Sabbath day, doing things that could be classified as work but nevertheless are considered unavoidable responsibilities. If it is acceptable to take care of animals on the Sabbath, is it not all right to take care of people on the Sabbath? Certainly it is. Just as in our day, some people of Jesus' day placed a higher value on animals than on people!

By the same token, some modern Christians seem to want to take all the enjoyment out of Sundays on the basis that we should "keep the Sabbath holy." They demonstrate a similar attitude to that of the synagogue leader. Certainly our Sabbath, which most Christians practice on Sunday, not Saturday, is a special day in which we can focus even more on spiritual things. But to forbid children to play on Sunday afternoons, or to say that it is a sin to fix a meal on Sunday to serve hungry people, is not what God had in mind when He gave the Sabbath commandment.

Q. What should have been the response of the synagogue leader?

A. He should have begun to praise God with the woman who was healed, and then fall on his face before Jesus, repenting of his sins and asking for forgiveness.

Q. Jesus said that Satan had held the formerly-crippled woman in bondage for eighteen years. What does this tell us about the source of sickness and God's will concerning healing?

A. It tells us that Satan is the real source of sickness. This also provides additional proof that God wants us well, since the devil is His enemy and the Bible says that Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil (see 1 John 3:8).

Application:

Can you imagine being bent double for eighteen years, unable to stand up straight all that time? Think of how excited and thankful this woman must have been when Jesus healed her. For us, this story is one more proof that Jesus is the Son of God, and it should encourage us to look to Him to grant us the miracles we need in our lives. He is full of compassion.

Source: Family Style Devotions

Abe's Daughter

by Rick Fry

Gospel: Luke 13: 10-17

A strange word was spoken on the Sabbath,
but Abe's daughter couldn't see who said it,
or who touched her,
until she straightened her back and saw him.

She lifted her gaze from the earth,
and beheld the dizzy smiles in the faces of others
for the first time.

A word of mercy internalized,
a demon cast out,
a burden loosened,
like the unraveling of grave bandages.

She could see the world around her now.
And she lifted her face to the sky that night,
and gazed at all the miraculous things that came into being,
which were only stars.

But stars seen for the first time are glorious.
And a face full of dignity, mercy and love is more glorious still.

This Week's Features

Clearing The Blockages to The Light of Christ
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.
- Isaiah 58:8

A frail, elderly widow living alone was visited by her son, who had been traveling for a long time. Opening the front door, he was shocked by the disrepair her home had fallen into. Over the years she had accumulated a lot: furniture, clothing, books, toys her children had played with. Since she was no longer able to keep it all tidy, it was piled in every room in boxes and bundles. But worse than the clutter was the darkness. The windows, where he could see them, were covered in layers of dust.

So the man set to work. He organized the clutter, storing much of it in the attic. Then he cleaned the windows and aired out the house until it was once more filled with light.

Like the widow's home, we also house two potential blockages to the light of Christ: clutter and dust. Clutter is what happens when your human treasures - material possessions, habits, hopes and dreams, old memories - take priority over the Lord. They aren't necessarily bad things, but they need to be reorganized and put in their proper place. The dust is the sin that can build up on the windows of our hearts, keeping us in shadows and darkness.

We can consider fasting as a way of dealing with the clutter and repentance as a way to clean off the dust. By fasting, we reorder our lives so that Jesus gets top priority, and in repentance we let his light shine in us - and through us - more brightly. Fasting is like spring cleaning, as we spruce up our spiritual lives and put away some unnecessary baggage. Often, as we take up the call to fast, we get a better view of the sins that have been blocking the light in the first place.

So try to put aside a few things - time on the computer, a favorite food, a fun activity that is swallowing up too much time - so that you can focus better on window washing. Make it your goal to let in as much sunlight as possible. As you do, you'll discover how much joy there is in choosing a simple, clutter-free life.

"Lord you are my light! Come and break forth like the dawn in my heart."

Source: The Word Among Us

The Power of Fasting

by Kay Arthur

How can we get close to God - close enough to hear His voice, know His power and presence, "feel His pleasure," as Eric Liddell put it in the movie, Chariots of Fire?

Have you ever considered fasting? I bet if you have, you've never associated it with power! And why should you? What kind of power do we have after we've skipped several meals? - I know how weak I feel after skipping a single meal (and if you've fasted longer, you know exactly what I'm talking about).

Some people associate fasting with dieting. But the self-control in an effective weight-loss program is not God's idea of power fasting. To be sure, He wants us to avoid gluttony and other physical excesses, but He also wants something deeper from us, something infinitely more precious and spiritual - a disciplined holy lifestyle that gets us as close to Him as we can get: into His mind, conformed to His will, and after His heart.

Fasting is a critical element of this discipline.

Let me walk you through some Scriptures that will help you see the connection between fasting and getting close to God, and the power He promises to those who seek Him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.

To begin with, fasting is mentioned over fifty times in Scripture, so we know it's an important topic. Jesus discussed it in His very first sermon - the Sermon on the Mount:

1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.

16 "Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

17 "But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face

18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
- Matthew 6:1, 16-18

Let's do some observations together. First, notice how Jesus' statements about fasting begin and end with a common theme - motive. There are apparently two possible motives for fasting, aren't there? One to be seen by _______ and another to be seen by ________.

Which motive does Jesus command us to choose? ___________And why? What will God do when we act from the right motive? __________________.

What related words begin verses 16 and 17? _________ and __________. And what characteristic of true discipleship follows? ________________________________

Jesus set a great example for us when He fasted for forty days and nights (Matthew 4:2). This was clearly God's purpose: we're told He was "led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" (v. 1). After this long time without food, when Jesus was terribly weakened, the devil tempted Him to use His divine power as Son of God to command stones to become bread.

Couldn't have come at a worse time, could it? But that's the devil - malevolent, always looking for our most vulnerable points! Fasts start out pretty easy, but by the end of forty days they're excruciating. Most of us can't make it this long, not even close. The devil waited for this worst possible time to pounce - after day forty, when nearness to God and nearness to starvation were at peak levels, battling for dominance.

Nearness to God won out, because Jesus treasured His relationship with His Father far above the physical pleasures of food. He had communed with Him for forty days, and He wasn't about to break this for a single meal. This intimate closeness to His Father was "worth it," worth the pain.

How about you? Is any pain, any sacrifice, "worth it"? According to Jesus' life and example, it is worth it, Beloved - worth it to know God, worth it to be close to Him, as close as we can get.

About The Author:

Kay Arthur is the Host of Precepts For Life, Precept Ministries International

Source: Precepts for Life

Family Special: When Your Marriage Is In Trouble

by Pete Briscoe

"Marriage: A legal or religious ceremony by which two persons of the opposite sex solemnly agree to harass and spy on each other for ninety-nine years, or until death do them join."
- Elbert Hubbard

Late one night, about five years ago, my wife and I found ourselves sitting in our kitchen. We started talking and it went something like this:

Libby: "Okay, we really need to talk."

Me: "Okay, let's talk."

Libby: "I'm so angry at you I can barely stand it."

Me: "Why?"

Libby: "I'm not even sure why. I'm just seething with anger."

Me: "Well, you know what? I'm angry at you, too."

We talked a little bit more and a little bit more, and eventually she came out with it:

Libby: "You know, I don't even like you anymore."

Me: "I don't like you, either."

We just stared at each other - silence for the longest time. It was a defining moment. The future of our family hung in the balance.

  • We realized that the marriage we had constructed was a poor imitation of what God really had for us.
  • We also knew we were locked into the journey of life together.
  • Would we just sit there and let our marriage continue to die?

I've learned a lot since then, and I've become more and more convinced of a simple truth:

Satan divides, and the Holy Spirit unites.

Satan is at work in our marriages, our families, and our friendships, and some of his favorite tools are his lies. With an IQ of about 30 million, he and his comrades have woven a web of deception and deceit. If you believe those lies, your relationships can disintegrate before your eyes and you'll wonder what happened - at least, that's what happened to us. Paul laid out a counter attack:

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible - and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:

"Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."
- Ephesians 5:11-14

That night in the kitchen was a turning point. We didn't know how we got where we were, and we didn't know where we were headed. But we decided that we were going to put in the hard work, learn to be painfully honest, and ask Christ to give us the marriage that He longed for us to have. As we journeyed out, I became acutely aware of four lies of Satan that are rampantly believed in relationships that are in trouble, like ours was.

Feel trapped like we did? The truth can set your marriage free.

Father, right here, right now, begin to expose the lies of darkness that I have accepted as true. This week, expose them with the light of Your Word. Wake me, elevate me, shine the light of Jesus on my home and my relationships. Amen.

Source: Experiencing LIFE Today

Seven Key Insights From The Book 'The Millionaire Next Door'

By Mandi Woodruff

You may not know the name Thomas Stanley, but chances are you've heard of "The Millionaire Next Door," the blockbuster book Stanley co-wrote in the mid-1990s.

The book sold more than two million copies and spawned a slew of spin-offs, including "Millionaire Minds" and "Millionaire Women Next Door." Sadly, Stanley died last week at the age of 71 in a car accident near his home in Marietta, Ga. At the time of his death, he and his daughter, Sarah Fallaw, a psychologist, were working together on the latest iteration of the "Millionaire" series, with a fresh look at millionaires in post-recession America, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Although Fallaw said she would continue her father's work posthumously, it will be a while before the results of their research are published.

In the meantime, we decided to crack open "The Millionaire Next Door" and revisit some of Stanley and co-author William D. Danko's findings.

When the duo set out to create a composite of the modern American millionaire, they conducted their own survey of 1,000 high-net-worth individuals. At the time, Stanley was a Professor of Marketing at Georgia State University and Danko was Stanley's former research assistant who would go on to become a marketing professor in his own right. What they found was that most millionaires shared seven key traits in common, all of which create a lifestyle "conducive to accumulating money," they write:

1. They live well below their means.

In their research, Stanley and Danko found most millionaires weren't heavy spenders. The majority spent less than $200 on shoes and only half could justify paying more than $235 for a wristwatch. Another surprising finding: two-thirds of the millionaires they surveyed said they followed a household budget.

2. They allocate their time, energy and money efficiently, in ways conducive to building wealth.

For example, the authors found that millionaires were more likely to invest time planning their household finances than, say, shopping for a car. On the flipside, most people would have a lot more fun allocating time comparing car prices than sitting down with a financial planner and figuring out how much more money they have to save to be able to stop working at a certain age.

3. They believe that financial independence is more important than displaying high social status.

"They inoculate themselves from heavy spending by constantly reminding themselves that many people who have high-status artifacts, such as expensive clothing, jewelry, cars, and pools, have little wealth," the authors wrote.

4. Their parents did not provide "economic outpatient care."

Millionaires rarely become millionaires in their own right if their parents are constantly financing their lives. Otherwise, they risk becoming too financially dependent to make their own way.

5. Their adult children are financially self-sufficient.

Teaching kids to be self-sufficient not only encourages them to create their own financial security but ensures that they won't be draining their parents' finances later on.

6. They are proficient in targeting market opportunities

Essentially, the wealthy become wealthy often by targeting occupations that serve other wealthy people (that's their "market"). That's where the real money is, Stanley and Danko argue. Jobs that serve the wealthy - for example, estate planning, law, accounting - often come with bigger paychecks.

7. They chose the right occupation.

The authors found that roughly half of the millionaires they interviewed owned a business of some sort, but the vast majority said they would not encourage their children to follow in their footsteps. Millionaire couples with children were five times more likely to send their children to medical school than other parents in America and four times more likely to send them to law school, according to their findings.

Stanley and Danko's findings may still ring true today, but the audience couldn't be more different. When the book was published in 1996, the economy was booming and most people we were blissfully unaware of the pending dot-com bubble and bust. And no one knew that in just over a decade, the Great Recession would squeeze the middle class beyond recognition and deeply divide the rich and the poor.

"The Millionaire Next Door" encourages the view that the real millionaires of America - the frugal spenders, the self-made entrepreneurs, the savers "next door" who don't seek attention or flaunt their wealth - haven't actually done anything all that extraordinary to achieve financial success.

But, if we learned anything from the Great Recession, it's that unanticipated setbacks - a job loss, an unlucky diagnosis, a bad mortgage loan, a spouse's unexpected death - can send anyone's personal finances teetering. Not to mention factors beyond most people's control, such as lagging wage growth and rapidly increased fixed costs like housing, health care and education. Despite all we've been through, however, the message that anyone can accumulate wealth if they put the work in is one that still sells in America. Books like Stanley's can help inspire good financial habits, but the reality facing most workers today is that they'll need much more than a seven-step guide to get them there.

Source: Yahoo Finance

Health: Why Dental Health Has a Profound Effect on Heart Health
Henderson, NV (March 2015) - Chances are, you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. And whether or not you choose to incorporate preventative measures into your lifestyle, you also know that diet, exercise, not smoking, reducing your stress levels, and more can reduce your risk of experiencing heart disease.

What you probably don't realize is that brushing your teeth, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly can also have a profound effect on your coronary health.

"Understandably, you might be surprised by - and somewhat skeptical about - this information," says Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, coauthor along with Robert Kulacz, DDS, of The Toxic Tooth: How a root canal could be making you sick (MedFox Publishing, 2014, ISBN: 978-0-983-77282-8). "It's natural to assume that the work of your dentist and your cardiologist would never have a reason to overlap. But more and more, scientific research is confirming that dental disease is a definitive risk factor for cardiovascular disease."

Dr. Kulacz explains the link between dental health and heart health: "There are numerous sources of oral infection, including gum disease (periodontitis) and tooth decay. Even root canal-treated teeth, which are assumed to be 'safe,' remain infected even after the root canal procedure is performed.

"But whatever the source, the bacteria and toxins from oral infections eventually spread throughout the body via the bloodstream and proliferate at distant sites such as the coronary arteries," he continues. "Over time, they cause tissue damage, disrupt cellular function, and drain the body's antioxidant stores. The inflammation caused by oral disease can also initiate or worsen systemic diseases like heart disease."

Consider of the following information:

Current research suggests that 50 percent of heart attacks may be triggered by an infection in the mouth.

Increasingly, heart surgeons are ordering an oral examination before operating.

The bacteria commonly found in oral infections are also often found in high concentration in the coronary artery plaque and blood clots that cause artery blockages - many of which result in stroke or heart attack.

A study published by the Journal of the American Dental Association indicated that individuals with root canal-treated teeth were significantly more likely to have coronary heart disease than those with no history of root canals. The study was corrected for other major risk factors like smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure.

Patients with acute apical periodontitis (gum disease) have a 2.79 times greater risk of developing coronary artery disease.

"This is just a small sampling of the many facts that demonstrate how oral health impacts coronary health," concludes Dr. Levy. "A substantial body of research now exists that documents the link between these two seemingly separate areas - and it's growing all the time."

"So the next time you're tempted to skip brushing or flossing before going to bed, remind yourself of this information," Dr. Kulacz adds. "Taking good care of your teeth and gums is an easy way for you to be a better guardian of your heart's health."

About the Authors:

Robert Kulacz, DDS, is the coauthor of The Toxic Tooth: How a root canal could be making you sick. Dr. Kulacz received his dental degree from New York University College of Dentistry, and he received post-graduate training in implant surgery and implant restoration sponsored by Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, NY.

Thomas E. Levy, MD, JD, is the coauthor of The Toxic Tooth: How a root canal could be making you sick. Dr. Levy is a board-certified cardiologist and a bar-certified attorney. The Toxic Tooth marks his tenth health-related book. Since discontinuing the practice of traditional cardiology 20 years ago, he has focused on the importance of minimizing toxins in the body, especially those originating in the mouth, while optimizing the antioxidant capacity in the body, most prominently that of vitamin C.

Recipe: Potato and Pea Soup

Ingredients:

1 large onion, chopped
1 lb of new potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 1/2 pints of good veggie stock
8 oz of fresh or frozen peas
2 Tbs of chopped fresh mint or 2 tsp dried
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil

Directions:

Soften the potatoes and onion in the olive oil for 5-10 minutes, then add all the rest and simmer with a lid on, for 30 minutes.

Then rub through a sieve or puree in a blender.

Reheat and serve.

Source: Chet Day's Vegetarian Recipes Newsletter

Humor: How to Keep Busy When Retired
Working people frequently ask us, as a retired couple, what we do to make our days interesting. Well, the other day my wife and I went into town and went into a shop. We were only in there for about five minutes. When we came out, there was a policeman writing out a parking ticket. We went up to him and said, 'Come on sir, how about giving a pensioner a break?' He ignored us and continued writing the ticket. So I called him a fascist bastard. He glared at me and started writing another ticket for having worn tires. So my wife called him a total pillock. He finished the second ticket and put it on the windscreen with the first. Then he started writing a third ticket. We continued to call him every name under the sun, and he just kept writing those tickets...

This went on for about 20 minutes, and then our bus arrived.

Source: Sunil Sivanand

Rev. Franklin Graham Warns U.S. Christians: 'Storm Is Coming,' Persecution Will Arrive In This Country Soon

By Isaiah Narciso

President and CEO of Samaritan's Purse Rev. Franklin Graham issued a dire warning for Christians in the United States over the weekend that persecution will hit like a "storm" in this country.

The son of legendary American evangelist Billy Graham made the sharp comments Sunday during "Fox and Friends Weekend." He also talked about it at length during a recent interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network.

"I believe we're going to see persecution in this country," Graham said. "We've already seen many laws that have been passed that restrict our freedom as Christians."

Graham told "Fox and Friends Weekend" host Tucker Carlson that in addition to praying, the other solution to fixing the potential persecution problem could involve encouraging more Christians to run for office.

"We have a problem in Washington, and we have become so greedy, we have become so bitter, and we fight with one another," Graham said. "But we need Christian Democrats and Christian Republicans running for office. And we need to get God back in Washington."

The reverend elaborated on why he thought persecution of the Christian faith could grow in the U.S.

"I believe it's going to get worse, and we see no question gaining influence in Washington by those that represent the Islamic faith," Graham said. "We do have a problem in this country and we are losing our religious freedom and we're losing it a little bit day by day."

According to Courtney Coren of Newsmax, Graham cited examples in the Middle East where Christians started to become targets for persecution, most notably in Iraq and Syria. He noted that before the U.S. intervention to topple Saddam Hussein's regime, Iraq had a large Christian minority.

"When that government fell and the new government came to power, the Islamists in the country, al-Qaida and others, began to attack and burn churches," Graham said. "We've seen that happen throughout Iraq, and now it's happening in Syria."

Graham contended that persecution of Christians in the Middle East started long before ISIS rose up in the region.

"This isn't something that has just happened with ISIS," Graham said. "This has been going on for centuries, and has been going on in Egypt. When those Egyptian men [Coptic Christians] had their heads cut off, that's not the first time."

However, Derek Penwell of the Huffington Post pointed out that Graham had a history of questioning President Obama's Christian faith. He argued that Graham may be off the mark when it came to Islamic influence in the U.S.

"Even if Franklin Graham were right, what exactly would be the problem with Muslims having greater access to the White House?" Penwell asked. "Unless somebody hijacked the Constitution or the Golden Rule when I wasn't paying attention, it is neither illegal nor immoral to be a practitioner of Islam."

Penwell contended that the evangelist was paranoid of Islam, hence his statements fearing of a coming Christian persecution in the U.S.

"To his way of thinking, a Muslim is a Muslim is a Muslim," Penwell wrote. "He seems to labor under the paranoid delusion that all Muslims are dangerously subversive suicide-bombers-in-waiting tout court. But that's a terribly unfair brush with which to paint all Muslims."

According to Coren, Graham emphasized that the teachings of Islam focused on the fact that Muhammad was "a man of war."

"Jesus Christ came as a man of peace, and as a follower of Christ, I follow Him and I want to emulate Him," Graham said. "But the followers of Islam are emulating the prophet Muhammad, and that's what you're seeing carried out."

In his defense, Graham made it clear to Carlson that he's not intentionally bashing Muslims in general.

"I love Muslims and I want them to know what I know - that God loves them, that Jesus Christ died for their sins, that He rose from the grave, He can come into the heart, and they can have that hope of heaven and that hope of eternal life," Graham said.

Source: Gospel Herald

Indian Prime Minister's Ambivalence Encourages Persecution of Christians

By Dr. Kul B. Rai

Christianity is the second oldest religion in India and has been practiced since the first century. A small minority with less than 2.5 percent of India's population of over 1.2 billion and with little economic or political power, for most of the two millennia Christians have been tolerated by the dominant Hindus who constitute 80 percent of the population. Since last May, however, when Bharatiya Janata Party, commonly known by its acronym BJP, won the parliamentary election, they have felt persecuted by the militant Hindus.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of BJP, has unfortunately been ambivalent toward the persecution of Christians for which the militant Hindus, who are ardent supporters of Modi and BJP, are responsible.

Modi, who has a proven record of bringing about prosperity to the people of the Indian state of Gujarat of which he was the chief minister for over 10 years by a policy of encouraging private investment and simplified tax policy, remains popular because he has delivered on his campaign promise of improving economic growth rate in India. The World Bank recently predicted that India will replace China in two years as the fastest growing economy of the world.

The popularity of Modi has emboldened his supporters to attempt to realize their dream of making India a Hindu country. They have beaten Christians, burned churches, and attempted to convert Christians to Hinduism by coercion and promise of monetary rewards.

Some members of Modi's government have made outrageous statements. One minister in his government suggested that for the sake of national identity all Indians should be called Hindus. Another minister said that all non-Hindus should be considered illegitimate. Modi has done little to reassure the religious minorities that such statements are not acceptable in a secular society that India claims to be.

In the past the Hindu wrath was primarily directed against Muslims who are 14 percent of India's population. Christians, however, are an easy target, since they are a much smaller and less organized minority.

Hindu resentment against Christians is not new and is chiefly based on the Hindu opposition to conversion of Hindus to Christianity. In the past such resentment seldom erupted in violence. Modi's government has ushered in an unfortunate era in India.

In 1998 also when BJP came to power as the head of a coalition government, Christians were targeted by militant Hindus. However, the leader of the BJP at that time, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was considered moderate in his views on religion and the violence against Christians, while ugly for some time, did subside.

Modi is very different from Vajpayee. He built his political career on the basis of his work in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, called RSS, a militant Hindu organization most of whose members do not believe in a secular society. It is not surprising that Modi's supporters think that they can get away with persecution of Christians, a weak minority, because Modi is in power.

Fortunately, the media and many Hindus have strongly reacted against the treatment of Christians. As a result, Modi did finally take some action, met with Delhi's police commissioner in the middle of February, and urged him to arrest the culprits responsible for violence against the Christians. Modi clearly has been ambivalent on the issue of persecution of Christians. At this time it is difficult to predict when Christians will feel safe again in India.

About The Author:

Kul B. Rai, Ph.D., is a professor emeritus of political science at Southern Connecticut State University.

Source: New Haven Register

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