Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Great Lent week 6
Volume 8 No. 468 March 16, 2018
III. Featured: For Meditation-Reflection

Becoming a Person With Vision

by Rick Duncan

What is it that is broken in your life - something that needs to be rebuilt?

Everybody has something that is broken.

The most hopeless people in the world are people who recognize that they have a problem, but have no vision from
God about how to solve with that problem.

Where there is no vision, the people perish…
Proverbs 29:18

Becoming a person with vision
Rebuilding a broken world

Everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision. The most practical advantage of vision is it sets a direction for our lives. It serves as a road map.

Vision provides the push through the problems. Vision provides the energy for the effort. Without vision our passion leaks, our agendas surface, our production falls, and our people scatter.

In the pages of the OT is the journal of a man who stands tall as person with vision who rebuilt what was broken. His name is Nehemiah. The name means "the Lord's comfort." Nehemiah's visionary efforts brought comfort to God's people in a time of great need.

Nehemiah's lessons are so relevant for today. In the weeks ahead as we study through Nehemiah, we'll see many "how tos." We'll see…

… how to pray about your problems;
… how to "plan your work" and "work your plan;"
… how to set God-given goals;
… how to motivate others when morale is low;
… how to become a person of vision.

Text: Nehemiah 1:1-11

Nehemiah's hope-filled visionary leadership is a powerful example – no matter what your position in life. Coaches, supervisors, parents, student leaders, executives, and spiritual leaders can all learn from this great man.

Let's start by understanding a little about where, when, and how he lived.

The setting is about 500 years before the time of Christ. God's people had lived in Israel for centuries before. God had told them: "Obey Me and you'll live in the land for a long time. Disobey Me and you'll be carried off into captivity." That's what happened. The Babylonians came and conquered God's people and took the leading citizens 1,000 miles away.

But the discipline was ending. Several years before Nehemiah's day, some of God's people were given permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild a broken down temple and a broken down city.

But the attempts to rebuild the protective wall around the city (destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC) had been frustrated by some ‘the enemies of Judah' (Ezra 4:1, 7-16). As a result very few people lived in the capital city (Nehemiah 11:1). Jerusalem was a city of ruins.

Nehemiah lived in the royal city of Susa, the winter residence of Artaxerxes, the Persian king. Judah, the homeland of Nehemiah, was a thousand miles away.

Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king. He was more than a "butler". A cupbearer held a position of great responsibility. At each meal, he tested the king's wine and food to make sure it wasn't poisoned. Of he died, then Doesn't sound like a great job. But think. A man who stood that close to the king in public had to be handsome, cultured, knowledgeable, and able to advise the king when asked. Because he had access to the king, the cupbearer was a man of great influence. The cupbearer was rather like a prime minister and master of ceremonies rolled into one.

Nehemiah was the right man in the right place for God to use. He had vision – vision to see a problem… and it's solution. And because he had vision, he had hope

A visionary person…

1. … sees the need. vv. 1-3

(Look around you!)

Nehemiah's routine was interrupted one day by a group of men who had come from Judah…The report was grim…

1 The words of Nehemiah the son of Hacaliah. Now it happened in the month Chislev, in the twentieth year, while I was in Susa the capitol,

2 that Hanani, one of my brothers, and some men from Judah came; and I asked them concerning the Jews who had escaped and had survived the captivity, and about Jerusalem.

3 They said to me, "The remnant there in the province who survived the captivity are in great distress and reproach, and the wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates are burned with fire."

Bad news came from Jerusalem: walls flattened, gates burned, morale low. But Nehemiah cared about the glory of God and the good of the people in Jerusalem. Now he hears that the Jerusalem Jews were living in desperate days.

Ruin, and reproach…Instead of a magnificent city, Jerusalem was in shambles; and where there had once been great glory, there was now nothing but great reproach.

God was being dishonored as long as Jerusalem lay waste. This was the place where the reality of God's presence would be experienced in love and mercy by those who sought Him. It wasn't happening, so Nehemiah was concerned.

A God-ordained vision will begin as a concern. Something will bother you about the way things are or the way things are headed.

There are far more needs in the church and the world than any of us has time or energy to meet, and no one is required to try to relieve them all. But God's call to serve will be a call to meet some human need.

The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity. George Bernard Shaw

As you start, by the grace of God, to rebuild the walls, you must first of all see the ruin in which they lie.

Vision is a reflection of what God wants to through us to impact the world. It is not about maintaining the status quo.

Living where we live, we can become comfortable. We can lose sight of the need. Do you see the needs that are around you? This is a hemorrhaging and hurting world. There are broken hearts, fractured families, lives. Do you see the brokenness of humanity? People are looking for meaning and value and turn to heart-breaking things.

A visionary person…
… sees the need.

2. … feels the need. v. 4

There is no such thing as emotionless vision. Passion!

(Look within you.)

4 When I heard these words, I sat down and wept and mourned for days; and I was fasting and praying before the God of heaven.

He mourned because the city that was meant to be a light to the nations had become an international joke (Isaiah 42:6-7; 49:6). Nehemiah was so moved by the need that he refused to eat—at least on a regular basis.

Nehemiah knew how to weep with those who weep. He knew how to weep over the failures of the people of God.

It was one thing to know that state of affairs in a general way; it was quite another for Nehemiah to feel the pressure and burden of it in his own heart.

Visions are born in the soul of a man or a woman who is consumed with the tension between what is and what could be. Anyone with vision will tell you this is not merely something that could be done. This is something that should be done. This is something that must happen!

What makes you pound the table – angry? What makes you weep?

Nehemiah was not the last to weep over Jerusalem—one day our Lord sat on the slopes of Mt. Olivet and wept over that city, and mourned and prayed and sacrificed His life for it…life's work for God has only begun when they have wept and mourned and fasted and prayed over the revelation of conditions as they really are.

You never lighten the load unless first you have felt the pressure in your own soul. You are never used of God to bring blessing until God has opened your heart and made you feel deep sorrow about the needs around you.

You have first sat down and wept over the ruins in your soul, in your church, and in the Kingdom of God.

Although nearly half the population says their faith was a critical resource in helping them respond to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a new Barna Research Group poll suggests that people's religious beliefs and practices have not changed in the past year.

"For the most part, our response to the attacks has been to restore continuity and comfort as quickly as possible, without much energy devoted to moral, spiritual or emotional growth."

During the last year, there has been no lasting change in people's religious practices, according to the Barna study. Immediately after the attacks, church attendance rose for several weeks and then fell back to normal levels by November.

"I was among those who fully expected to see an intense spiritual reaction to the terrorist attacks," Barna acknowledged. "The fact that we saw no lasting impact from the most significant act of war against our country on our own soil says something about the spiritual complacency of the American public."

A person with vision…
… feels the need.

3. … shares the need…

… with God.

(Look above you.)

This prayer is the first of twelve. Too often, we plan our projects and then ask God to bless them; but Nehemiah didn't make that mistake.

From Kislev (November-December) to Nisan (March-April) is over a hundred days, more than three months, perhaps more than four. For at least three months, then, Nehemiah and his friends waited on God, asking each day that God would act today.

You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.
Isaiah 62:6

Prayer helps the vision mature in us. Acting too quickly on a vision is like delivering a baby prematurely. They can be weak and not survive. So it is with a vision. Immature visions are weak. They rarely make it to the real world.

Through prayer, God goes to work on you to prepare you for the fulfillment of the vision. Vision comes before preparation. But the preparation must come. Why? Vision will exceed your ability.

Prayer prepares you for the job ahead. And prayer mysteriously moves the hand of God to work behind the scenes preparing the way. Prayer helps you distinguish between a good idea and a God idea. It helps you make sure that you are in line with what God is up to in the world.

Prayer keeps us looking. It keeps the burden fresh. It sensitizes us to the subtle changes in the landscape of our circumstances. When God begins to move, we see it. Praying helps us not miss the opportunities that come our way.

Visionary prayer…

a. … exalts God.

5 I said, "I beseech You, O LORD God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who preserves the covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments,

b … admits sin.

6 let Your ear now be attentive and Your eyes open to hear the prayer of Your servant which I am praying before You now, day and night, on behalf of the sons of Israel Your servants, confessing the sins of the sons of Israel which we have sinned against You; I and my father's house have sinned.
7 We have acted very corruptly against You and have not kept the commandments, nor the statutes, nor the ordinances which You commanded Your servant Moses.

He included himself in the confession of the sins of his people.

Genuine confession like this reaches the ear of God. Nehemiah is not a critic. He's not a self-satisfied holier-than- thou type who's fixated on the failures of others.

"God, have mercy on me, a sinner" (Luke 18:9-14).

c. … reviews truth.

He reminds God of His own word.
Lev. 26:40-45 and Deut. 4:23; 30: 1-6

He dared to remind God of the great deliverance from Egypt,…Nehemiah based all his prayer upon God's past dealings, and he saw in them a mirror of God's future plans.

8 Remember the word which You commanded Your servant Moses, saying, 'If you are unfaithful I will scatter you among the peoples;

9 but if you return to Me and keep My commandments and do them, though those of you who have been scattered were in the most remote part of the heavens, I will gather them from there and will bring them to the place where I have chosen to cause My name to dwell.'

10 "They are Your servants and Your people whom You redeemed by Your great power and by Your strong hand.

d. … requests help.

11 Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name, and make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man." Now I was the cupbearer to the king.

Leviticus 26:27-45 and Deut. 30:1-5. ‘If the curses were literally carried out, how much more will the promised blessings be fulfilled?'

While Nehemiah was praying, his burden for Jerusalem became greater and his vision for what needed to be done became clearer. Real prayer keeps your heart and your head in balance so your burden doesn't make you impatient to run ahead of the Lord and ruin everything. As we pray, god tells us what to do, when to do it, and how to do it;

A person with vision shares the need… with God…

… with God's people. v. 11a

(Look beside you.)

11a Lord, I beseech You, may Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant and the prayer of Your servants who delight to revere Your name…

Who are these "servants who delight in revering your name"? They have to be godly friends and associates with whom Nehemiah has shared his concern and who have now joined him in his intense vigil of prayer as he pleads with God to act.

Followers find the leader and then the vision. Leaders find the vision and then the followers.

A person with vision…
… shares the need.

4. … meets the need. v. 11b

(Look beyond you.)

11b …make Your servant successful today and grant him compassion before this man." Now I was the cupbearer to the king.

Don't forget that he was the king's cupbearer and he was successfully secure in his own life.

Dedication to God's service was the first item…Nehemiah identified himself in prayer as God's "servant" (1:6, 11),
and the way of a faithful servant is constantly to ask, as Paul did on the Damascus road, "What shall I do, Lord?"
(Acts 22:10).

Romans 12:1-2: Living sacrifice…

Someone said that that prayer is not getting man's will done in heaven but getting God's will done on earth.
However, for God's will to be done on earth, He needs people to be available for Him to use.

God is still looking for people who care… "Here am I, Lord—send me!"

Get out of your comfort zone. Get out of the nest! A nest is good for a robin while it is an egg. But it is bad for a robin when it has wings. It's a good place to be hatched in, but it's poor place to fly in. It's always sad when people don't want to leave the nests of their lives.

A person with vision…
… meets the need.

Lisa Beamer… Let's Roll

Husband Todd. United Flight 93

One of Todd's favorite quotes was from Teddy Roosevelt.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena… who strives valiantly… who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

This is the way to have hope when things are broken.

As long as there's a God in heaven and people on earth who believe in Him and who will work with Him, there is hope!

Study Materials:

  • Hand Me another Brick by Chuck Swindoll
  • Nehemiah: Experiencing the good hand of God (Bible study) by John MacArthur
Poem: Never underestimate my Jesus

Am I at the point of no improvement?
What of the death, I still dwell in?
I try to excel but I feel no movement
Can I be free of this unreleasable sin?

Never underestimate my Jesus
You're tellin' me that there's no hope
I'm tellin' you, you're wrong

Never underestimate my Jesus
When the world around you crumbles
He will be strong, He will be strong

I throw up my hands, oh the impossibilities
Frustrated and tired, where do I go from here?
Now I'm searching for the confidence, I've lost so willingly
Overcoming these obstacles is overcoming my fears

Never underestimate my Jesus
You're tellin' me that there's no hope
I'm tellin' you, you're wrong

Never underestimate my Jesus
When the world around you crumbles
He will be strong, He will be strong

I think I can't, I think I can't
But I think you can, I think you can
I think I can't, I think I can't
But I think you can, I think you can
Gather my insufficiencies and place them in your hands
Place them in your hands, place them in your hands

Never underestimate my Jesus
You're tellin' me that there's no hope
I'm tellin' you, you're wrong
Never underestimate my Jesus
When the world around you crumbles
He will be strong

Never underestimate my Jesus
You're tellin' me that there's no hope
I'm tellin' you, you're wrong
Never underestimate my Jesus
When the world around you crumbles
He will be strong, He will be strong

He will be strong
He will be strong
He will be strong


Yesterday and Today

by Arun Andrews

In their 1965 album Help, the Beatles sang, "Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they're here to stay. Oh, I believe in yesterday…"

Our temptation to live in the "good ole' days" is captured well in this song. It is not surprising, therefore, that the song has more cover versions than any song ever written - over 3000! For some of us, yesterday always seems to enamor. Somehow it seems the weather was better, the pressure lesser, the prices lower, the traffic slower, the currency stronger, the trees greener, the atmosphere cleaner, the youth kinder, the music softer, the world safer, and the trousers longer! "Oh, I believe in yesterday," we hear ourselves sighing.

By contrast to the Beatles, country singer Don Williams sings, "Don't think about tomorrow, it don't matter anymore. We can turn the key and lock the world outside the door." While the Beatles voice the temptation to live in our yesterdays, Don Williams voices the temptation to forget our tomorrows. Between or apart from the wishful romanticizing of our yesterdays and the hasty dismissals of our tomorrows, is there a life worth living?

In her novel, The Namesake, Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri tells the story of Gogol who is named after his father's favorite author. But growing up in an Indian family in suburban America, the boy starts to hate the awkward name and itches to cast it off. In 1982 on his 14th birthday, his father presents him a specially ordered copy of The Short Stories of Nikolai Gogol. He tells him how he felt a special kinship with the author and that it had taken four months for the book to arrive from Britain, specially ordered for the occasion. To young Gogol the sentiments were not palpable. Time moves on. Gogol's life moves on. His father dies unexpectedly. The story captures his efforts to reinvent his identity by embracing a new name, exploring meaning in relationships, an education, and a career. For all those years his father's gift was set aside. But pain has a way of bringing back more than memory. The story ends in the year 2000 when Gogol is 32, divorced and pondering. It is then that he picks up the gift that his father gave him at age 14 and starts to read.

There are some things in life that are irreversible. Had Gogol wished then to start life all over again, there was no way of going back to when he was 14, or spending time with his father once again. Sadly for some of us, there are no replays in real life.

If this was an option the day after the crucifixion, the apostles would have certainly requested a replay. How much they would have desired to go back! Not only that they might be with Jesus, but that they would be right with him. Remember the time you vowed to live a certain way only to break the promise a few days later? Peter felt the same. For those of us who feel like we are the only ones who fail, the gospel writer has a word about the commonness of our humanness: All of the disciples deserted Jesus and fled from him. The problem with the Christ was not that he had asserted a demand, but that he had gently solicited their support. To think that a king would speak in such a fashion to his subjects is beyond imagination. Returning to his disciples in his hour of anguish, he repeatedly found them sleeping. "Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked.

How much he had likened himself to us in order to bear away sin. How much he had bent towards humanity, giving visibility to the psalmist's ascription of "God our Savior who daily bears our burdens for us" (Psalm 68:19). He had given them so much. He had asked for so little. Yet, they had failed him. And still, the great hope of the Christian faith is that, even knowing every past denial and every coming failure of humanity, Jesus comes near today on our behalf.

With the Beatles, one can sing, "I believe in yesterday," with Don Williams, one can sing, "Don't think about tomorrow," but it is only with Jesus the suffering servant, the risen Savior that one can sing, "Because he lives, I can face tomorrow."

About The Author:

Arun Andrews is a member of the speaking team with Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bangalore, India.

Source: A Slice of Infinity
Copyright © 2013 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

Is The Light of God the Center of Your Spiritual Solar System?

by Chuck Ness, TRC Political Editor

When a person thinks about light, usually the first thing that will come to mind is the sun. We have been taught that the sun is the center of the solar system and thus it is the light of the world. This ball of fire that life on earth depends upon, is so massive in size that it contains 99.85% of all the matter in the Solar System, or 332,800 times that of earth. The distance from earth to the sun is 93,000,000 miles, which would take you 71 years to travel going 150 mph. The sun creates energy by burning several hundred million tons of hydrogen per second, converting it to helium by nuclear fusion. This process causes the surface temperature to be about 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and scientists have calculated that there is nothing which can stop the light emitted by this fireball from expanding outwards forever. So taking all these factors and other information into consideration you would think that the sun is the light of the world but that is not what the Scriptures tell us.

In Genesis we learn that God created light on the first day, (Genesis 1:4-5) but he did not create the sun until the fourth day. (Genesis 1:16-17) Now I could argue with scientists and cosmologists over their understanding of creation and my understanding of the Bible, but that is not the subject of this article. No, I am talking about Jesus being the "Light of the World" and how His followers should be a reflection of His light for the world to see. We know the Bible says that light was created on the first day, but then we read in John's Gospel that Jesus is the light that shines in the darkness, and that light comes from God, and the light is God. (John 1:1-5) Later in John's Gospel we read that Jesus Himself declares that He is "Light of the World", and that whoever follows Him shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life. (John 8:12) He also said that as believers, we are to be the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14) Let us consider what Jesus meant when He said he was "The Light". Well, He certainly did not mean that He was a glowing light bulb walking around like some illuminated spirit. Remember, while Jesus walked and taught among His disciples 2000 years ago, He was as John testified, a real man. (1 John 1:1-3)

The Bible describes heavenly beings as angels of light, as was the angel in Acts 12:7 who released Peter from prison. However, Jesus was specifically speaking of what he came to do. When He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath in His hometown of Nazareth, He tells us what that is. Reading from the book of Isaiah Jesus told the men that the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him and that He was anointed to preach the good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recover the sight of the blind, release the oppressed, and proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:16-18)

Essentially, the life of Christ on earth was all about bringing life to mankind as described in John 1:4, "In him was life, and that life was the light of men." This means he brought hope and restoration to a world of hopelessness and brokenness. He freed some from the prison of sickness, others from the loneliness of being an outcast or low class, and a few from the grips of death itself. The teaching of Jesus freed people from their ignorance concerning God, His kingdom, the meaning of obedience, and the way of salvation. He also freed the lost from their sins by granting forgiveness, but the most important lesson we learn from the life of Jesus is His sacrificial act of offering himself on the cross to take away the sin of the world. John the baptist declared, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John. 1:29), and Jesus says of himself, "For the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many". (Mark 10:45)

Jesus came to display all the goodness of God through His caring acts toward people. He came teaching truth, and to bear the punishment for our sin. In all these ways Jesus is the light of the world, and as the light, He calls for His followers to reflect His light on the world while we still live in it. Like Moses, whose face glowed after being in the presence of God, we shine because we have the light of Jesus in our lives. (Exodus 34:29-35) His presence helps us fight the battle against darkness by bringing truth to the blind, and hope to those burdened by sin. We bring acceptance to the forgotten and unloved, joy to the sad, reason and calmness to the impatient, and to those confused about life we bring God's word. This is the light that Jesus promised those who follow and obey Him, and this is the way the light can and should affect us. (John 8:12)

This light also attracts others indwelled with the Light of life, and together we form the church that Christ promised would stand the test of time. When Christians stand together we can shine as bright as the sun, and our light will reach as far as infinity. Those who do not understand us will be effected by the glow of our love and truth in a positive way. That is what happened to Kevin Roose when he decided to go to Lynchburg, Va., to enroll at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University. Roose pretended he was an evangelical Christian while he attended summer classes so that he could blend in and get the scoop about Jerry Falwell's extreme radical Christian University. Roose would eventually include the lessons he learned about the School and the students who attend it in a book called , "The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University."

So what was the biggest result of this young man's experience you may ask? Well after the semester was over Kevin came away with a change of mind and a change of heart towards what he used to think about Christians, and Liberty University. First he made friends with Christians to the point where they became some of his best friends. This is a direct result of the light Christ spoke of when he said, "You are the light of the world… let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven". (Matthew 5:14-15) These young Christians allowed the light of Christ to shine in the presence of Kevin. Even more significant was the change that Kevin realized in himself. He discovered that, as a person, he has a spiritual side that includes the idea that God exists and that talking to God is not only a worthwhile experience but a meaningful, powerful and beautiful one.

When Kevin had to come forth with the truth of his undercover charade, he was sure that all the friends he had made would turn on him. However, he soon learned one more lesson about God and His children, a true Christian holds no grudge and hates no man. Now that Kevin is back at Brown University, he has gotten back to doing almost everything the way he used to. However, there is one little thing that Kevin has picked up from his semester at Liberty University that he says he will never stop doing. Kevin tries to pray to God everyday, and he has come to the realization that praying to God has changed him, and in turn he changes those around him.

I would suggest reading Kevins book, "The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University." It's an easy read that you can probably get through in a few days. I promise it will bless your soul, as you learn how Kevin was touched by the light of Christ that was shining from the students of Liberty University. Now that light has become the center of Kevin's spiritual solar system.

Source: TRC Magazine


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