Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Koodosh E'tho - Sanctification of the Church
Featuring The Kingdom of God, The Holy Church
Volume 6 No. 381 October 28, 2016
II. Featured: The Kingdom of God

Introduction To This Week's Theme - The Kingdom of God and the Holy Church

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

This Sunday is called Koodosh e'tho or the Sanctification of the church. It is the beginning of the new liturgical year for the church.

The lectionary readings are about the foundation of the church by Jesus giving the "keys of the Kingdom" to Peter. The key is about a new Kingdom and on repentence and remission of sins. By handing over the Keys to the Kingdom to St. Peter and his followers Jesus gave authority to them for the remission of sins on earth - something that only God could do before the establishment of the church. This is where church gets its authority and it is big.

This week, we will examine the Kingdom and the church as envisaged by Jesus Christ and handed over to St. Peter to administer. We examine how God reveals Himself in every book of the Bible. So, the coming kingdom of God was not a surprise; but people did not pay any attention. The distinguishing feature of the Kingdom of God is its emphasis on Grace and Mercy as opposed to strict adherents to rules and punishments. Servant Leadership trumps traditional lordship.

Then we will examine the church founded by Jesus Christ and the state of it today. We have thousands of denominations or versions of Christianity today. The true church established by Christ is characterized by One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We will take a look at this identifying mark of the church established by Jesus Christ. The church is, however, populated by sinners. Church is holy, but the members are not. They are all ordinary people, with a difference: they have accepted Jesus Christ as their savior, have baptized in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and have confessed their sins and was granted the remission of sins by a priest who followed the apostolic succession to St. Peter, who was given the authority by Jesus to provide "hoosoyo"- forgive the sins.

So, as the leaves change color and fall to the ground, and as autumn season is in full swing in North America, we start preparing to meet our savior incarnated as a child in a manger in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. This is a good time to do an introspection of our own state of affairs and make the much needed cleanups and corrections in our lives so that we can meet our savior well prepared.

Rick Warren, the author of the International Best Seller, 'The Purpose Driven Life' stated:

To make the best use of your life, you must never forget two truths:

First, compared with eternity, life is extremely brief.
Second, the earth is only a temporary residence.

You won't be here long, so don't get too attached to this earth. Ask God to help you see life on earth as he sees it. David prayed, "Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here for but a moment more."

Jesus... God Reveals Himself in Every Book of the Bible

by Philip Nation

Here is a quick tour of how God reveals Himself in every book of the Bible.

Genesis - Creator & promised Redeemer

Exodus - the Passover Lamb

Leviticus - High Priest

Numbers - water in the desert

Deuteronomy - He becomes the curse for us

Joshua - Commander of the army of the Lord

Judges - delivers us from injustice

Ruth - our Kinsman-Redeemer

1 Samuel - all in one, He is the Prophet/Priest/King

2 Samuel - King of grace & love

1 Kings - a Ruler greater than Solomon

2 Kings - the powerful prophet

1 Chronicles - Son of David that is coming to rule

2 Chronicles - the King who reigns eternally

Ezra - Priest proclaiming freedom

Nehemiah - the One who restores what is broken down

Esther - Protector of his people

Job - Mediator between God and man

Psalms - our song in the morning and in the night

Proverbs - our wisdom

Ecclesiastes - our meaning for life

Song of Solomon - Author of faithful love

Isaiah - Suffering Servant

Jeremiah - the weeping Messiah

Lamentations - He assumes God’s wrath for us

Ezekiel - Son of Man

Daniel - the stranger in the fire with us

Hosea - faithful husband even when we run away

Joel - He is sending His Spirit to His people

Amos - delivers justice to the oppressed

Obadiah - Judge of those who do evil

Jonah - the greatest missionary

Micah - He casts our sin into the sea of forgetfulness

Nahum - proclaims future world peace we cannot even imagine

Habakkuk - crushes injustice

Zephaniah - the Warrior who saves

Haggai - restores our worship

Zechariah - prophesies a Messiah pierced for us

Malachi - sun of righteousness who brings healing

Matthew - the Messiah who is King

Mark - the Messiah who is a Servant

Luke - the Messiah who is a Deliverer

John - the Messiah who is a God in the flesh

Acts - the Spirit who dwells in His people

Romans - the righteousness of God

1 Corinthians - the power and love of God

2 Corinthians - He is the down payment of what’s to come

Galatians - He is our very life

Ephesians - the unity of our church

Philippians - the joy of our life

Colossians - holds the supreme position in all things

1 Thessalonians - our comfort in the last days

2 Thessalonians - our returning King

1 Timothy - Savior of the worst sinners

2 Timothy - leader of the leaders

Titus - foundation of truth

Philemon - our Mediator

Hebrews - our High Priest

James - He matures our faith

1 Peter - our hope in times of suffering

2 Peter - the One who guards us from false teaching

1 John - source of all fellowship

2 John - God in the flesh

3 John - source of all truth

Jude - protects us from stumbling

Revelation - King of Kings and Lord of Lords,

The Alpha and the Omega,

The Beginning and the End, and

He is coming again and the One who makes all things new.

Source: Today's Topical Bible Study

A Kingdom for Faint Hearts

by Jill Carattini

"The kingdom of God is for the gullible," I read recently. "You enter by putting an end to all your questions."

It is true that Jesus moved all over Judea pronouncing the reign of God and the kingdom of heaven as if it were a notion he wanted the simplest soul to get his mind around. But simplicity never seemed what crowds walked away with. With looming paradox in every statement, he made it clear that this kingdom was approaching, that it was here, that it was among us, that they needed to enter it, that they need to wait for it, that they desperately need the one who reigns within it. He insisted, the kingdom "has come near you" (Luke 10:9). Yet he pled to the Father, "Thy kingdom come" (Matthew 6:10). Even in his metaphors, the contrast of so many different and dynamic realities turned the clarity of any individual picture into a great and ambiguous portrait. He assigned the kingdom imagery such as a mustard seed, a treasure in a field, a great banquet, yeast and pearls, among others.

Contrary to putting an end to one's questions with a childish simplicity, the kingdom of God incites inquiry all the more. What is the nature of this kingdom? Can it be all of these things? Who is this messenger? And what kind of proclamation requires the herald to pour out his very life to tell it? Whatever this kingdom is, it unmistakably introduces to a world far different from the one around us, one we cannot quite get our minds around, with tensions and dynamisms reminiscent of the promise of God to answer our cries "with great and unsearchable things you do not know."(1) But one thing it absolutely does not do is ask us to stop thinking or to stop trying to reconcile this curious kingdom Jesus describes with the curious world around us. His is certainly a kingdom that challenges any sort of thoughtless, gullible obedience, that compels not blindness or gullibility but sight. It is a kingdom with a king whose very authority exposes present obsessions as wood and reforms numbed minds with great and surprising reversals of life as a gift.

Jesus pointed crowds to a God who opens the eyes of the blind and raises the dead, who claims the last will be the first and the servant is the greatest. But lest we are tempted to leave his statements as hopeful moralisms, his proclamations did not cease with mere words. He put these claims into equally curious action, placing this kingdom before the crowds in such a way that would have absolutely stymied contemporary attempts to dismiss his life as mere religion, abstraction, gullibility, or sentimentality. Even his opposition saw him as a certain and credible threat to their own power and authority:

"Then the whole assembly rose and led Jesus off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, 'We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.'

So Pilate asked Jesus, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'

'Yes, it is as you say,' Jesus replied.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I find no basis for a charge against this man.'

But they insisted, 'He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here…' So with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed."(2) The way of proclamation led to the way of the passion, the path of commotion to the path of accusation, a road strewn with signs of the authority of another kingdom to a road that demanded death and mocked a king.

It is tempting to lose sight of this revolutionary figure in the sentimentalism of Christmas manger scenes and familiar carols. And yet this is the child born into our world: one who is still subverting nations and threatening our every sense of authority. The kingdom he proclaimed in birth and in death mercifully continues to unravel our own. His is not a kingdom for the gullible, nor for the faint of heart and sight. Yet, both heart and sight he provides for the weary, taking us beyond familiar borders of the world we know to the very threshold of the good and hopeful kingdom of God, where in both our longing to see in fullness and in our relishing here and now, we discover the one who reigns.


(1) Jeremiah 33:3.
(2) Luke 23:1-23

About The Author:

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Source: A Slice of Infinity
Copyright © 2015 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

Would You 'Give Up Everything' for the Kingdom?

by Michael Craven

This is the question, of sorts, I recently posed to a local businessman. I have embarked on an enterprise that I believe offers a modern example of what Jesus meant when he told his disciples to "seek first the kingdom" (Matt. 6:33).

If we read these words in context, Jesus is emphasizing something that transcends reason and material reality. He begins by denouncing anxiety associated with the procurement of life’s necessities. Notice he does not denounce the necessities themselves, merely the worry over the means by which we obtain them. Jesus is addressing our limited view of reality in which we believe that we, through our own efforts, are our only hope of survival in this life much less flourishing. Jesus is expanding our view of reality to include a view of life in relationship to the loving, sovereign God - true reality.

There is an implicit formula here that invites us into a new way of living. In contrast to the world’s way of thinking and living, Jesus tells us that his way is rooted in the pursuit of life under the rule and reign of God; if we follow his way - the way of the cross - God will provide all that we need. So rather than focusing on and working to accumulate "treasure" on earth as the source of our peace and security, Jesus declares that if we focus on bringing peace, justice, righteousness, and love (the virtues of God’s kingdom) into the world, God will provide our necessities. To remain in the old way of living only heightens our anxiety and fear as we inevitably discover the limitations of this world and the flesh.

Our new life in Christ should sever reliance on the temporal things of this world and replace it with dependence upon the Father who controls all things and provides abundantly for his children. This is the proper ordering of life that Christ came to restore. It is this "proper ordering" that we should seek after.

In an effort to restore economic order among the poor, I - along with H.I.S. Bridgebuilders - am working to create businesses in poor communities that offer those with meager employment opportunities the prospect of meaningful work. For some, this will be their first legitimate job, as many have been engaged in either no work or illegal work, such as drug dealing and prostitution. For those of us who haven’t been raised in the inner city, it is easy to think that overcoming these disadvantages is simple: "Just apply yourself and your situation will change!" Not true! How can you change your situation if every social structure around you is defective? Fathers are absent, families are broken, education is inadequate, crime is rampant, and the only economic means available are government dependence or criminal activity. In such conditions, there is little to no hope of ever rising beyond your circumstances and the cycle of crime and poverty continues.

Our strategy is bold: create companies that provide value in the marketplace, generate profit, and operate under the "right-side-up" principles of the kingdom. This means that we will structure companies in which power, profits, and people will be treated according to the way God would have his creation function.

All of our companies will be employee-owned. Every employee will share in the ownership of the company so his or her opportunity extends beyond a subsistence wage. A share of the profits will be distributed equitably with those who have labored for the company’s success. We aim to avoid a situation where the many work for the benefit of the few; instead all will share in the fruits of success.

In contrast to the conventional power structure that is vertical in nature, our companies will be governed by a more horizontal management structure. Employees will share in the decision-making activity through their participation in a "Partnership Council" made up of employees elected by their peers. This strategy will serve to include employees at the highest levels of decision making in order to educate them in the business process and maximize creativity in problem solving.

Prior to employment, each employee will receive rigorous spiritual discipleship along with essential job- and life-skill training through H.I.S. Bridgebuilders. Following employment, each employee will be assigned a mentor who works to disciple and support him or her as they grow into Christ-likeness. This, we believe, is the whole-life redemption offered in the gospel of the kingdom!

Returning to the businessman I referenced earlier, this is what happened. At present, we possess window screen manufacturing capability but no sales and marketing resources. Our businessman has the sales, marketing, and installation but currently buys from other manufacturers. So I proposed a merger with one significant caveat: "Are you willing to give up the ownership of your company?" By God’s grace, he agreed! His company will merge into our employee-owned management structure and the businessman will continue to lead the new enterprise under our governance. Instead of maintaining 100 percent ownership, he will now share ownership with the rest of the employees. His company will generate over $1.2 million in sales this year, bringing immediate jobs to the community. With added capitalization we believe we can achieve significant growth over the next few years, employing many more people. This man has taken seriously the principle of Matthew 6:33, being determined to ‘lay up treasures in heaven,’ abandoning his earthly concerns into the hands of God.

© 2013 by S. Michael Craven

About The Author:

S. Michael Craven is the president of Battle for Truth and the author of 'Uncompromised Faith: Overcoming Our Culturalized Christianity' (Navpress, 2009). Michael's ministry is dedicated to equipping the church to engage the culture with the redemptive mission of Christ. For more information on Battle for Truth and the teaching ministry of S. Michael Craven, visit

Understanding Grace

Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

God is love and His love for us is unconditional. Though we do not deserve it, God freely gives His grace to us.

However, many times when we need God the most, we end up feeling as though we are least accepted by Him. Nothing could be further from the truth! Even when we fall flat on our faces due to sin, God does not turn His back on us. In fact, He does just the opposite - He opens His arms to us and beckons us to repent and to come to Him.

We need to understand a principle concerning grace: it is not currency we carry around in our pockets, spending it at will whenever we sin. The grace of God is precious. It is impossible to earn God's grace. As fallen humans, we certainly do not deserve His mercy, yet He opens the windows of heaven and pours His grace on us. Christ did not die on the cross so that we can take sin lightly and flaunt our freedoms without consequence. He also did not die in order to give us a constricting and rigid life. Either extreme is a limited version of the Christian faith.

We must balance both legalism and grace. When we fully understand the cost of our sin, we choose not to take God's grace for granted. When we fully understand Jesus' sacrifice and love, we begin to cherish our relationship with Him above all else. When we love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, we will hate sin and crave a closer relationship with Him.

As we grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ, we begin to understand that He truly cares about our lives. We learn that He wants to build intimate relationships with us. Instead of living in terror of Him, we are given an opportunity to be children of the King of kings. Suddenly, we begin to understand He wants us in his throne room, where grace showers all who enter into His presence.

As we grow in intimacy with God, we discern His voice and we obey the Lord - regardless of the circumstance. We know and believe that God is able to handle any obstacle that enters our path. We simply obey and watch as His grace unfolds before our very eyes. In fact, Christ's life is a perfect model of what it means to have intimacy with God.

Throughout every trial and tribulation, throughout every victory and valley, Jesus was in perfect communion with God. He listened for the voice of His Father and responded appropriately - even if the answer meant He must wait.

In the moments we must wait, God's grace sustains us. Waiting on God can be difficult. In our anxiousness to see Him move, we have a tendency to try and prod God along. We want to see His glory here and now. Yet, God is at work preparing the people and circumstances we will encounter along the way. His grace sustains us as we wait and it prepares the way. May all praise and glory be given to God for His amazing grace!

Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.

When Grace Goes Deep

by Max Lucado

The prodigal son trudges up the path. His pig stink makes passersby walk wide circles around him, but he doesn't notice. With eyes on the ground, he rehearses his speech:

"Father" - his voice barely audible - "I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son."

He rehashes the phrases, wondering if he should say more, less, or make a U-turn to the barnyard. After all, he cashed in the trust fund and trashed the family name. Over the last year, he'd awakened with more parched throats, headaches, women, and tattoos than a rock star. How could his father forgive him? Maybe I could offer to pay off the credit cards. He's so focused on penance planning that he fails to hear the sound of his father…running!

The dad embraces the mud-layered boy as if he were a returning war hero. He commands the servants to bring a robe, ring, and sandals, as if to say, "No boy of mine is going to look like a pigpen peasant. Fire up the grill. Bring on the drinks. It's time for a party!"

Big brother meanwhile stands on the porch and sulks. "No one ever gave me a party," he mumbles, arms crossed.

The father tries to explain, but the jealous son won't listen. He huffs and shrugs and grumbles something about cheap grace, saddles his high horse, and rides off. But you knew that. You've read the parable of the gracious father and the hostile brother (see Luke 15:11-32).

But have you heard what happened next? Have you read the second chapter? It's a page-turner. The older brother resolves to rain on the forgiveness parade. If Dad won't exact justice on the boy, I will.

"Nice robe there, little brother," he tells him one day. "Better keep it clean. One spot and Dad will send you to the cleaners with it."

The younger waves him away, but the next time he sees his father, he quickly checks his robe for stains.

A few days later big brother warns about the ring. "Quite a piece of jewelry Dad gave you. He prefers that you wear it on the thumb."

"The thumb? He didn't tell me that."
"Some things we're just supposed to know."
"But it won't fit my thumb."

"What's your goal - pleasing our father or your own personal comfort?" the spirituality monitor gibes, walking away.

Big brother isn't finished. With the pleasantness of a dyspeptic IRS auditor, he taunts, "If Dad sees you with loose laces, he'll take the sandals back."

"He will not. They were a gift. He wouldn't…would he?" The ex-prodigal then leans over to snug the strings. As he does, he spots a smudge on his robe. Trying to rub it off, he realizes the ring is on a finger, not his thumb. That's when he hears his father's voice. "Hello, Son."

There the boy sits, wearing a spotted robe, loose laces, and a misplaced ring. Overcome with fear, he reacts with a "Sorry, Dad" and turns and runs.

Too many tasks. Keeping the robe spotless, the ring positioned, the sandals snug - who could meet such standards? Gift preservation begins to wear on the young man. He avoids the father he feels he can't please. He quits wearing the gifts he can't maintain. And he even begins longing for the simpler days of the pigpen. "No one hounded me there."

That's the rest of the story. Wondering where I found it? On page 1,892 of my Bible, in the book of Galatians. Thanks to some legalistic big brothers, Paul's readers had gone from grace receiving to law keeping.

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who in his love and mercy called you to share the eternal life he gives through Christ. You are already following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who twist and change the truth concerning Christ.… (Gal. 1:6-7)

Joy snatchers infiltrated the Roman church as well. Paul had to remind them, "But people are declared righteous because of their faith, not because of their work" (Rom. 4:5).

Philippian Christians heard the same foolishness. Big brothers weren't telling them to wear a ring on their thumb, but they were insisting "you must be circumcised to be saved" (Phil. 3:2).

Even the Jerusalem church, the flagship congregation, heard the solemn monotones of the Quality Control Board. Non-Jewish believers were being told, "You cannot be saved if you are not circumcised as Moses taught us" (Acts 15:1 NCV)

The churches suffered from the same malady: grace blockage. The Father might let you in the gate, but you have to earn your place at the table. God makes the down payment on your redemption, but you pay the monthly installments. Heaven gives the boat, but you have to row it if you ever want to see the other shore.

Your deeds don't save you. And your deeds don't keep you saved. Grace does. The next time big brother starts dispensing more snarls than twin Dobermans, loosen your sandals, set your ring on your finger, and quote the apostle of grace who said, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10 NKJV)

Source: Come Thirsty by Max Lucado; Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2004)  


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