Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Great Lent Week 2, Prayer, Love
Volume 6 No. 331 February 12, 2016
IV. Love - Valentine's Day Supplement

How's Your Love Life?

by Kay Arthur

In light of the fact that it is February - the month in which we celebrate Valentine's Day - may I ask you a very personal question? "How's your love life?"

The reason I ask is because your love life, my love life, is a very strong indicator of our relationship with God.

So how about three more heart-searching questions? Questions you might want to bring before God in prayer, asking Him to show you exactly where you really are. I know that as I have examined myself - and continue to do so - God is showing me how much I have to learn - where I fail, where I am weak and how much I need to grow in love. My cry has been, "Lord, teach me about love." What's your cry in respect to love?

Here, dear one, are the questions:

  • First, how well do you love God? And what about others? How do you do in that arena?
  • Second, whom do you love the most? God? Others? Yourself?
  • Third, how dwells the love of God in you? Do you know anyone who needs loving? Whether he or she is lovable or not, have you made yourself available to God to be His means of loving that person?

Two months ago we celebrated Christmas - a holiday that in the most incredulous of ways not only reminds us of God's unfathomable love for us, but for the world . . . most of whom do not even know He came or Who He was - Who He is! And if they do know His name, too often it is only as an expletive. John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.

The baby placed in Mary's womb supernaturally was the very Son of God . . . the only begotten of the Father . . . born to die. God incarnate - living in flesh just like ours. Tempted but without sin. The One deemed the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world by tasting death (and the separation it brings) for every man. The One forsaken by the Father so that you and I would be accepted as Beloved - and never, ever forsaken or forgotten.

And what were we like when God expressed such love towards us? Romans 5 tell us Jesus Christ died for us when we were without hope. Without hope because we were without God. He loved us when we were ungodly, helpless sinners - enemies!

And when we finally responded to His wooing and believed, God's Word says, "I will call . . . her who was not beloved, 'beloved' " (Romans 9:25; Hosea 2:23).

As the ancient hymn writer put it, "Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?"

As I write this, I think of a testimony - the story of Serge LeClure. At the age of eight Serge was taken from his hardworking, loving, single mother and committed to a home for delinquent boys - a home where he would be "properly cared for." The "care" turned out to be abuse, bullying and rape. It was a "care" he constantly ran from, a "care" that caused him not to care! But he did learn to survive - through hate.

Serge rose to the top as a gang leader at fifteen. As a dealer in drugs, he received over a million dollars for his services. He also spent twenty-one years in prison, six of which were in solitary confinement. Through a chain of events in prison, he came in touch with people who endured embarrassment, harassment and much more, for the sole purpose of telling others about the love of God. For two years, Serge observed love in action - genuine caring. At the age of thirty-eight, Serge LeClure knelt on the cement floor of his cell and received the tangible gift of God's love by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.

He rose from the floor a new creature - set free from his addiction to drugs. The unlovable was loved, the condemned prisoner was pardoned, the incorrigible tempered, the sinner deemed a saint, set apart for God. And all because of the love of God! As 1 John says, "In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation [the satisfaction] for our sins."

This is the power of God's love.

The power to love. A power given to each of us who believe on His name. A love that becomes the distinguishing evidence of our salvation according to 1 John 3:10 and 14; 4:7 and 20 and 5:1.

So how's your love life? Do you love God? God says we are to love Him with all our heart, mind, body, soul and strength. But not only God; we are to love others. Those who are genuinely born of God not only love the Father, but the child born of Him. Thus Jesus gave His disciples a new commandment: we are to love one another even as He loves us (John 13:34 and 35). It would be time well invested to meditate on the ways He expressed His love toward us, toward others, even toward the one who would betray Him.

And what is it that keeps us from loving like this?

John, the apostle of love, tells us in his first epistle by way of a warning: "Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away . . ." (1 John 2:15 and 16).

Yet the world is so very present, isn't it? So alluring! So tangible! So appealing to our flesh, our ego, our desire to be, to attain, to "make it"! But you have to ask yourself, will it last? Is it worth what you pay in time, in energy, in relationships?

Ours is a culture of concupiscence - a culture that has infiltrated the church. We have a love of softness. We are told, "You deserve it! You earned it. You owe it to yourself to be good to yourself!" Oh Beloved, we hear it and we believe it. We have so loved softness that we have not endured hardship as a soldier of Christ. We have not disciplined ourselves for the sake of godliness.

And part of godliness is loving - as He loved - sacrificially, selflessly. Loving others not just with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. When we love His way, then we assure our heart before Him, and we have confidence in the coming day of judgment, because as He is in this world, so are we. They know we are His disciples by our love - His love unleashed in us to overflow on the world about us.

So, how is your love life, Beloved?

Source: Today's Topical Bible Study

Family: Five Unusual Ways to Show Biblical Love on Valentine's Day

by Arlene Pellicane

If you give a loved one a greeting card on Valentine's Day, that won't be out of the ordinary. According to the Greeting Card Association, 145 million Valentine cards will be purchased for the holiday that's only second in sales to Christmas.

Don't get me wrong. I think the Valentine's staples for a man and woman in love are lovely. I highly recommend getting on board with cards, flowers, chocolates, romance, candlelit dinners, and passionate intimacy between a husband and wife. But today, we're going to shine the spotlight on five unusual ways from the Bible to express love. They are unusual because the truth is, they are hard to practice. Let's take a look at the first way of love.

Way #1: When you're unhappy with your spouse, practice being kind.

It's easy to be kind to your spouse when he or she is acting respectfully and cheerfully. But when your spouse is behaving badly, it's natural to give it to them with both barrels. Instead remember Romans 2:4 which teaches that "God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance." God's grace melts the hardest heart. Imitate Christ by treating your spouse with kindness, even when they may deserve your wrath.

Way #2: Consider your faults first.

Jesus said in Luke 6:41-42, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Was there a speck or fault in the brother's eye? Yes, but there was a large fault in the accuser also. When you blame your spouse for all the trouble in your marriage, you are being an (ouch) hypocrite. You bear responsibility as well.

Way #3: Overlook insults.

Proverbs 12:16 says that "fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult." No one wants to be counted as fool. Rather, you want to be someone who is prudent – a person who acts with care and thought for the future. If you want to have a happy marriage, don't be overly sensitive or hold a grudge for every offensive thing your spouse says (or fails to say). As Shaunti Feldhahn discovered in her book The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages, happy couples believe the best about each other. They assume their spouse cares deeply. They give the benefit of the doubt.

Way #4: Value unity and tranquility.

Marriage is not a marketplace where you hustle to be in the lead. Nor is it a boxing ring where you live to fight and defend. Marriage is to be a haven, a place of security and rest in this difficult world. Ecclesiastes 4:6 says, "Better one handful with tranquility than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind." Instead of constantly defending your rights and cashing in on the entitlement spirit of our times, seek unity with your spouse. Seek peace.

Recently I disagreed with a parenting decision my husband made. I thought we should skip going to an afterschool activity because one of our children had to prepare for a speech the next day. We went to the activity and I had to bite my tongue more than once (to keep the unity). It worked out fine and tranquility won out in our home that night.

Way #5: Yield your body joyfully.

God has beautifully created sex as a way for a husband and wife to bond together. When you said "I do," you became one flesh. No longer two, but one. Your body belongs to your spouse, and your spouse's body belongs to you. According to 1 Corinthians 7:4, "The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife." Notice the mutual yielding. As you consider one another, your lovemaking will be sweeter.

These five ways of loving your spouse may seem impossible in moments of conflict or exhaustion, but take heart. You are not alone. You can invite the Holy Spirit to help you respond in kindness when you feel like lashing out. You can train your mind to give your spouse the benefit of the doubt. You can ask God to give you thick skin and a soft heart when your feelings get hurt.

This Valentine's Day, it's fine to get a card and gift for your sweetheart. But don't forget to add in these five ways to show love. As you obey Christ's command to love, your relationship with your Valentine will grow sweeter and sweeter every day, not just on February 14.

About The Author:

Arlene Pellicane is a speaker and author of 'Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World' and '31 Days to Becoming a Happy Wife'. She has been a guest on the Today Show, Family Life Today, The 700 Club and Turning Point with David Jeremiah.


Family Special: True Love

by Melissa Kruger

From the looks of my Facebook news feed, a new season of The Bachelor has begun. I've never watched the show on a regular basis, but from the portions I've seen, it appears that each season progresses with increasingly wonderful dates to exotic locations. From the moments I've watched I always find myself wondering, Who wouldn't fall in love in these circumstances? I'm pretty certain I could enjoy most anyone's company while sailing on a yacht, watching the sunset, or eating a gourmet meal. The wonderment of an experience can easily heighten our opinion of the person with whom it is shared.

A better test for finding love would be to set these contestants up in the mundane circumstances of life. Perhaps have them paint a room together or clean out a garage. Maybe set them in a situation where they need to plan a birthday party and entertain ten children on a tight budget. How would they get along while changing diapers or hanging curtains? Would love grow in the stresses and circumstances of a normal life?

As a society, we've become more enthralled with falling in love than keeping the home fires burning. We dream of weddings, not marriage. We're more concerned with exhilarating moments than finding fulfillment in the mundane. What man can compete with a bachelor who has plenty of time to work out, money to spare, and who is offered every enticement to impress the multiple women knocking at his door?

In reality true love is experienced in the everyday moments of life. Jesus met with a variety of people as He went about daily routine. He taught Mary in her home, calmed the storm as the disciples sailed on the sea, healed people as he traveled from city to city, and humbly served each of his disciples by washing their feet. His love found expression in the mundane moments of life as he journeyed with others. He demonstrated a love full of service and sacrifice, not fireworks and fairy tales.

Love's expression is patience and kindness, full of humility and hope. It is not self-seeking, envious, arrogant, irritable or rude. Love pursues the unlovable and bears all things. We give to others what we have first received in Christ: "This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another" (1 John 4:10-11).

Romantic love is a wonderful thing, but it is secondary and dependent on a greater source. If the divine romance is neglected, our earthly friendships, families, and marriages suffer the effect. As C. S. Lewis said so well, "When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased."

With Valentine's Day upon us, perhaps we, His disciples, should look less to spectacular experiences and focus on serving those around us. Who in your life needs an expression of love? Who can you serve in an unselfish way? Is someone lonely? Invite them into your home. Is someone hurting? Send them a note of concern. Is someone grieving? Call them and listen to their ache.

The greatest love available is not reserved for those who are dating, engaged, or married. Jesus taught, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). In a world that puts forth so many false definitions, expressions, and professions of love, the Scriptures provide beautiful clarity on the true meaning of love. Rather than place our hopes in earthly shadows, let us increasingly know the love of God that surpasses understanding and seek to share His love with others. Filled with His love, our lives will be joyfully filled in loving service to those around us.

About The Author:

Melissa Kruger serves on staff as Women's Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church (PCA) in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of 'The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World' (Christian Focus, 2012) and 'Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood' (WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2015).


Family Special: Prayer - How Every Wife Can Fight Like a Warrior

by Alicia Bruxvoort

"Take … the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray always. Pray in the Spirit. Pray about everything in every way you know how!"
- Ephesians 6:17b-18

My littlest boy pattered down the stairs in the dark before dawn and found me sitting in the big leather chair by the window. On my lap were my Bible and the book I'd used for over a decade to prompt prayers for my husband.

My son sidled up beside me and reached for the book. He examined the tattered cover with 5-year-old curiosity then flipped through the yellowed pages inside. He studied the words splattered with coffee stains and rainbow highlights and cast me an inquisitive gaze.

"What is this thing?" he asked.

"It's a book that helps me pray God's Word over Daddy …"

My 5-year-old's green eyes grew wide. "It looks like it's been in a battle, Mommy!"

I planted a kiss atop my son's unruly tuft and murmured, "It has, sweetheart. It has."

My son leaned his sleepy head against my shoulder and as we sat in comfortable silence, I remembered the day when God had called a younger and floundering me into combat.

I'd stepped into marriage with grand plans to dance happily through life with the man I loved. But seven years and three kids later, our union felt more like a stumbling shuffle than a tantalizing tango.

There were bills to pay and children to feed; problems to solve and jobs to keep. And as life settled heavy on our shoulders, our marriage spiraled into a jaded jitter of frustrations and unmet expectations.

Sadly, I could name my husband's shortcomings faster than I could list his strengths, and I could articulate my disappointment more keenly than I could define my delight. I knew God intended marriage to be more than a baffling boogie, but I didn't know how to reclaim the joy that had once spurred our steps.

One day in Bible study, I aired my grievances to an older and wiser woman. She listened quietly, then pulled me into a one-armed hug and whispered words of truth: "Honey, you've gotta decide if you're gonna spend your energy fighting with your husband or fighting for him."

My stomach lurched with conviction, and she held my tear-filled eyes in a silent gaze. "Every wife was made to be a warrior," she said with resolve.

I felt a sliver of hope stirring deep inside, and when I got home, I scoured the shelves for that book of prayers I'd been given as a young bride. Maybe somewhere on those crisp white pages I'd find ammunition for battle.

Later that night, I sat on the couch and begged God to teach me how to fight.

Day after day, I took the Apostle Paul's words to heart - "Pray about everything in every way you know how!" And like a baby learning to walk, I learned to speak God's truth over our waffling and weary union.

When I was tempted to fling hurtful words, I asked God to help me swing the sword of the Spirit instead. When I felt weak and discouraged, I asked Christ to infuse me with His strength and His hope.

Eventually I found myself choosing to battle rather than belittle, to praise rather than pester, to believe rather than despair. And one day I woke up and realized I was no longer blind to the gift of my husband. My prayers had granted me fresh vision.

Slowly and surely, our marriage dance began to change. We found ourselves waltzing to a new rhythm of joy. Not with flawless steps or perfect poise, but with confidence in the One who had joined our hearts.

I looked at the worn book on my lap and whispered a prayer of thanks as my son's sleepy stupor gave way to playful frolic. "Let's have a sword fight before breakfast, Mommy!" he said as he leaped off my lap and raced up the stairs in search of his plastic saber.

He paused at the landing and cast me a reassuring grin, "Don't worry, Mommy. We're just pretending."

I mirrored his smile and swiped my Bible through the air like a dangerous dagger. "I'm not a bit worried," I replied. "I've had lots of practice in battle!"

Dear God, Teach me to fight for my marriage on my knees. In Jesus' Name, Amen.


James 5:16b, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (NIV)

Matthew 21:22, "If you believe, whatever you ask for in prayer will be granted." (VOICE)


Find one Scripture to pray over your marriage this week. Declare God's truth out loud by reciting it frequently and fervently.

Next time you are tempted to tear your husband down, lift him up to God in prayer.

© 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.


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