Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: New Year Special
Volume 7 No. 391 December 30, 2016
III. Featured: New Year

Good News for the New Year

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

There are moments when it seems that the only news available is bad news. Headlines fill with stories of deception, financial ruin, sickness and natural disasters. In an attempt to escape the bad news, many people travel long roads in search of a peace that seems to continually elude them. Rather than reaching their destination fulfilled, they hit dead ends and return home disillusioned and exhausted.

This is nothing new. It was the same in Jesus' day. Rather than turn to God and embrace the Good News of the Savior's coming, people sought their own roads to eternal peace. However, only the Good News of Jesus Christ addresses the root cause of mankind's dissatisfaction, the sin that separates us from the Father, and offers us the Way to reconciliation with God—resulting in eternal security, peace, and joy.

Do you need good news today? The best news of all times is that Jesus loves you and He has provided the Way for a full and loving relationship with the Father. As you begin this New Year, spend some time asking God to reveal His heart to you as we spend the next few days unpacking the Good News that we all need.


Father, I desire the eternal peace that only Jesus Christ can bring. Will you please reveal your heart to me and guide me on Your path this New Year? I pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).

© 2012 Leading The Way My Devotional

Trusting God with the Next Chapter of Your Story

by Christina Fox

As a book lover, my books are riddled with highlights and underlined sections. I dog-ear my pages. (Yes, I am one of those people!) In one book I read recently, I folded down the bottom corners of pages I wanted to come back to later so I could record my favorite quotes. The problem was, when I got to the end of the book, there were about forty folded down pages!

When it comes to the story of my life though, there are few pages I want to revisit. Highlighted sections are rare. I wouldn't consider it a good read and many chapters I'd like to just remove altogether.

This time of year marks a new chapter in each of our lives. The pages are fresh and unmarked. We don't know what lies ahead in our stories and can't look at the back of the book to find out. This story is one we have to live out word by word, line by line.

The question is, when you turn the page to the next chapter of your life, does it fill you with anticipation or dread? Are you hopeful for what God will do in your life this year or are you anxious?

Our stories were created before the dawn of time. God penned each day of our lives before he spoke the first word that broke light into the darkness. David wrote in Psalm 139, "all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." In Ephesians 1, Paul wrote "he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight."

When a new year arrives, we can look to it expecting good things or the worst of things. It all depends on how we view the Author of our lives. Do we trust God to write a good story? Do we believe that he has a good plan and good intentions for us? Do we believe that he cares about each and every paragraph, word, and punctuation in the narrative of our lives?

As a glass is half empty type of girl, I often view the future with skepticism. I expect the worst and am surprised by the good. In fact, when there is good, I assume that bad lies just around the corner. But that comes from thinking that fails to grasp the gospel. I look at my life as a series of punishments for not getting things right. I expect to be blessed when I've done right and punished when I've done wrong. But the gospel tells me otherwise. It tells me that Jesus took all my punishment for me. God has no more wrath left for me for he poured it all out on Christ. (Romans 8:1).

When a chapter in my life contains a trial or challenge, it is not God doling out punishment or retribution for something I've done. Rather that circumstance is allowed in my life for my spiritual good. The often quoted passage from Romans 8:28 tells us "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." Hebrews tells us that God uses hardships in our lives as discipline. "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined - and everyone undergoes discipline - then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all...God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it." (vs.. 7-8, 10-11) James tells us to take joy in this training "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (1:2-4)

The story of our lives is a good story. It is one we should read with joy and gladness. Each of our individual stories are a reflection of the greater story of redemption found in Scripture and through Christ, we've been woven into that story. This grand story is of a people made in the image of their Creator. Upon making them, God remarked, "It is very good." It's the story of runaways who rejected the love of their Maker. It's the story of a Rescuer who made a way to bring them back and restore them to their Father. It's the story of love and loss, sin and redemption, brokenness and healing.

Jesus is that Rescuer who came to make all things new and to make all things sad become untrue. And as the characters in his story of redemption, he is shaping us, molding us, and transforming us into his likeness. In each new chapter, we are brought that much closer to who we were made to be. In fact, we are slowly becoming who we already are through Christ.

This is why we can approach this new year with anticipation. God is doing something good in each of us. His intentions and plans for us are good. Even if the pages that lie ahead contain challenges and heartache, it is promised and guaranteed to be used for our good and God's glory.

We can also rejoice as we look ahead to the future. Because of Christ, the victory has already been won. Eternity awaits us. Our restoration will one day be complete and the last line in the story of this life will be written. "I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6).

And then a brand new story begins, one that lasts forever.

About The Author:

Christina Fox is a counselor and writer. Read more from Christina at

Counting the Year's Blessings

by Dr. Gary Scott Smith

Have you heard any good news lately? Bad news abounds. It's been another tough year. Economic woes continue. Greece and Italy are on the verge of bankruptcy. With approximately $108 billion in insured catastrophic losses, 2011 was the second costliest year in history for the worldwide insurance industry. Hundreds of thousands have joined the Occupy movement in cities around the world to call attention to economic ills. Their activities, combined with those of the Tea Party movement and the massive demonstrations in Arab nations, prompted Time magazine to name the protester as its "Person of the Year."

Other problems also plague our world. More people, an estimated 27 million worldwide, are enslaved today than at any time in history. In March, a massive earthquake and tsunami killed almost 16,000 people in Japan. More than 150 tornadoes, leaving 550 people dead, ripped through the United States this year, most notably in Joplin, Mo., and Tuscaloosa, Ala. Scandals rocked Penn State and Syracuse universities. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported this month that one in five American women say that she has been sexually assaulted at some time. Such headlines top newspapers, television news programs, and Internet news sites every day.

Unfortunately, good news is harder to find. Search the Internet, however, and you will find sites such as CNN "Heroes;" "Happy News;" "Real News," which includes "Compelling Stories, Always Positive;" the "Good News Network," which features "News to Enthuse;" "Only Positive News;" "Daily Inspire News," which presents "the brighter side of news;" and "Positive News." Such sites feature stories of ordinary people who saved the lives of others, good Samaritans who returned money and jewelry they found, individuals who paid other people's water or heating bills, and people who are working to create a healthy, more fulfilling world.

Consider other good news. Stories of individual determination and resilience are plentiful. A British centenarian of Indian ancestry, Fauja Singh, finished the Toronto Marathon in October. Hedda Bolgar, a 102-year-old therapist based in Los Angeles, still counsels clients four days a week and trains other psychologists.

Despite the global economic slump, some economic progress is occurring. A recent United Nations study reports that poverty in Latin America has decreased by 38 percent in the past 20 years. During this same period, microloans have helped create thousands of new businesses, and jobs and have lifted millions out of poverty in the world's developing nations. These loans, which are repaid on time in more than 90 percent of cases, enable money to recirculate throughout poor communities.

Several entrepreneurs are partnering with survivors of the devastating January 2010 earthquake in Haiti to move beyond simply providing food and shelter, as important as this goal remains. They are establishing a culinary school, a music conservatory, and a center to provide loans to socially conscious businesses. Muhammad Yunus, who led the way in creating microloans for the poor, is helping to fund a vocational and computer-training school in Port-au-Prince.

In the United States, hundreds of community-based organizations and thousands of churches sponsor programs to assist the indigent. For example, since 2008, Gina Keatley's nonprofit, Nourishing NYC, has supplied fresh food and nutrition information gratis to almost 100,000 residents of Harlem and the Bronx. Meanwhile, Arizona Cardinals running back Jason Wright retired from the NFL and gave up a multi-million dollar contract so that he could attend the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business to pursue his goal of helping inner-city children. Tom and Ann Rose, a Lehigh Valley, Penn., couple, recently took in their 72nd foster child.

Google announced this month that it will donate $11.5 million to several coalitions fighting to end contemporary slavery. This is thought to be the largest-ever corporate grant devoted to advocating for and rescuing exploited individuals who are being forced to labor against their will. International Justice Mission will partner with Polaris Project, Slavery Footprint, and several smaller organizations to increase awareness in the United States, improve resources for anti-slavery enforcement agencies overseas, rescue victims, and help nations devise and pass anti-slavery legislation.

Such actions, often motivated by religious convictions, are heart-warming and inspiring. The Christmas season, however, reminds us of even greater good news. Christianity asserts that God loved people so much that He sent His Son Jesus to be born as a human baby, to teach and show us how to live, and to die on the cross to atone for our sins. Christians believe that accepting Jesus as our Savior and Lord enables individuals to experience the "abundant life" He promised on earth, empowers us to serve others, and ensures us of spending eternity with Him and our loved ones in Heaven.

About The Author:

Dr. Gary Scott Smith chairs the history department at Grove City College and is a fellow for faith and the presidency with The Center for Vision & Values. His most recent book is Heaven in the American Imagination (Oxford University Press, 2011).


The 3 Things we can give to God in 2017

by Greg Laurie

As we enter into a new year, here is something to remember: When it's all said and done, we have three things we can offer God - our treasure, our talent, and our time. Each of these is given to us by God, and each of them should be given back in generous portions.

First, there is our treasure. I urge you to commit yourself to give faithfully and generously to the Lord in this coming year. Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21 NKJV). Whenever we put our money into something, we develop a vested interest in it. It makes sense to us that we would place our treasures where our hearts are. If we love reading books, or being entertained, or the latest technology, we spend our treasure on those things. And if our heart's desires change, that changes where we put our treasure.

But it works the other way too: Where we put our treasures, our heart will follow. Do you want your heart to be in the things of God? Then put your treasures in the things of God! Develop a vested interest in God's kingdom.

The second thing we can give to God is our talent. God has gifted each believer in different ways. Everyone has something to offer for the work of the kingdom. Romans 12 says, "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us different work to do" (NLT).

Finally, there is our time. Let's say that one day your phone rang and it was the president of the bank that you use. He told you that an anonymous donor who loved you very much had decided to deposit 86,400 pennies into your bank account each and every morning. At first, maybe that didn't seem like a lot. But then you figured out that it was $864 a day. At seven days a week and 52 weeks a year, those pennies add up to almost $315,000 each year! But the bank president added one thing: "The anonymous giver said you must spend all of the money on the day you receive it! No balance will be carried over to the next day. Each evening the bank must cancel whatever sum you failed to use! Remember, what you don't spend is lost."

That may sound like fantasy, but here's the reality: Every morning, Someone who loves you very much deposits into your "bank of time" 86,400 seconds, which represent 1,440 minutes, which of course equals 24 hours each and every day. God gives you that much to use each day. Nothing is ever carried over on credit to the next day. There is no such thing as a 27-hour day. It's called time, and you can't escape it. Time is ticking away right now. The Bible tells us to "redeem the time"—to make sacred and wise use of every opportunity.

Offer God your treasure, your talent, and your time. Live this next year as if it were your last, because it could be. Make those minutes count!

Source: Daily Devotion with Greg Laurie
Copyright ©2016 by Harvest Ministries. All Rights Reserved.

My New Year's Offering

by Wendy Blight

"Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering."
- Romans 12:1a (The Message)

Happy New Year!

During this first week of January, many of us will begin anew. New diets and exercise regiments. New Bible studies and reading plans. New organization and time management routines.

We'll commit to break bad habits, restore broken relationships, and be "better" people.

We call these New Year's resolutions. I confess. I've made more than my fair share of these in the last 25 years.

But most, like me, soon forget our good-intended resolutions. We mean well. But life gets busy. We return to our old habits. To that which is comfortable and doesn't require so much sacrifice.

I want something better. Something new.

What about you?

Will you join me in doing a new thing this year?

Let's begin the very best place we can ... God's Word. Romans 12:1-2 says,

"So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering ... Fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it ... God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you." (The Message)

Using this passage, let's write a New Year's Prayer. But not just any prayer. Reread Romans 12:1. There is a powerful little word tucked in that first sentence. Paul tells us to take our lives and place them before God as an offering.

Together, let's make a New Year's offering.

We can make all the resolutions we want, but we can't change ourselves. But when we willingly offer our lives to God, He will change us. The NIV translation of Romans 12:2 says, " transformed by the renewing of your mind." The renewing of our mind requires inward change and comes from God at work in us. It requires diligence on our part. It requires changing our thoughts, our priorities, and goals to be aligned with those of Christ.

It's baby steps. And it doesn't require changing everything all at once.

Let's begin today with our first step ... a simple prayer, offering our hearts to God.

How do we do this?

We're going to write a prayer together. I'll start. You finish.

Heavenly Father, I praise You this day as Elohim, God my Creator. You are the Author of my life. You are the Strength of my heart and my Portion forever. You are all I need. My heart's desire in this New Year is to grow closer to You. In knowing You better, I will know myself more because my identity is found in You.

I want to become a woman after Your own heart. God, I ask You to help me each day carve out time to spend with You. Give me eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to receive, and a mind to understand all that You will teach me. Make my heart tender to hear Your voice each time I meet with You.

Take Your Word and penetrate my heart. Create a hunger deep inside my soul for more and more of You. May nothing else satisfy me more than You.

Give me a heart of humility. If there is anything in me that keeps me from hearing You, reveal it to me. Convict me. Move me to confession. Cleanse my heart and renew a right spirit within me so I can be in perfect fellowship with You.

Fill my heart with Your truth. Plant it deep so that it takes root. Move me. Change me. Transform me. Empower me to live out what I hear and learn.

Every day of this New Year, make my life one long walk of obedience in response to Your Word and Your Holy Spirit Who lives and reigns in me. Let Your love and Your Word shape my life. This is my prayer offering. I ask this in Jesus' Name,

Now let's commit together to pray our prayer throughout the year ... asking God to change us from the inside out ... in baby steps.

Reflect and Respond:

Read through Romans 12:1-2. Take some time in the next few days to make this New Year's prayer offering your own. After you've written it, tuck it in your Bible or journal and commit to pray it each day.

Power Verses:

Psalm 51:17, "The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God." (NLT)

Source: Encouragement for Today
© 2014 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.


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