Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
St. Mary
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
(Luke 1:50)

Ettu Nombu Special
Day 3, Theme: Faith
Volume 6 No. 367 September 3, 2016

Featured Articles

Introduction - Mary's Faith

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

Today, we are into the third day of the 8-Day Lent. 'Faith' is the virtue of Mary featured today.

To understand Mary's Faith, read Dr. Pritchard's article, 'Mary: Believing the Impossible' first. It is extremely readable. Ray has a talent of explaining things in a language we can all understand. He says that Mary's "yes" at the annunciation was the greatest ever faith statement in the entire world and entire history. Or like they say in US Politics, "It was 'yuge'. Mary doubtless believed that 'God can do anything.' There is no need to doubt or question that. She was not sure about the logistics of the virgin birth. Filled with humility she also wondered how the God almighty selected her, a handmaid, to bear the son of God. That is faith. (Compare and contrast Mary's reaction to that of Zachariah when the angel appeared to him 6 months earlier!)

Pope Francis, in his characteristic way, explains what Mary's faith means to the church and to us. She was the antithesis of all Eve was. When Eve was disobedient, Mary was obedient. She always pointed the way to Jesus. She was the first disciple of Jesus and was with him from his birth to death and ascension and Pentecost - the birthday of the church.

Read the articles and the archived articles to meditate and reflect during this lenten season.

Oh.. Morth Mariam Yoldath Aloho (Mother Of God) Pray For Us

The Faith of Mary

by Pope Francis

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

We are all gathered for this event of the Year of Faith devoted to Mary, Mother of Christ and of the Church, our Mother. Mary always brings us to Jesus. She is a woman of faith, a true believer. What was Mary's faith like?

1. The first aspect of her faith is this: Mary's faith unties the knot of sin (cf. Lumen Gentium, 56).

What does that mean? The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council took up a phrase of Saint Irenaeus, who states that "the knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by the obedience of Mary; what the virgin Eve bound by her unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosened by her faith" (Adversus Haereses, III, 22, 4).

The "knot" of disobedience, the "knot" of unbelief. When children disobey their parents, we can say that a little "knot" is created. This happens if the child acts with an awareness of what he or she is doing, especially if there is a lie involved. At that moment, they break trust with their parents. How often does this happen! Then the relationship with their parents needs to be purified of this fault; the child has to ask forgiveness so that harmony and trust can be restored.

Something of the same sort happens in our relationship with God. When we do not listen to him, when we do not follow his will, we do concrete things that demonstrate our lack of trust in him – for that is what sin is – and a kind of knot is created deep within us. These knots take away our peace and serenity. They are dangerous, since many knots can form a tangle which gets more and more painful and difficult to undo.

But nothing is impossible for God's mercy! Even the most tangled knots are loosened by his grace. And Mary, whose "yes" opened the door for God to undo the knot of the ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that he can untangle the knots of our soul by his fatherly mercy. We might ask ourselves: What knots do I have in my life? Do I ask Mary to help me trust in God's mercy, in order to change?

2. A second aspect is that Mary's faith gave human flesh to Jesus.

As the Council says: "Through her faith and obedience, she gave birth on earth to the very Son of the Father, without knowing man but by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit" (Lumen Gentium, 63). This was a point on which the Fathers of the Church greatly insisted: Mary first conceived Jesus in faith and then in the flesh, when she said "yes" to the message God gave her through the angel. What does this mean? It means that God did not want to become man by ignoring our freedom; he wanted to pass through Mary's free assent, her "yes".

But what took place most singularly in the Virgin Mary also takes place within us, spiritually, when we receive the word of God with a good and sincere heart and put it into practice. It is as if God takes flesh within us; he comes to dwell in us, for he dwells in all who love him and keep his word.

Let us ask ourselves: Do we think about this? Or do we think that Jesus' incarnation is simply a past event which has nothing to do with us personally? Believing in Jesus means giving him our flesh with the humility and courage of Mary, so that he can continue to dwell in our midst. It means giving him our hands, to caress the little ones and the poor; our feet, to go forth and meet our brothers and sisters; our arms, to hold up the weak and to work in the Lord's vineyard, our minds, to think and act in the light of the Gospel; and especially our hearts, to love and to make choices in accordance with God's will. All this happens thanks to the working of the Holy Spirit. Let us be led by him!

3. The third aspect is Mary's faith as a journey.

The Council says that Mary "advanced in her pilgrimage of faith" (Lumen Gentium, 58). In this way she precedes us on this pilgrimage, she accompanies and sustains us.

How was Mary's faith a journey? In the sense that her entire life was to follow her Son: he is the way, he is the path! To press forward in faith, to advance in the spiritual pilgrimage which is faith, is nothing other than to follow Jesus; to listen to him and be guided by his words; to see how he acts and to follow in his footsteps; to have his same sentiments of humility, mercy, closeness to others, but also his firm rejection of hypocrisy, duplicity and idolatry.

The way of Jesus is the way of a love which is faithful to the end, even unto sacrificing one's life; it is the way of the cross. The journey of faith thus passes through the cross. Mary understood this from the beginning, when Herod sought to kill the newborn Jesus. But then this experience of the cross became deeper when Jesus was rejected and Mary's faith encountered misunderstanding and contempt, and when Jesus' "hour" came, the hour of his passion, when Mary's faith was a little flame burning in the night. Through the night of Holy Saturday, Mary kept watch. Her flame, small but bright, remained burning until the dawn of the resurrection. And when she received word that the tomb was empty, her heart was filled with the joy of faith: Christian faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This was the culmination of Mary's journey of faith, and that of the whole Church. What is our faith like? Like Mary, do we keep it burning even at times of difficulty and darkness? Do I have the joy of faith?

This evening, O Mary, we thank you for our faith, and we renew our entrustment to you, Mother of our faith.

Source: Radio Vaticana. Catechesis of Pope Francis - Marian Vigil

Mary: Believing the Impossible

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Gospel: Luke 1:26-38


Did you know there are two versions of the Christmas story in the New Testament? Although scholars debate the differences and try to reconcile the two accounts, I think there is a fairly simple explanation. Matthew tells Joseph's story and Luke tells Mary's story. If you doubt that, just go back and read the two versions for yourself. Matthew tells the story like a man would tell it. Luke emphasizes the things a woman would consider important.

What is it that we know about Mary from Luke's gospel? Here is a brief list:

First, her father's name was Eli.
Second, she had a sister named Salome.
Third, she had a relative (unspecified) named Elizabeth.
Fourth, she is young.
Fifth, she is poor.
Sixth, she is a devout believer in God.
Seventh, she is very much in love.

That last one is a key to the story. Mary is a teenager in love. She may have been as young as 12 or 13; she might have been as old as 18-19. If we said 16, we would not be far off the mark.

When the story opens Mary is "pledged" to Joseph. That meant that she had formally agreed to marry him but the "wedding" had not yet taken place. Between the "pledge" and the "wedding feast" was a period usually lasting six months to a year. During that period the couple was considered to be married and were called husband and wife but they

A. did not live together and
B. did not consummate their marriage physically.

Following the custom of that day, Mary would live with her parents and Joseph with his. After the public wedding feast, Mary and Joseph would live together as husband and wife.

Everything in Luke 1-2 happens against that background. Mary is 16 years old, living with her parents (presumably in Nazareth), and waiting with happy anticipation for the day of her wedding.


It is right at this point that God breaks in. He is about to ask an unknown teenage girl to take part in something that is so shocking as to be totally unbelievable. What God asks Mary to do will change her life forever.

Gone are the happy dreams of a beautiful wedding; gone are the days of sweet anticipation; gone are the carefully-thought out plans for the wedding feast; gone are the hopes for "the most beautiful wedding to the most wonderful man who ever lived;" gone are all her girlish hopes of a quiet life in the home she would personally decorate. Most of all, gone are the visions of a houseful of children conceived in love and raised with tender care.

She will be married, but not before rumors spread through the countryside. There will be a wedding feast, but not the way she planned. She will have a home, but over her family will rest an uneasy cloud of dark suspicion.

It will all happen, but not the way she expected.


Luke 1:26-38 tells us how it all began.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. (26-27)

These two verses set the historical framework. They let us know that what is about to happen really happened, that this episode is not the figment of some writer's imagination or some kind of religious upper-story hallucination. To use Francis Schaeffer's term, this is "true truth." If we had been there, we would have seen what Mary saw.

Well, what did Mary see? She saw an angel named Gabriel. We know his name because the text tells us; we don't know if Mary knew his name. We know a few other facts as well. It happened in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy; We know it happened in the little village of Nazareth in Galilee. We know it happened while she and Joseph were "pledged" to be married.

These verses stress two facts about Mary. First, she is a virgin. Verse 27 mentions that fact twice. The Greek word involved (parthenos) leaves no room for doubt on that issue. It means a young woman of marriagable age who has never had sexual relations with a man. Second, she has no idea what is about to happen. Mary is completely in the dark, without a clue that her life is about to be changed forever.

The other fact we need to know at this point is that Mary and Gabriel are about to have a conversation in which Gabriel will do most of the talking. He says three different things to her (28, 30-33, 35-37) and she responds to what he says (29, 34, 38). Each time Mary responds we see how she begins to believe the impossible.


Let's see if we can't use our imagination to reset the scene. Let's suppose that Gabriel first appeared to Mary one day when she was at home helping her mother around the house. Let's further suppose that it happened during the middle of the afternoon.

What's Mary doing? Outwardly, she is doing her chores. In this case, she's about to go to the well and draw some water to do the laundry. It's 2:00 P.M. and Joseph is coming over tonight for supper. She's excited to see him and excited because she wants to talk over her newest idea for the wedding feast, something about a new dress she thinks he's going to love. It features a bright scarf around the neck, the kind Joseph seems to favor. In her mind, she's ticking off the things she wants to talk to him about. So many details and so little time. Tonight the two of them will probably take a romantic walk along the road leading to Capernaum. Mary can hardly wait to start getting ready for Joseph's arrival.

Her mother interrupts her reverie by asking her to fetch the water from the well. But Mary is quite happy to do it, in part because she enjoys working around the house, in part because her mind is filled with Joseph and marriage and happy thoughts of the future.

Which is why she didn't see the stranger standing by the olive tree in the back yard. In fact, she wouldn't have noticed him at all except that she bumped into him. He was about six feet tall, dark-complected, with medium brown curly hair and a closely-cropped beard. She glanced up at him, started to say "Excuse me" when something made her hesitate. It wasn't fear exactly, more like surprise and bafflement. Who was this strange man and why was he standing in her backyard?

Then he spoke and she got spooked: "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." (28) Mary quite simply did not know what to make of it. It's as if someone you've never seen came up to you and said, "Good news. This is your lucky day. God has chosen you for a special blessing." How do you respond to that?

Verse 29 tells us that "Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be." After all, it's 2:00 in the afternoon, she's sixteen years old, about to be married, dreaming of Joseph and their long walk on the road to Capernaum, and she just came out to the well to get a bucket of the water to do the laundry. Now some stranger says something bizarre to her. No wonder she wondered about it.


But that's not the half of it. Without a pause, Gabriel proceeds to tell her something that - to use a 20th century term Mary almost certainly wouldn't have used - blows her mind. He tells her she's going to have a baby. And not just any baby. She's going to give birth to the Son of God.

Listen again to these words you have heard time and again. But this time, remember that you are 16, deeply in love, and on your way to the well to get some water to do the laundry. You don't have any inkling of what you are about to hear:

The angel said to her, "Fear not, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (30-33)

Well now. How's that for a conversational opener? What, really, do you say back to Gabriel? Remember, you're 16, it's 2:00 in the afternoon, you're on the way to the well, you're waiting to see Joseph tonight, and your life just seems perfect. Now here comes this stranger with the most preposterous-sounding thing you've ever heard in your life.

Do you argue? Do you ask for clarification? Do you call 911? Do you say, "Who are you and how did you get in my backyard?" Do you laugh out loud?

Mary could not be blamed for any of those responses. But she does none of those things. In fact, she passes over all the hard stuff. When Gabriel says, "He will be called the Son of the Most High," she doesn't ask what that means or why she was picked for such a high honor. None of those ordinary concerns seems to affect her in the least.

She only has one question, a technical matter she would like cleared up: "How can this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" (34) This is a perfectly natural question. Mary is betrothed but not formally married. She has never had sexual relations with any man. How then can she become pregnant and bear a son?

It is instructive to note that Mary does not doubt the angel's word, even though it must have sounded incredible. She believed what the angel said. Her only question had to do with how it would happen.

In essence she says to Gabriel, "All right. I'm willing to do my part, but you need to explain how we'll handle this one little problem." That's real faith. That's believing the impossible. That's trusting God when the "facts" argue against it.


Now that the big question has been settled, there remains only one final word from Gabriel. It is the only explanation of the Virgin Birth in all the Bible:

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. (35)

The key point in Gabriel's explanation is that what is about to happen to Mary will be the result of the direct intervention of God. The Holy Spirit is the agent of the Virgin Birth; overshadowing is the means of the Virgin Birth; the Son of God is the result of the Virgin Birth.

This suggests something that is often denied. It is often suggested that the Virgin Birth was not necessary even though it really happened, i.e., God could have brought Jesus into the world in some other way. Gabriel's word seem to indicate the opposite. The whole point of verse 35 is that the Virgin Birth produces the Holy One of God. The "so" is very crucial. Without the virginal conception by the Holy Spirit, the Holy One of God will not be born.

That suggests that, in reality, there really was no other way for Jesus to be born. Gabriel's words imply that the Virgin Birth was not just another Christmas miracle that God could have dispensed with had he so chosen. Without the Virgin Birth, there would be no Christmas at all.

If someone inquires into the biology of the virginal conception of Jesus, we have only this verse to give them. The Greek word translated "overshadow" (episkiazo) was used of God's visible presence in the Old Testament tabernacle. It pictures the God of light personally dwelling with his people. We might also think of the Spirit of God hovering above the waters in Genesis 1:2. "God's powerful presence will rest upon Mary, so that she will bear a child who will be the Son of God." (Marshall, Luke, p. 71).

William Hendriksen (Luke, p. 88) adds this helpful note on Gabriel's explanation:

Does this mean that Gabriel has now made everything 'perfectly clear' to Mary? Of course not. As anyone who has ever taken a course in human embryology knows, even 'ordinary' conception within the human womb is veiled in mystery. See Ps. 139:13-16. Therefore this unique conception, by means of which the pre-existing Word of God assumes the human nature, surpasses human comprehension all the more. Neither God nor Gabriel demands of Mary that she must understand everything. What is required of her is only this, that she believes and willingly submits.


Since Mary would likely have doubts about all this, Gabriel calls her attention to the case of her relative Elizabeth. She is now in her sixth month of pregnancy (which will result in the birth of John the Baptist) even though she had been barren and she and Zacharias were both advanced in years. That is, they were both too old to have children and yet, through a miracle of God, she is expecting her first child.

Now these cases are not the same, of course. Mary is a teenager and Elizabeth was perhaps 70 years old; Elizabeth's conception came the natural way while Mary's came via the Holy Spirit. But that's not the point. The point is that both are examples of human impossibilities made possible by the word and promise of God.

"Mary, if you doubt my word, just take a look at Elizabeth. She's expecting her first child even though she's 'too old' to have children. If God can do that for her, don't you think he can do this for you?"

Which brings us to verse 37, a great Christmas verse that is often overlooked at this time of the year. "For nothing is impossible with God." He is able to do anything he decides to do. If he wants to cause a virgin to conceive, he can do it.


In the history of the church Mary has often been been portrayed as a kind of misty, other-worldly figure. If you look at some of the great paintings of Mary, they make her look so peaceful and beatific that you almost forget she was a real person. That's a shame because Luke makes it clear that she was very real, with very real doubts, very real questions and very real faith. Nowhere is this seen with more clarity than in verse 38:

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

Without exaggeration, we may call this one of the greatest statements of faith in all the Bible. We read it so often that we forget how great it really is. But remember, it's 2:00 in the afternoon, you're 16 years old and very much in love. Your mom asks you go fetch some water to do the laundry and on your way to the well, you run into a man you've never seen before. He tells you that

A. You're going to get pregnant
B. You're going to give birth to a son
C. He's going to be the Son of God.

When you ask how, he says,

"Don't worry about it. The Holy Spirit will cover you like a cloud and you'll end up pregnant. That's all there is to it."

What do you say to that?

Mary said Yes. Yes to God, Yes to the impossible, Yes to the plan of God.

Did her heart skip a beat when she said Yes? There she is, teen head tilted high, her hands trembling just a bit, wide-eyed, nervous, open-mouthed, questioning but not afraid, wondering but not terrified, unsure but not uncertain. When the angel said, "Nothing is impossible with God," Mary took a deep breath and said, "Be it unto me as you have said." And with those words Christmas came to the world.


Let's not underestimate what it cost Mary to say Yes to God. From that moment on, she faced the incredulity of her friends ("Oh Mary, how could expect us to believe such a bizarre story?"), the scurrilous gossip of the neighborhood ("Did you hear about Mary? I guess Joseph finally got lucky.") and the whispers of promiscuity that have lasted 2,000 years.

Mary knew - or would soon realize - that saying Yes to God meant misunderstanding and public shame. Gone was her pure reputation and with it her dreams of a quiet, happy life in Nazareth. In the future, her life would at times be happy but it would never again be quiet.

Since we know the end of the story we may tend to overlook the possibility of divorce. But Mary had no way of knowing how Joseph would respond to her pregnancy. Would he blow his top and walk out on her? Would he humiliate her publicly? Would he divorce her?

As the story turned out, Mary had every reason to worry about Joseph. He didn't blow his top or try to humiliate her, but he did intend to divorce her. Only an angel's intervention kept that from happening.

That, too, was on Mary's mind. By saying Yes she risked losing the man she loved. Her whole future was on the line.

And all these things were just the beginning. Mary could not know what the future would hold. Before it was all over, she would experience heartache, opposition, slander, confusion, anguish, despair and loneliness. In the end she would face the greatest pain a mother can endure when she would watch her son die on a cross.

Mary couldn't know all those things. Perhaps if she had known she might not have said Yes. But it's just as well that she didn't. Sometimes we say, "I wish I knew what the future holds for me." But you really don't want to know. It's far better that we don't know what life will bring us in 10 or 15 years.

Mary didn't know the full cost of saying Yes. But having made her decision she never looked back. Those two aspects of her life may be the greatest things we can say about her:

1. She believed God when it seemed to be impossible.
2. She never looked back.

When God said, "Are you willing to believe the impossible?," Mary said, "Yes I am!" Without that Yes, there would be no Christmas.


I have no doubt that Mary asked, "Why me?" Why should God choose an obscure peasant girl in some out-of-the-way village as the chosen vehicle to bring his son into the world? There are many answers that have nothing to do with Mary, but there is one answer that has everything to do with her.

God chose because he trusted her. He knew she was willing to believe the impossible. He also knew she was willing to pay the price for that belief. He knew she was willing to bear a child out of wedlock in order to bring God's Son into the world.

Mary said Yes to shame and glory; she said Yes to God's power; she said Yes to the impossible.

Saying Yes brought her … .

1. This Burden - 33 years of turmoil and heartache.

2. This Joy - She was the mother of the Son of God.

3. This reward - Among women there has never been anyone greater.

If somehow Mary could be here today and we could ask her, "Was it worth it?," she would once again say Yes.

Mary, then, stands as a model for all believers but especially for women.

1. She is a model of openness to great possibilities.

2. She is a model of faith in the face of many natural doubts.

It's still true that "Nothing is impossible with God." That's as true today as it was 2,000 years ago. It's also true that somebody has to say Yes or else the impossible will never happen.


What is it that God wants from us? Total comprehension about the future before we will trust him? No. That's impossible. And besides, it's better that we don't know what the future holds. Does he want us to have perfect knowledge of the Bible? No. If that were the case, then no one would ever trust him. Do we have to be spiritually advanced to the point of sainthood? Thank God the answer is No. Very few of us would meet that qualification.

What does God want from us? The same thing he wanted from Mary. Simple faith that he will keep his word in unlikely and unexpected ways.

Our Father, we do not pray for more faith; we pray rather for courage to exercise the faith we already have. Make us more like Mary, willing to believe in spite of our doubts. We pray in the name of Him whose birth we celebrate at Christmastime. Amen.

© Keep Believing Ministries

Things We Do by Faith

by Dr. Joe McKeever

"The just shall live by faith."
(Habakkuk 2:4; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11)

One day this week while traveling down the interstate through the open country, I began listing the things we Christians do by faith. The list became lengthy in a hurry.

To do anything by faith means we have an invisible authority for this thing we do. An outsider, not understanding or valuing the invisible, would consider us presumptuous or foolish or deluded, but as followers of Jesus Christ and believers in His Word, we calmly do these things and consider doing them completely reasonable.

Acting by faith for one man meant going out not knowing where he was headed but trusting the Invisible Authority to let him know when he had arrived, for another building a massive boat on dry land far removed from water, and for a third renouncing the luxury of the palace to throw his lot in with a group of slaves.

Faith people have been known to do some strange things.

Here is a partial list of the outwardly foolish, inwardly reasonable, upwardly obedient activities we Christians do as a result of our confidence in Jesus Christ and His Word.

Things we do by faith….

1) We expect to live forever.

There is no evidence in science for anyone living forever. And yet, believers calmly toss around terms like "eternal life" and "forever" and "everlasting" as though we had been to Heaven and come back.

2) We do not particularly mind dying.

The rational mind wants to scream at the prospect of ending the only life it has known and disappearing into what appears as dark infinity. The mind of faith expects that on leaving this life, to wake up in a Garden of Eden where the best is yet to be.

3) We believe in the concept of sin and even more so, in the prospect of being forgiven for it.

Without a Great Overreaching Authority handing out His wisdom, there is no sin - that is, no transgression of His law - and thus forgiveness is meaningless. People of faith believe in a God of love, a revelation of Truth, and the concept of sin. But they also believe that this Creator God sent a Savior to deal with the sin and to offer an eternal salvation. So, faith-people believe in an entirely different cosmos from outsiders.

4) We give a tithe of our incomes.

"Sir, as your financial advisor, I have to ask this. Are you aware of the possibilities if we take one-tenth of your income and invest it in some growth markets? And, if we allow it to compound daily over, let's say, thirty years, you could be one wealthy man by the time you are ready to retire. Are you aware of this? And do you mean to sit there and say you still want to give that money to the little church down the street? Are you serious?"

"Well, then, if you persist in throwing away this money, surely you will be monitoring what they do with the money, following it step by step as it arrives in various mission fields and religious orphanages and schools to make certain the fortune you will be donating is handled wisely. That's a question, sir. You will, won't you? No? Then, sir, I am at a loss here."

5) We pray to a God we cannot see or prove, asking for things we will never know whether they were granted or not.

No one unwilling to live by faith - seeing the Invisible, hearing the Inaudible, doing the Unthinkable - will ever pause to seek God's will in decisions, seek His wisdom in mysteries, and seek His forgiveness for messes.

6) We thank Him for hearing our prayers.

Sometimes faith-people pray and everything happens as they had asked. At other times, nothing they wanted happens. But most of the time, they never know what happened. In all these things and more, they give thanks to a Righteous God for what He has done, is doing, and will be doing in HIs own time and ways.

Faith-people can be mighty perplexing to others. They will do things, say thing, fear some things and scoff at others that make no sense to anyone else. For instance…

Things we say by faith….

1) "She's with Jesus now."

She looks mighty dead to the outsider. They bury her body in the cemetery, erect a tombstone, and walk away with a tear in their eyes the same way everyone else does. And yet, they do not sorrow as others who have no hope. They fully expect to see her again.

2) "You are forgiven of your sins."

The outsider with no concept of sin finds this something of a scam. I convince you there is an Authority that has laid down some laws, show you where you have violated those laws, and then teach you there is forgiveness for the violations and that you should do certain things to receive the absolution and forever thereafter ought to be eternally grateful.

Yep. That's about the size of it.

3) "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved."

The outsider runs screaming from the room. You faith-people are narrow-minded, intolerant, and impossible to live with, always trying to get people saved, always speaking of Jesus this and Jesus that, and telling others their religion is not going to get them to Heaven.

That's pretty much how it is, friend.

4) "This is the inspired Word of God."

The faith-person can give you reasons and testimonies and stories as to why he "knows and knows that he knows" the Bible is God's inspired Word. But he does not expect his stories and arguments to convince you. This is something you will have to find out for yourself.

How? By reading it yourself and giving what you read a lot of thought. However, we must warn you: a lot of naysayers have begun a Bible-reading program expecting to marshal arguments against faith, only to come away more convinced than any faith-person they know. If you would retain your status as an atheist or skeptic, you cannot be too careful as to what you read.

5) "You will stand before the Lord and give account for that."

Every person, not just faith-people, will one day see for themselves and know the truth of it all. They phrase it as "every eye shall see, every knee shall bow, every tongue shall confess that Jesus is Lord." Why do they teach such a doctrine? They got it from Jesus.

6) "God's grace is sufficient and Christ's death was adequate to save even the mass murderer who turns to Him in repentance and trust."

Faith-people may hold to a rather narrow set of doctrines - that God is, Jesus was and is and is to come, and that He alone is the Way - but the gospel they teach has a massive entrance (the huge door to the fort in the old King Kong movie comes to mind here) that opens wide enough for anyone and everyone to enter. No one has out-sinned God's love and Christ's ability to save.

Therefore, as a result of all this, there are things we do not fear by faith….

1) We do not fear dying.

2) We do not fear Satan.

3) We do not fear bad people who can do bad things.

4) We do not fear fear.

5) We do not fear that Christ may be wrong, the Bible may be proven untrue, and the gospel a scam. These things are settled.

6) We do not fear rejection of our message. It saddens us but your scoffing at our gospel does not make us question its truth.

We do, however, fear some things. Here are things we fear by faith….

1) We fear failing God.

2) We fear shirking our duty.

3) We fear disappointing the people who count on us.

4) We fear abandoning the millions who have not heard the gospel to an eternity without Christ.

Outsiders have no vote in anything our churches do, but much of what we do is with them in mind. The temptation is always present to squander our resources on ourselves and leave them in darkness. We must always fear this possibility as a constant threat.

5) We fear our own righteousness, our own lower nature, and our own weaknesses. Perhaps "suspect" or "doubt" would be better words than "fear" here. Our trust is not in our selves, for we know the kind of foolishness of which we are capable. So, we are constantly on the alert for the possibility that we may be preaching ourselves and proclaiming our prejudices, or that we may undermine God's truth by our failures.

6) I fear presenting an article like this one, lest I drop in evidence of my own ignorance and present it as God's Truth and Christ's teaching. God help me.

I cannot prove to you why I fear some things that an outsider, an unbeliever would laugh at, or why I scoff at things another person (unbelievers again) cringe before. It's all a matter of where one stands in life, on what he bases his existence.

Christians see the invisible, hear the inaudible, and end up doing the unthinkable. They do not do the irrational or the insanity. They just know things and see realties not in evidence to the carnal mind.
(I Corinthians 2:14)

"On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand."

I cannot prove that to you. It's a faith thing.

Shield of Faith

by Paul Estabrooks

"In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one."
Ephesians 6:16

The Roman shield was the defensive piece of armor that was almost always used together with the sword. It was used to ward off a blow from the opponent while making your own sword-thrust. Likened to a shield, our faith in God is that piece of spiritual armor that enables us to withstand attacks by the enemy that are too much for the mind and body. The shield of faith has a three-fold duty.

It is a saving faith that is the inward confidence in God.
It is a serving faith that inspires our servant hood.
It is a sanctifying faith that lays hold of the power of God for our daily lives.

When you come under enemy fire, take shelter behind your faith in God. Do not be deceived by circumstances and events. Walk by faith, not by sight. Be confident that God has secured victory. Stake your life on His faithfulness. Trust Him to deliver you as you wear the shield of faith.

A colleague tells the story of Gabriel in violence plagued Colombia. His calling is to share the gospel with guerrilla soldiers hiding in the mountains. As he approaches a camp site with his bag of Spanish Bibles, a perimeter guard often steps out and sticks his AK-47 in Gabriel's stomach.

"What are you doing here?"

"I've come to tell you about the love of Jesus which you can read about in these books."

"We don't want your books. Get lost or I'll kill you!"

It's at this point that Gabriel's faith rises. Pushing the barrel of the gun aside he casually answers,

"No you won't! You can't kill me until God says you can kill me,"

and he boldly walks ahead into the camp where he distributes Bibles and preaches the gospel to those who will listen. He is still on the trail and has not been killed yet. He is convinced the day will come when his life will be taken. But his faith is solidly grounded in the assurance that it will only happen in God's will. Meanwhile he is a powerful witness to the truth of the Gospel because of his faith.


Today I take the shield of faith so I will not be vulnerable to spiritual defeat.


Lord, help me be strong in faith, ready for Satan's fiery darts of doubt, denial and deceit. Give me bold faith like Gabriel's.

Source: Standing Strong Through the Storm
© 2010 Open Doors International. Used by permission

Malankara World Journal Specials on Faith and 8-Day Lent
Malankara World Journal Issues with the Theme: Faith
Volume 4 No 247: November 21, 2014
Theme: Lessons from St. Mary - Faith

Volume 3 No 175: October 24 2013
Theme: Fear Intersects Faith

Volume 3 No 171: September 26 2013
Theme: Faith

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