Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Syriac Orthodox, Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Quad Centum (Issue 400) Souvenir Edition

Volume 7 No. 400 March 1, 2017
 

Chapter 19: Christian Life

Pursuing Excellence

Look at your life. Is it filled with godly love, discernment, and the pursuit of excellence - or has worldly trivia crowded out those virtues? ...

Seven Helpful Tips for Making and Keeping Friends

Making and keeping friends has been an exercise of prayer, patience and surrender for the past several years of my life. As I've worked through the growing pains, God has graciously brought many people into my life who have shared great insight on forming community. ...

Becoming Like Jesus Is a Slow Process

Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life. ...

Responding like Jesus When People Judge You

God is helping me to see things. If we let external criticisms dwell as internal truths, we'll live imprisoned. You see, the peanut gallery will always have comments as to who we should be. Yet, we don't have to be who they say we should be. Who we should be is - who God created us to be. ...

Being Content With What You Have

The Lord wants you to be free from the materialism that so easily controls your non-Christian neighbors. Your earthly possessions are only temporary anyway. You will lose them all one day soon enough. So God tells you and me to be "content with what you have" (Heb. 13:5) ...

Developing a Passion for God

Even the pursuit of the knowledge of God can become a snare of arrogance. Theology can become a game, a power game to see who can display the most erudition. When it is such a game it proceeds from an unholy passion. ..

 Chapter 19: Christian Life

Pursuing Excellence

by John MacArthur

"So that you may approve the things that are excellent"
(Phil. 1:10).

In a world of mediocrity and confusion, God calls you to excellence and discernment.

There's the story of a pilot who came on the loudspeaker mid flight and said, "I have some good news and bad news. The bad news is we've lost all our instrumentation and don't know where we are. The good news is we have a strong tail wind and are making great time." That's an accurate picture of how many people live: they have no direction in life but they're getting there fast!

We as Christians are to be different because we have divine guidance and eternal goals. Our lives are to be marked by a confident trust in God and a pursuit of spiritual excellence.

"Excellent" in Philippians 1:10 speaks of things that are worthwhile and vital. Approving what is excellent refers to testing things as one would test a precious metal to determine its purity and value. It goes beyond knowing good from evil. It distinguishes between better and best. It involves thinking biblically and focusing your time and energy on what really counts. It involves cultivating spiritual discipline and not being controlled by your emotions, whims, moods, or circumstances.

Many organizations and businesses have adopted the motto, "Commitment to Excellence" to convey their desire to provide the finest product or service possible. If secular-minded people strive for that level of achievement, how much more should Christians pursue excellence for the glory of God!

Look at your life. Is it filled with godly love, discernment, and the pursuit of excellence - or has worldly trivia crowded out those virtues?

Suggestions for Prayer

Read Isaiah 12:1-6 as a psalm of praise to the God of excellence. Ask God to give you a heart constantly set on pursuing excellence for His glory. For Further Study

Daniel was a man who pursued excellence. Read Daniel 1:1 - 2:21.

What was Daniel's decision regarding the king's food and wine, and how did he handle the situation? How did Daniel and his three friends compare in wisdom and understanding to the magicians and conjurers? What principles do you see in those two chapters that apply to your life?

Source: Grace to You.org

Seven Helpful Tips for Making and Keeping Friends

by Kelly Givens

A common thread connecting most women is our longing for community. Ironically, almost all of us struggle with loneliness, but none of us seem to be sure how to make connections that are deep and lasting.

Making and keeping friends has been an exercise of prayer, patience and surrender for the past several years of my life. As I've worked through the growing pains, God has graciously brought many people into my life who have shared great insight on forming community. Here are just a few of the principles I've held onto as I learn to make friendships that last.

1. Give it time.

When we were younger, life moved quickly. After college, life slows wayyy down. You get into a weekly groove of work and weekends, and a year can go by without life looking much different than the year before. In a way, there's a sweet grace to that – I think we often long for lives full of adventure, but God often demands faith in the midst of the mundane.

Regardless, the amount of time available to you to spend on friendship changes as you age. You used to see friends everyday, perhaps even lived with them, but now you may only see those friends once every few weeks. If you're married, have children or travel for work a lot, that free time lessens even more. Understanding this is critical to developing patience as you do the hard work of forming connections. It might take longer than it used to, but creating community can happen.

2. Be intentional.

There's never going to be an article about making friends that doesn't mention intentionality. And the reason you have to be intentional is because of point #1 – if you're not intentional, you're just never going to get together with people. There are just too many other things vying for our attention.

And even if you don't have a lot going on, it's a heck of a lot easier to come home after work, make a quick dinner and veg out with Netflix until bedtime. And some days, that's totally okay. But if you're struggling to make friends, you might want to consider making some plans with people you'd like to get to know better. Which brings me to my next point...

3. Don't expect other people to notice you're lonely.

This one was a tough lesson for me to learn. Shortly after getting married, my husband and I moved to a tiny town where there weren't many people our age. I struggled with making connections in our church and often thought, Why aren't more people trying to get to know us?! Don't they see we're new here and could use some friends!

Waiting for other people to notice you is a great way to never make friends. Yes, it would be great if we were all a little (or a lot) better about reaching out to people in our neighborhoods, churches, offices, etc. But if your goal is to make friends, waiting around for someone to see all of your great qualities isn't the best tactic.

After my husband and I relocated, I decided to change my approach. For a year, I got out of my introvert shell and did everything I could to meet people. I sat awkwardly by myself at church dinners, I went alone to Bible studies without knowing a single person, signed up for any weeknight young women's events, attended random parties thrown by coworkers not even in my department--you name it, I did it.

It was awkward, but it paid off. Three years later, I have a handful of dear friends who really know me well and are a weekly part of my life. I turn down more social functions now because I want to focus my free time on being intentional with friends I've already made. But if I had waited around for people to notice me, I'm pretty sure I'd still be friendless.

4. Reach out to other women who need friends.

The "cool crowd" isn't just something you deal with in high school. There is always that coveted group that you see and think, If only I were a part of that group! They know each other so well and hang out all the time! I want to be friends with them!

The thing is, trying to force yourself into an already existing group of friends often backfires. These people already have their history together and you may set yourself up for heartache trying to insert yourself into their community. But there are ALWAYS women on the peripheral, longing for friendship just as much as you are.

When I first started attending my church 3 years ago, I made a point to seek out women who also seemed new to the church or on the outside of already established friend groups. These women are now some of my dearest friends.

Instead of fighting to insert yourself into a community, be bold and create your own.

5. Don't put unreasonable expectations on your friendships.

When our desires become expectations, relationships wither. Case in point: several years ago, I was grabbing lunch with a friend, a friend who was really draining me, although I couldn't quite pinpoint why.

At some point, feeling frustrated but also wanting to know how to love her well, I asked her, "What would it look like for me to be a good friend to you in this season of life?" She told me that she really needed me to call her every week, and to hold her spiritually accountable for some things going on in her faith walk, and that it would be great if we could meet up face to face at least once a month (we didn't live in the same city, so getting together was hard).

Her response was illuminating for me. Her expectations might not have been unreasonable for some, but in the season of life I was currently in (new marriage, new town, new job) I couldn't possibly be and do all those things for her. I was able to articulate that her desires for our friendship were becoming expectations I couldn't live up to, and that helped ease some of the pressure I felt to meet all her needs.

It was a heart check for me as well, as I considered all the unrealistic expectations I was placing on my other friends. Which leads me to...

6. Generously give grace.

Your friends are going to let you down. That's just a fact. But giving grace doesn't only mean forgiving a friend when she does something intentionally hurtful.

Grace is needed for the unintentional hurts as well--like for that friend who is terrible at initiating get-togethers. Or the friend who often dominates the conversation. Or the friend who never got back to you about hanging out, but you see on Instagram that she's been with various friends after work all week.

You have to decide: is this person, with all her quirks, still worth pursuing in friendship? If the answer is yes, then you're going to have to learn to give a lot of grace. Of course, that doesn't mean you can't bring up problems or always avoid conflict, but I think we often expect way too much out of our friends.

Personally, I have a friend who is terrible at initiating get-togethers. But when I'm with her, I always have the most encouraging and thoughtful conversations. So I've gotten over being the one who always calls, because she shows me in other ways just how much she cares.

7. Finally, learn to listen well.

This means cultivating the art of being silent. We might have the perfect solution to a friend's problem, or have a story that shows just how much we understand what she is going through, but sometimes it's not about saying anything. Sometimes people just need to be heard.

When we fine-tune our listening skills, our friends walk away feeling heard, known and cherished. Who wouldn't want to be friends with you if that's the feeling you leave others with?

Making and keeping friends isn't easy. It's almost always hard work and it often leaves us feeling vulnerable and wounded. I've shed plenty of tears over friendships that just didn't seem to be going at the pace or depth I wanted. But learning to view community building as a process that takes time, intentionality and grace has helped me make and keep lasting friendships.

What other tips would you have for someone struggling to make friends?

Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.

Source: Christianity.com

Becoming Like Jesus Is a Slow Process

By Rick Warren

"This will continue until we are . . . mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him" (Ephesians 4:13 CEV).

Becoming like Christ is a long, slow process of growth. Spiritual maturity is neither instant nor automatic; it is a gradual, progressive development that will take the rest of your life.

Referring to this process, Paul said, "This will continue until we are . . . mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him" (Ephesians 4:13 CEV).

You are a work in progress. Your spiritual transformation in developing the character of Jesus will take the rest of your life, and even then it won't be completed here on Earth. It will only be finished when you get to Heaven or when Jesus returns.

At that point, whatever unfinished work on your character is left will be wrapped up. The Bible says that when we are finally able to see Jesus perfectly, we will become perfectly like him: "We are already God's children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is" (1 John 3:2 NLT, second edition).

Much confusion in the Christian life comes from ignoring the simple truth that God is far more interested in building our character than he is anything else. We worry when God seems silent on specific issues such as "What career should I choose?"

The truth is, there are many different careers that could be in God's will for your life. What God cares about most is that whatever you do, you do in a Christlike manner (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Corinthians 16:14; Colossians 3:17, 23).

God is far more interested in who you are than in what you do. We are human beings, not human doings. God is much more concerned about your character than your career, because you will take your character into eternity, not your career.

God's purpose is to make us like him before he takes us to Heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility, and our ultimate destiny.

Talk It Over

What questions have you been asking God lately that you need to replace with the question, "What is God teaching me about himself through this process?"

Do you count the process of sanctification as a privilege? Why or why not?

What do you need to do so that you are working toward being the person that you want to present to Jesus one day?

Source: Daily Hope with Rick Warren
© 2017 by Rick Warren. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Responding like Jesus When People Judge You

by Kelly Balarie

For the longest time, judgments have thrown me off.

If I saw you looking at me weird, I was convinced you hated me.
If you had a comment that I wasn't doing things right, I'd be devastated.
If you raised an eyebrow at my parenting style, I'd want to go climb into a hole and stay there until you are long gone.

It's been hard for me to contend with people who condemn.

With certain people, I expect them to act a certain way. I can almost hear the words they're going to say before they say them. I can almost see the pain strike my heart before the words are even formed in their mouth. With this, I internally fear and steer clear of them. I put up layers so they don't prick me. I hide to protect my own hide.

I think, today, though, I am ready to admit, I am pretty much tired of this approach. I no longer want to relegate myself to a hole like a tiny mouse unworthy and unable to be myself. I want to step out – into the light – and do my thing, gnaw on cheese, squeak with joy or pounce around without caring what you, or anyone else, for that matter, thinks.

Jesus didn't tell us to hide our light. He told us to shine it.

Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Mt. 5:15-16

Recently, I met with a friend. She's spent every day of her life being who a family member wanted her to be. I could see how it had taken a toll on her. I could see she was ready to, like a butterfly, break out of her cocoon and fly-free. I wanted to see her colors. I knew God had something great for her – when she'd start being – who he made her to be.

God is helping me to see things. If we let external criticisms dwell as internal truths, we'll live imprisoned. You see, the peanut gallery will always have comments as to who we should be. Yet, we don't have to be who they say we should be. Who we should be is - who God created us to be.

What if Jesus changed who God created him to be in order to accommodate man's standards? In order to please Pharisees or religious elite?

Jesus didn't let criticism and condemnation define him. With this, God gives man's condemnation no room to define us either. There is simply no one who has the power to destroy us. Because Jesus believed in who Father made him to be, and walked accordingly, he duct-taped the world's mouth shut. No one could waver the mission of Jesus, because Jesus never gave them the chance to.

I want to be like that. Do you

Like Jesus, if we just hear the Word of God and walk accordingly, it doesn't matter what man says. He can't change our destiny. He can't wreck our future. He may try to tell us we are ugly, we will never succeed or we are always falling short. But...blah, blah, blah he goes.

  • Jesus is in me.
  • The Spirit is alive.
  • The fruits of the Spirit are growing.

With this power working from me, I can turn right back around and say to him words of: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control.

Why? Not because I am good, but because Jesus' good love holds me tight and says, I am untouchable. I am unremovable from his care. I am undeniably chosen and wanted. For Jesus is attached in me, not the words of someone trying to take me down.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Being Content With What You Have

by John MacArthur

"Let your way of life be free from the love of money, being content with what you have" (Hebrews 13:5).

If you are content with what God has given you, you will not be a person who is covetous or a lover of money.

I once had a man come into my church office and confess the sin of gluttony. When I told him he did not look overweight, he answered, "I know. It is not that I eat too much but that I want to. I continually crave food. It's an obsession."

Covetousness is very similar to that man's gluttonous attitude. You do not have to acquire a lot of things, or even anything at all, to be covetous. If you long to acquire things and are focusing all your attention on how you might get them, you are guilty of covetousness.

It is not wrong to earn or possess wealth. In the Old Testament, Abraham and Job had tremendous wealth. A number of faithful New Testament believers were also fairly wealthy. The problem comes when we have a greedy attitude that craves money above everything else. Paul warns us, "For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang" (1 Tim. 6:10). Loving money is perhaps the most common form of covetousness; it is akin to lusting after material riches in various forms.

No matter how it appears, this kind of covetousness breeds the same spiritual result - it displeases God and separates us from Him. More income, a bigger house, nicer clothes, a fancier car can tempt all of us.

But the Lord wants you to be free from the materialism that so easily controls your non-Christian neighbors. Your earthly possessions are only temporary anyway. You will lose them all one day soon enough. So God tells you and me to be "content with what you have" (Heb. 13:5), realizing that we have "a better possession and an abiding one" (10:34) in our salvation.

Suggestions for Prayer

Is there any covetousness or materialism in your life today? Confess it to the Lord, and pray that He would give you a renewed desire to trust Him rather than uncertain wealth.

For Further Study

Read Luke 12:13-34.

Make a list of the things that illustrate how God cares for our material needs. How does the rich fool's attitude contrast with what Jesus teaches in verse 31?

Source: Grace to You.org

Developing a Passion for God
I remember a stained-glass window that adorned the library of my alma mater. It was situated above the stairwell at the second-floor landing. In leaded letters, the words in the window declared, “Knowledge is power.”

Every time I ascended or descended that staircase I cringed at those words. I did not like them. There was something arrogant about them. I could not deny that the words were true. Knowledge is power. But the lust for power is not a sound motivation to gain knowledge. The Bible is right: Knowledge puffs up; love builds up (1 Cor. 8:1).

Even the pursuit of the knowledge of God can become a snare of arrogance. Theology can become a game, a power game to see who can display the most erudition. When it is such a game it proceeds from an unholy passion.

A holy passion is a passion inflamed by a godly motive. To pursue the knowledge of God to further our understanding of Him and deepen our love for Him is to embark on a quest that delights Him. Jesus encouraged such a pursuit (John 8:31–32). Jesus linked knowledge not with power but with freedom. Knowing the truth is the most liberating power in the world. Not the power to dominate; not the power to impress: These are not the powers we seek. But the power to set free—to give true liberty—is tied to a knowledge of the truth.

We all want liberty. We want to be free of the chains that bind us. That liberty comes from knowing God. But the pursuit of that knowledge may not be casual. Jesus spoke of “abiding” in His Word. The pursuit of God is not a part-time, weekend exercise. If it is, chances are you will experience a part-time, weekend freedom. Abiding requires a kind of staying power. The pursuit is relentless. It hungers and thirsts. It pants as the deer after the mountain brook. It takes the kingdom by storm, pressing with violence to get in.

It is a pursuit of passion. Indifference will not do. To abide in the Word is to hang on tenaciously. A weak grip will soon slip away. Discipleship requires staying power. We sign up for the duration. We do not graduate until heaven.

Coram Deo

Echo this prayer of the apostle Paul: “… that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Phil. 3:10).

Passages for Further Study

Romans 6:7 For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Romans 8:32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Source: Ligonier.Org Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.

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