Malankara World Journal Theme: Faith and Belief
Volume 2 No. 102 October 4, 2012
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Table of Contents
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Fourth Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross
This issue of Malankara World Journal focuses on Faith. Indeed we can think of
the basic tenets of Christianity as charity, hope, and faith. Many people get
confused about faith. They ask dumb questions like, "Can you prove it?" Faith is
something you believe in without seeing it. If you can see it or prove it you do
not need faith to believe in it.
Many of our Christian Creed is based on faith and mystery. In the last issue, I touched on the matter of faith when discussing the media propaganda about whether Jesus was married.
I have said that Nicene creed is something we absolutely believe in. It is the backbone of our faith. If you can crack it then the Christianity become vulnerable. On the other hand there are lot of other things we believe in outside the Nicene creed. If some of these are compromised, then it will not damage Christianity beyond repair. Please note that I was playing the "devil's advocate" here separating the fundamental creed from other dogmas. Yes, I do believe in what our church believe, such as St. Mary as mother of God and remaining as a virgin throughout her life, intercessory prayers, etc. etc.
Now let us take a look at the core belief or creed. We believe in one God manifesting as the Trinity: father, son and Holy Spirit as the three persons of the Trinity. Malankara World has a Supplement on Trinity that explains this difficult theological subject well. You can find it here: ) Father created everything (seen and unseen). Jesus is the only begotten son of God and has incarnated by word becoming flesh in virgin Mary. Now comes the other key part. We believe that Jesus Christ was crucified, died and was buried. He rose again from the dead on the third day. This resurrection is the key faith issue. It is something we cannot discount.
In fact St. Paul made it very clear. In 1 Corinthians chapter 15:13-14, St. Paul said:
If Christ hasn't risen from the dead, we have nothing left in Christian faith.
Chapter 15 of 1 Corinthians if often described as the original creed. St. Paul talked about the key points the early church believed in. I encourage you to read the whole chapter. It is fascinating to read. St. Paul debates this issue well. Here are some salient excerpts:
1 Corinthians 15 (MSG) - Resurrection
Source: The Message (MSG);
Selwyn Hughes said that there are three important reasons why resurrection is important to the Christian faith:
Like St. Paul said, if Christ hasn't resurrected, our faith is in vain or useless and the apostles were liars and cheaters. It is the KEY tenet of Christianity. There is absolutely no compromise on this faith. It is Non-Negotiable. Either you believe it as it is or you don't.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
Fourth Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
|Inspiration for Today: Faith|
Jesus wondered if there would be any faith on earth when he came back. With the faith of a mustard seed you can move a mountain. Jesus said that he that believed, the same works would he do as Jesus Himself did, and greater. Faith is compared to gold, which is rare and precious.
For thousands of years people thought about flying, but did not. It wasn't until very recently in time that anyone flew. In all of time it was as possible to fly as it is now, but nobody knew how. An airplane must have all of its components, plus fuel to fly. Take out any one of many important parts, or change them in the least, and it will not take off.
Faith, I believe, is like this. One must believe correctly, and live correctly, before Almighty God, for Him to answer you with mighty works, impossible apart from His intervention. To have faith, one must believe, and believing defies everything that one has experienced, or has known about the natural world and much of it's history. One, in all reality, must believe in God's ability, and His willingness to do works, that go way beyond our common understanding of how the material world operates.
Because not very many mighty, nature defying, completely unexplainable, apart from God's intervention, feats of faith have been seen or experienced, doesn't mean that they are any less possible than flight by man. It means that few know what it means to believe in God in such a way that He will perform them.
Source: Internet Comments by Bellflower
by L B Cowman
God allowed the crisis to close around Jacob on the night when he bowed at Peniel in supplication, to bring him to the place where he could take hold of God as he never would have done; and from that narrow pass of peril, Jacob became enlarged in his faith and knowledge of God, and in the power of a new and victorious life.
God had to compel David, by a long and painful discipline of years, to learn the almighty power and faithfulness of his God, and grow up into the established principles of faith and godliness, which were indispensable for his glorious career as the king of Israel.
Nothing but the extremities in which Paul was constantly placed could ever have taught him, and taught the Church through him, the full meaning of the great promise he so learned to claim, "My grace is sufficient for thee."
And nothing but our trials and perils would ever have led some of us to know Him as we do, to trust Him as we have, and to draw from Him the measures of grace which our very extremities made indispensable.
Difficulties and obstacles are God's challenges to faith. When hindrances confront us in the path of duty, we are to recognize them as vessels for faith to fill with the fullness and all-sufficiency of Jesus; and as we go forward, simply and fully trusting Him, we may be tested, we may have to wait and let patience have her perfect work; but we shall surely find at last the stone rolled away, and the Lord waiting to render unto us double for our time of testing. --A. B. Simpson
Source: Streams in the Desert
by Ralph BoumaScripture: Psalm 27
I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD (Psalm 27:13-14).
Psalm 27 is a most blessed expression of David's assurance of faith and praises unto God. See how he begins in verse 1: "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"I want you to notice that this is a powerful, positive expression of the assurance of the salvation of God. He is talking here of salvation, not only for his soul, but also in being delivered from his temporal difficulties and enemies. We must see the salvation of God as much more than just what occurs after the day of judgment. The salvation of God is something we may experience on a daily basis—being saved from the power of sin, being saved from the deceitfulness of sin and self, being saved from the enemies we have in this world. All of this is contained in the salvation David speaks of.
As this Psalm goes on to express David's calmness and steadfast trust in God in a time of extreme trial, we find he describes an experience that is personal and in temporal matters. I want you to see what he is talking about in verse 2: "When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell."I want you to see how calmly and collectively David goes through these trials. What fear did David need to have of what man could do to him? Salvation also pertains to deliverance from these things in our lives, from the trials and the people in this world who would eat the very flesh off our bones. We cannot live on old manna or old experiences, but David often looked back at former deliverances to strengthen his faith in a present trial. We read in 1 Samuel 17:33-37: "And Saul said to David, Thou art not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him: for thou art but a youth, and he a man of war from his youth. And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father's sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. Thy servant slew both the lion and the bear: and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he hath defied the armies of the living God. David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with thee."
I cannot look at a blessing I had 20 years ago, and say, Well, I know I am saved because I had that experience. David spoke of how these rose up against him, and how the Lord spared him. This gave him such a calmness in his present trial.
In the trial we have today, we may draw comfort from the deliverance the Lord gave us yesterday, last year or in our youth. We may build our faith on a God who has saved and who will save. From these past experiences, we build our confidence, because the Lord has delivered, and He will deliver.
The trials become more severe as life goes on. David could build on the deliverances he had experienced in the past as the foundation to believe that he would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. The man of faith matures in his trust and confidence in God as he personally experiences these deliverances in the time of trial. We know we can believe.
You can have a person you have known all your life, but until you have had dealings with them you do not really know them. David had dealings with God. He had times when the Lord had given him hope, and he saw how the Lord had been faithful to His Word.
The Philistine is a type of the old man of sin. As we struggle and grapple with old Satan, and have had various deliverances from the old man of sin, it gives us the faith and courage to believe that God will deliver us from current trials. The trials can be so severe that we would faint if it had not been that we could look at the times the Lord has blessed us with such great deliverances, and now we may believe He will deliver us in this trial. In the land of the living means this present trial.
David said in verse 3: "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident."
This confidence is most personal, but see how God's fellowship and honor are the moving forces behind such childlike trust. He went on to say in verses 4 and 5: "One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple. For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock."
Now David is starting to incorporate his temporal trials into spiritual trials. He has learned to trust the Lord in temporal things, and it builds on his faith so he now trusts the Lord in spiritual things. Now he wants to be next to the Lord in his spiritual values. He speaks of the safety and security he has in Christ, the intimate relationship he has with God.
I have talked to many people who can trust the Lord for their spiritual things, and yet when it comes to the slightest physical trial in this life, they do not trust Him at all. They do not trust Him for tomorrow. They cannot trust Him for a living. They cannot trust Him for food, drink or clothing.
It is this form of intimate union and communion with God that David found as his strength in time of trouble. Our text says: "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD" (Psalm 27:13-14). Now we are talking about a heart religion. We have no reason to faint or fear. We have no reason to doubt. That word wait is a small word with a big meaning. Waiting sometimes requires more faith than to believe.
This word believed comes from the word aman (aw-man) in the Hebrew, which means "to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse; to render (or be) firm or faithful, to trust or believe - hence assurance."
David could look to the Lord to strengthen or foster as a parent. He is talking about an intimate parental relationship with God. If David did not have this assurance, he would have fainted. He had that blessed assurance of that supporting hand of his heavenly Father. This parental love of his heavenly Father was the place of David's confidence, which gave him the sustaining grace that spared him from fainting in a time of trial.We read in Psalm 27:5: "For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me up upon a rock." Have you ever thought of little children playing in the yard, and they see some danger arise. The first thing they do is flee into the house because they feel safe when they are with their parents. That blessed Rock, the Lord Jesus Christ, becomes such a sure foundation when one has come into "his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle," which is the cleft of the Rock. We find our hiding place in the cleft of the Rock, that is, in the wounded side of our Saviour. We have such a place of security there. In Exodus 33:21-22 we read: "And the LORD said, Behold, there is a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon a rock: And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by." The cleft of the Rock is an opening in a rock wall, a place of safety. This is what we see in the Lord's Jesus Christ.
At the beginning of the Psalm, David speaks as though he never knew any fear, but the words of our text reveal that his only place of confidence was in "his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle." This does not mean that David was brave to venture on his own strength and wisdom.Our text says, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living" (Psalm 27:13). That old Goliath, that old man of sin, caused the armies of Israel to flee and to tremble, but with David, when he was in the pavilion, when he came forth in the name of the armies of Israel, he had no fear. If we were to enter the battle against old Satan and our own deceitful heart in our own strength, we would faint and fail in the first round. Unless we believe, that is, unless we find our confidence in that parental support of our heavenly Father, as we are hid in the secret pavilion of Christ's wounded side as our assurance of faith, we would faint before the battle even began. We read in Deuteronomy 33:27: "The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them." Every enemy that comes against our soul will be destroyed and cast out in the name of the Lord.
While we are here in the flesh, we are ever subject to changing conditions. This world is not the place of our rest, and we shall not have uninterrupted joy in this life.We read in Psalm 107:23-26: "They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble." You and I can have times when we are lifted up, and then there are times when we are in the depths. It is like riding a ship over a boisterous sea.
Continuing in verse 27 we read: "They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end."When we go through these trials and struggles, we can say with David, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." We read in verses 28 to 30: "Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven." This voyage over this boisterous sea of time is a voyage in which we need the Lord as the captain of our salvation.
Jacob was reeling to and fro, staggering like a drunken man, and at his wit's end, when he took his eye off God, and began to look at the boisterous waves. This is where our problem is. When we come to the point where we have a tendency to faint, we have taken our eyes off of Christ.We read in Genesis 42:36: "And Jacob their father said unto them, Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me." He took his eye off of what the Lord was doing. He did not remember that the Lord had told his father Abraham that He would bring His descendants into the land of Egypt, and they would be there 400 years. Jacob did not ponder the ways of the Lord. Even in such times as with Jacob, when he felt he would faint, there was that secret fostering of our heavenly Father as a parent or nurse with those everlasting arms to sustain until Jacob came into his desired haven. The Lord still brought him there, but he went over this boisterous sea as a drunken man, reeling to and fro because he took his eyes off that desired haven. God's people are often brought through sharp trials of faith, which bring them to a fainting condition - to try their endurance. David said in our text, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." He understood that fainting feeling. He understood that feeling of caving in within himself.
One such instance in David's life is recorded in 1 Samuel 30:4-6: "Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters."Now our text says, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." Did David faint in such a trial as this, when his own men talked of stoning him? Verse 6 tells us: "But David [did not faint, he] encouraged himself in the LORD his God." How did David do this when it seemed that everything was against him? He could look back and remember how the Lord delivered him from the lion, the bear and the Philistine, and how the Lord anointed him to be the king of Israel. He encouraged himself in the Lord. In such times, when everything seems to be against us, we can say with David, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living." What a blessed consolation there is in the biography of David. We find many times he is in trouble and distress - yet he is still able to claim reliance on God. Our trials and distresses are to bring us nearer to God. We are not to suppose by the nature of the trial that that means we have no God. We are not to disassociate ourselves from God. It is to draw us nearer to Him. It is to help us feel more and more of that blessed parental relationship we have with God. In Psalm 27:1 we read: "The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?"
The central theme of our text is, "I had fainted, unless I had believed [but what was it that he had believed? What was it that he was so assured of?] to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living."This is not something that just happens after the judgment day. It is something we have faith to believe in this life. David's consolation was "to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living," that is, in this life. We read in Psalm 31:19-20: "Oh how great is thy goodness, which thou hast laid up for them that fear thee; which thou hast wrought for them that trust in thee before the sons of men! Thou shalt hide them in the secret of thy presence from the pride of man: thou shalt keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues." Do you see why the trial of David, when his men wanted to stone him, was so significant? It is because before the sons of men, in the face of all impossibility, his faith stood as a light to the world. He declared his faith in God before the sons of men. We can glorify the Lord by showing the blessed assurance we have in His salvation in the face of all impossibilities. When the Lord comes with salvation, He is revealed to be the Lord our God. What would be a greater blessing in this life than to be held in a pavilion from the strife of tongues? What is a greater curse in the human race than the strife of tongues? David had to strive with the tongue against the tongue of the wicked. What was the great strife of the Lord Jesus in this life—striving in the strife of tongues. What a great consolation it is that the Lord will be our salvation, and He will deliver us, and keep us in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. That secret place in a pavilion is in the cleft of the Rock. Now our text says, "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living," that is, in this lifetime, therefore David gives us such a timely instruction. We read in Psalm 27:14: "Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD." There will be no fainting, no falling out by the way. The Lord will strengthen us. He will lead us on. This word wait comes from the Hebrew word qavah (kaw-vaw'), which means "to bind together as by twisting; to expect, to gather together, to tarry patiently, to wait." We are to draw closer and closer to the Lord in the pavilion of His secret place. Do not walk on your own. Do not walk separate from the Lord. This waiting upon the Lord, this believing and trusting, teaches a harmony of wills, that is, "to bind together as by twisting." We are to come into oneness with Him. We are to have our wills dissolved in His. I want to direct your attention to 1 John 3:23: "And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment."
The name of Jesus Christ is a name with authority. We are to come into a holy awe and reverence for the authority of God. This waiting upon the Lord is believing. It is coming together with oneness of purpose and mind with the Lord. It means that our rebellion is being broken.
Jesus taught in Matthew 6:31-33: "Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
Waiting on the Lord is not waiting for earthly things. Our first and highest priority must be to seek the will of God, to serve in His kingdom. We are to be bound together with the Lord. Our will is to be in total surrender to the will of God.When we are resting in the Lord Jesus Christ, and when our whole person is dissolved in the will of God, our highest priority is to know and do the will of God. He says that all the other things will be added unto us. We wait in His service. We wait at His footstool. When we are truly waiting upon the Lord, all our cares of this life are dissolved in our desire to do what is pleasing unto the Lord. We read in Psalm 37:7: "Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass."
The Psalmist is saying, Do not be so concerned about what the enemy is doing. We read in Psalm 27:2: "When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell." Why did they stumble and fall? Was it because David was such a tremendous warrior? No, it was because he waited on the Lord.Continuing in Psalm 37:8 we read: "Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth." We should not be concerned about what others do. We should not worry about those who work iniquity against us.
Our trials of faith are most often trials of obedience. Waiting on the Lord means to not make ourselves frustrated about people or their evil devices. We do not allow this to even traffic our minds. Our hearts and minds are totally dissolved in the will of God, waiting on Him.I want you to see Psalm 37:32-34: "The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him. The LORD will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him when he is judged. Wait on the LORD, and keep his way, and he shall exalt thee to inherit the land: when the wicked are cut off, thou shalt see it." The Lord will cut them off. We do not have to fight our own battles. They will stumble and they will fall. This is what it means to wait on the Lord.
David gives such a beautiful contrast between those who do wickedly, and those who wait upon, or serve the Lord in Psalm 52:4-9: "Thou lovest all devouring words, O thou deceitful tongue. God shall likewise destroy thee for ever, he shall take thee away, and pluck thee out of thy dwelling place, and root thee out of the land of the living. Selah. The righteous also shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him: Lo, this is the man that made not God his strength; but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened himself in his wickedness. But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God: I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever. I will praise thee for ever, because thou hast done it: and I will wait on thy name; for it is good before thy saints."To wait on the Lord means to place Him as our only place of safety. That is where our strength is. We are to have our wills totally dissolved into His.
God's Word is so full of consolation for those who wait upon the Lord. We read in Isaiah 40:30-31: "Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."As we get older we feel our flesh faltering and look at younger, stronger men, who may seem to accomplish more, but those whose hearts and souls rest in the Lord shall renew their strength.
This waiting on the Lord is that which binds our hearts in one accord with Him. The word means "to bind together as by twisting; to gather together."
We read in Psalm 27:7-8: "Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek."
In response to this command, "When thou saidst, Seek ye my face [David's heart responded]; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, LORD, will I seek," and so he did as we see in verses 9 to 12: "Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies. Deliver me not over unto the will of mine enemies: for false witnesses are risen up against me, and such as breathe out cruelty."David talks of such security and blessed assurance in seeking the Lord's face. David understood the dangers that existed outside of waiting on the Lord. He sought the face of God to be delivered from the will of his enemies. When the Lord gives us a promise that He will do something to deliver us, He wants us to approach His throne of grace and plead that promise. He wants us to come before Him and say: Lord, you have promised. You have spoken to me in your Word. Now I plead that precious promise. Let me see it in this life. Even in the face of the bold confidence David demonstrated in the first verses of the chapter, in compliance with this divine command, "Seek ye my face," David pours out the humble confession of our text: "I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD" (Psalm 27:13-14).
[Ralph Bouma is with Gospel Chapel, Conrad, MT.]
by Ryan Duncan, Editor at TheFish.com
Recently CNN posted an article about a young man's spiritual pilgrimage. When Andrew Domini learned that a friend had recently been diagnosed with stage IV cancer, the 19-year-old college student had traveled 70 miles to pray at the shrine of Catholic Saint, Theodore Guerin. Domini could have easily driven the 70 mile distance, but he wanted his journey to be a sacrifice, so he chose to walk instead. The journey took him two days. He arrived with feet blistered and bloody, but as he prayed over the remains of the Catholic Saint, Domini said he finally felt at peace.
Now here's the interesting part, Andrew Domini isn't Catholic, and, when asked, he admitted to mixed feelings about the Church. Reading this story, I couldn't help but be struck by the boy's similarity to the Roman centurion from Luke 7:
I have to admit, I felt pretty ashamed after reading that article. Here was a boy willing to make sacrifices in order to pray to a God he barely understood, while my prayer life consists of a few garbled words before falling asleep at night. Andrew Domini spent two days walking 70 miles to reach a place of worship, while I struggle to make the five minute drive to Church every Sunday. It is so easy to become complacent in our faith, to make it such a part of our daily ritual that we end up forgetting God. But God wants more from us than our hollow actions and lifeless obedience; he wants to be the center of our lives.
Being a true Christian means living with a passion for God, and a willingness to go the extra mile. It means living with vision, and not settling for the bear minimum your faith requires. It's seeking to know an unfathomable God, and realizing that He will always have something new He wants to teach you.
Intersecting Faith and Life
When was the last time you sacrificed something for God?
Source: Crosswalk.com: The Devotional
by Pope Benedict XVI
Easter is the feast of the new creation. Jesus is risen and dies no more. He has opened the door to a new life, one that no longer knows illness and death. He has taken mankind up into God himself. "Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God", as Saint Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians (15:50). On the subject of Christ's resurrection and our resurrection, the Church writer Tertullian in the third century was bold enough to write: "Rest assured, flesh and blood, through Christ you have gained your place in heaven and in the Kingdom of God" (CCL II, 994). A new dimension has opened up for mankind. Creation has become greater and broader.
Easter Day ushers in a new creation, but that is precisely why the Church starts the liturgy on this day with the old creation, so that we can learn to understand the new one aright. At the beginning of the Liturgy of the Word on Easter night, then, comes the account of the creation of the world. Two things are particularly important here in connection with this liturgy. On the one hand, creation is presented as a whole that includes the phenomenon of time. The seven days are an image of completeness, unfolding in time. They are ordered towards the seventh day, the day of the freedom of all creatures for God and for one another. Creation is therefore directed towards the coming together of God and his creatures; it exists so as to open up a space for the response to God's great glory, an encounter between love and freedom.
On the other hand, what the Church hears on Easter night is above all the first element of the creation account: "God said, 'let there be light!'" (Gen 1:3). The creation account begins symbolically with the creation of light. The sun and the moon are created only on the fourth day. The creation account calls them lights, set by God in the firmament of heaven. In this way he deliberately takes away the divine character that the great religions had assigned to them. No, they are not gods. They are shining bodies created by the one God. But they are preceded by the light through which God's glory is reflected in the essence of the created being.
What is the creation account saying here? Light makes life possible. It makes encounter possible. It makes communication possible. It makes knowledge, access to reality and to truth, possible. And insofar as it makes knowledge possible, it makes freedom and progress possible. Evil hides. Light, then, is also an expression of the good that both is and creates brightness. It is daylight, which makes it possible for us to act. To say that God created light means that God created the world as a space for knowledge and truth, as a space for encounter and freedom, as a space for good and for love. Matter is fundamentally good, being itself is good. And evil does not come from God-made being, rather, it comes into existence through denial. It is a "no."
At Easter, on the morning of the first day of the week, God said once again: "Let there be light". The night on the Mount of Olives, the solar eclipse of Jesus' passion and death, the night of the grave had all passed. Now it is the first day once again – creation is beginning anew. "Let there be light", says God, "and there was light": Jesus rises from the grave. Life is stronger than death. Good is stronger than evil. Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies. The darkness of the previous days is driven away the moment Jesus rises from the grave and himself becomes God's pure light. But this applies not only to him, not only to the darkness of those days. With the resurrection of Jesus, light itself is created anew. He draws all of us after him into the new light of the resurrection and he conquers all darkness. He is God's new day, new for all of us.
But how is this to come about? How does all this affect us so that instead of remaining word it becomes a reality that draws us in? Through the sacrament of baptism and the profession of faith, the Lord has built a bridge across to us, through which the new day reaches us. The Lord says to the newly-baptized: Fiat lux – let there be light. God's new day – the day of indestructible life, comes also to us. Christ takes you by the hand. From now on you are held by him and walk with him into the light, into real life. For this reason the early Church called baptism photismos – illumination.
Why was this? The darkness that poses a real threat to mankind, after all, is the fact that he can see and investigate tangible material things, but cannot see where the world is going or whence it comes, where our own life is going, what is good and what is evil. The darkness enshrouding God and obscuring values is the real threat to our existence and to the world in general. If God and moral values, the difference between good and evil, remain in darkness, then all other "lights", that put such incredible technical feats within our reach, are not only progress but also dangers that put us and the world at risk.
Today we can illuminate our cities so brightly that the stars of the sky are no longer visible. Is this not an image of the problems caused by our version of enlightenment? With regard to material things, our knowledge and our technical accomplishments are legion, but what reaches beyond, the things of God and the question of good, we can no longer identify. Faith, then, which reveals God's light to us, is the true enlightenment, enabling God's light to break into our world, opening our eyes to the true light.
Dear friends, as I conclude, I would like to add one more thought about light and illumination. On Easter night, the night of the new creation, the Church presents the mystery of light using a unique and very humble symbol: the Paschal candle. This is a light that lives from sacrifice. The candle shines inasmuch as it is burnt up. It gives light, inasmuch as it gives itself. Thus the Church presents most beautifully the paschal mystery of Christ, who gives himself and so bestows the great light.
Secondly, we should remember that the light of the candle is a fire. Fire is the power that shapes the world, the force of transformation. And fire gives warmth. Here too the mystery of Christ is made newly visible. Christ, the light, is fire, flame, burning up evil and so reshaping both the world and ourselves. "Whoever is close to me is close to the fire," as Jesus is reported by Origen to have said. And this fire is both heat and light: not a cold light, but one through which God's warmth and goodness reach down to us.
The great hymn of the Exsultet, which the deacon sings at the beginning of the Easter liturgy, points us quite gently towards a further aspect. It reminds us that this object, the candle, has its origin in the work of bees. So the whole of creation plays its part. In the candle, creation becomes a bearer of light. But in the mind of the Fathers, the candle also in some sense contains a silent reference to the Church,. The cooperation of the living community of believers in the Church in some way resembles the activity of bees. It builds up the community of light. So the candle serves as a summons to us to become involved in the community of the Church, whose raison d'être is to let the light of Christ shine upon the world.
Let us pray to the Lord at this time that he may grant us to experience the joy of his light; let us pray that we ourselves may become bearers of his light, and that through the Church, Christ's radiant face may enter our world (cf. LG 1). Amen.
by Dr. Michael Youssef
Life is a series of choices. We can choose wisely or unwisely as we are confronted with decisions, temptations, and priorities. Sometimes we will make the wrong decision, but hopefully we will learn from our mistakes in order to make better choices in the future. We learn which choices lead to eternal blessings and which lead to short-term happiness. We learn which choices lead to spiritual success and which lead to failure. While some decisions are minor, others have eternal consequences. We must learn how to choose wisely because many decisions will determine the quality of our lives. Poor choices lead to a life of misery, while wise choices lead to peace and contentment. God wants us to make life decisions based on what will have eternal benefits, what will bring Him glory, and what will expand our faith.
One of the greatest choices we make is to obey Christ in all things. Obedience does not come naturally for us. Our sinful nature often influences our decisions, choices, habits, and priorities. We must consciously strive to follow Christ every day in order to live a life of faithfulness to God. We must choose to walk by faith. We must choose to spend time with God. We must choose to fellowship with God in prayer. We must choose to feed upon the Word of God. We must choose to be witnesses for Christ to our neighbors and friends and co-workers. We must choose to live for Christ instead of ourselves. We must choose to place God and only God as the top priority in our lives. We must choose how to use the talents, resources, and opportunities that God places in our lives.
Read Hebrews 11:23-29. Moses was a man who was given great advantages in life: he held power, wealth, and prestige. Moses was the adopted grandson of the ruler of the world’s most powerful, wealthiest, and advanced country of that time. And he was faced with a great dilemma. Moses had to choose between two completely different lives: the life that led to him one day becoming pharaoh with untold prestige and power, or the life that would abandon everything he knew in order to lead God’s people out of slavery. His choice was between the temporary earthly wealth and the everlasting rewards of heaven. The Bible tells us that Moses chose wisely: “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward” (Hebrews 11:24-26).
Moses gave up what most of us dream about: ultimate earthly power and wealth. What would you have done in Moses’ place? Would you have just played it safe, waiting for your time to become pharaoh, convincing yourself you could do more good with more power? Would you have turned your back on your people out of fear or selfishness or apathy? Would you easily part with the royal palace in order to wander through the desert?
When we place our lives and futures and families and businesses in the hands of God, we can trust that God will take us to the places where His plans are to be found. When we place our faith in God and His plans and promises and purposes, we can move forward, even if it means leaving other things behind.
Where do you seek your honor - in the eyes of society or in the eyes of God? Heavenly rewards are eternal, but they often come with a price. When we choose to obey and honor God above our own selfish desires, we will sometimes sacrifice our comfort, the opinions of others, and our social standing. People may reject us, ridicule us, and despise us for our faith. Committed faith is not always easy in the short-term, but our rewards will be eternal - and God’s rewards are always better than the world’s rewards.
What kinds of choices do you make? Do your decisions reflect earth-bound priorities or God’s kingdom? Are your accumulations in earthly banks or in your heavenly home? Do you play it safe or do you take risks for God? Spend time today examining the choices that you make and what they reveal about your faith in God. If your choices reflect a weak faith, confess this to God and seek His forgiveness. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you in making wise, eternal choices and to give you the strength to step out in faith.
Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way.
by Joel Osteen
We've all had seasons when the challenges of life feel overwhelming. During those times, it's easy to be tempted to talk about how bad things are. Maybe you received a bad medical report, or maybe you're facing a financial obstacle. But the more you talk about something, the bigger it becomes in your mind. Instead, you've got to dig your heels in and say, "No, I am not going to give life to that defeat. I am not going to speak sickness over myself. I'm not going to speak lack. I'm not going to speak fear. I'm choosing a different report. I believe the report of the Lord which says I am blessed. I am favored. I am prosperous. I am healthy. I am whole. I'm a victor, not a victim."
Remember, even if you don't see how things could ever work out, God does. You've got to speak to those mountains in your life and declare favor over those situations. Instead of talking to God about how big your problems are, talk to your problems about how big your God is! As you speak to your mountains, they will be moved, and you will move forward into the victory God has prepared for you!
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word which is life to my spirit. I receive Your strength today and choose to speak to the mountains so I can move forward in the victory You have in store for me in Jesus' name. Amen.
by Oswald Chambers
Through the miracle of redemption, Saul of Tarsus was instantly changed from a strong-willed and forceful Pharisee into a humble and devoted bondservant of the Lord Jesus.
There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain. We control what we are able to explain, consequently it is only natural to seek an explanation for everything. It is not natural to obey, yet it is not necessarily sinful to disobey. There can be no real disobedience, nor any moral virtue in obedience, unless a person recognizes the higher authority of the one giving the orders. If this recognition does not exist, even the one giving the orders may view the other person's disobedience as freedom. If one rules another by saying, "You must do this," and, "You will do that," he breaks the human spirit, making it unfit for God. A person is simply a slave for obeying, unless behind his obedience is the recognition of a holy God.
Many people begin coming to God once they stop being religious, because there is only one master of the human heart - Jesus Christ, not religion. But "Woe is me" if after seeing Him I still will not obey (Isaiah 6:5 , also see Isaiah 6:1). Jesus will never insist that I obey, but if I don't, I have already begun to sign the death certificate of the Son of God in my soul. When I stand face to face with Jesus Christ and say, "I will not obey," He will never insist. But when I do this, I am backing away from the recreating power of His redemption. It makes no difference to God's grace what an abomination I am, if I will only come to the light. But "Woe is me" if I refuse the light (see John 3:19-21).
by John O. Reid
Scripture: Luke 18:8
The churches of this world generally teach that all a person has to do is to believe on Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, intellectual and even emotional beliefs on their own produce the static, idle faith that James speaks about - dead faith. However, in one who is truly called by God - an individual who has living faith - his belief galvanizes into a conviction that will produce righteous works. These works ultimately produce the "much fruit" that will glorify God the Father (John 15:8).
Just what is the faith that Jesus Christ is looking for? It is a faith far greater than we might imagine. It is faith, not just in individual truths or doctrines, but in an entire way of life - the righteous, holy way that God Himself lives. God wants us to accept and follow the whole package of Christian living that He reveals in His Word.
Granted, it is very hard to do. We live in one of the most sinful, evil, corrupt, self-centered societies of all times, and our patience and conversion are being severely tested. The world wants us to come out of the narrow way that protects us, teaches us, and prepares us for our future. It is pushing and enticing us to accept the broad way that will pull us down to failure and destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
But the life that God has called us to is truly awesome! In John 17:3, Jesus declares the kind of life we have been chosen to live by faith: "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." Living this eternal life gives us the ability to know God: how He thinks, makes decisions, shows His love, feels for others, extends mercy and forgives, etc. In other words, living God's way now allows us - as much as is humanly possible - to know the mind and ways of God. It is in God and His incredible way that we must have faith.
Because our calling and potential are so tremendous, God gives us a warning to consider in II Peter 2:20-21:
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
Once we start down this road, we have committed ourselves to following it to the very end.
For this reason, Paul challenges us in II Corinthians 13:5 to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith. He tells us to test ourselves to prove that Christ lives in us. We will not fail the test if we draw close to Him and truly work to make the changes we need to make as individuals to take on the very nature and life of God.
Then, when the question arises, "When the Son of man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" the answer will be a resounding, "Yes!"
Source: The Berean
by Susan Cort
Is there a connection between faith and health?
Historically science has not embraced the connection between faith and health but today, an increasing number of scientific authorities acknowledge that spiritual practices, including prayer, worship, and service to others, influence our health.
One of those people who welcome and is driving this shift is Greg Anderson. Diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer in 1984, Greg's surgeon predicted he had just 30 days to live. "The shift that is underway is historic," said Anderson from his Cancer Recovery Foundation of America offices in Harrisburg. "We are now witnessing the uniting of science and spirit, the combination of body, mind, and soul, to reveal the stunning effects of faith on both physical and emotional health."
Anderson, along with United Methodist Pastor Michael Gingerich, has revised Anderson's classic, The Cancer Conqueror to address this critical health-faith connection.
The Cancer Conqueror with Bible Study is an uplifting guide to cancer patients and support networks of the Judeo-Christian faith. The book is currently available only through the Cancer Recovery Foundation website.
The historical link between science and religion began to crumble centuries ago as a reluctant church held fast to positions that science could empirically refute. "But today," said Anderson, "the shoe is on the other foot. Based on over 30 years of compelling data, medicine can no longer simply dismiss the role that faith plays in both the prevention of and recovery from illness.
"What I am seeing is a new whole-person sensibility," said Anderson. "It combines body, mind, and spirit in the best sense, a powerful blend of the scientific and what I believe should rightly be called the mystic. Instead of limiting the roles of healthcare providers, I see an expansion, an amalgam of skills, including part scientist, nutritionist, psychologist, and spiritual guide. The result is a new and vital healing paradigm that is now rippling through the American healthcare system."
Anderson has devoted the last 20 years to the study and teaching of this synthesis. Today he is widely recognized as one of America's foremost healing authorities. Author of seven books, including the 1.5 million copy international bestseller, The Cancer Conqueror, he sees a rapidly emerging agenda that draws on the knowledge available to us from experimental science, the wisdom gleaned from the personal experiences of patients, and the stories of healing from the world's great religious traditions.
Explained Anderson, "The stories of healing are always the most moving. They tend to fall into three groups. First are those who may not be completely cured of their illness but who learn to cope with illness through prayer and other forms of spiritual practice. For others, the faith/health connection may mean stopping the progression of an illness like cancer or heart disease. Still others experience the reversal or complete healing of their disease. It is impossible to predict or control the level of healing. But all typically result in a deep sense of inner peace. This almost always offers some degree of improvement and can be truly powerful."
Based in Hershey, the non-profit organization's mission is to help all people prevent and survive cancer. The organization's reach spans the globe and has been helping people since 1985.
Cancer Recovery Foundation focuses on the "people side" of cancer. It emphasizes a whole-person approach to getting well again, pioneering the "cancer survival pyramid," a tool widely used in cancer education.
Cancer Recovery Foundation's adult programs include retreats and support groups that emphasize healthy diets, ability-appropriate exercise, mind/body and faith/health disciplines. Cancer Survival and Bible Study Kits are available to all cancer patients. All Cancer Recovery programs are in addition to, not in place of, conventional medical treatments.
The Foundation's children's programs provide toy-filled gift bags to children during treatment, camp scholarships following treatment and emergency financial assistance to families in need.
Cancer Recovery Foundation serves through healthcare providers and directly to individuals. Its adult programs, services and materials are available through more than 300 cancer treatment centers throughout the United States, Canada, France, Great Britain and Germany. The Foundation's children's programs and services are available through more than 170 pediatric oncology treatment centers across the United States. A special medical mission outreach also is providing pediatric oncology services in Uganda and Ukraine.
To obtain a copy of 'The Cancer Conqueror with Bible Study' or to find out how to start a support group in your place of worship, please call (800) 238-6479 or visit the website, http://www.cancerrecovery.org.
An atheist professor of philosophy speaks to his class on the problem science has with God, The Almighty..
He asks one of his new students to stand and.....
Prof: So you believe in God?
Student: Absolutely, sir.
Prof: Is God good?
Prof: Is God all-powerful?
Prof: My brother died of cancer even though he prayed to God to heal him.
Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill. But God didn't. How is this God good then? Hmm?
(Student is silent.)
Prof: You can't answer, can you? Let's start again, young fella. Is God good?
Prof: Is Satan good?
Prof: Where does Satan come from?
Prof: That's right. Tell me son, is there evil in this world?
Prof: Evil is everywhere, isn't it? And God did make everything. Correct?
Prof: So who created evil?
(Student does not answer.)
Prof: Is there sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness? All these terrible things exist in the world, don't they?
Student: Yes, sir.
Prof: So, who created them?
(Student has no answer.)
Prof: Science says you have 5 senses you use to identify and observe the world around you.
Tell me, son...Have you ever seen God?
Student: No, sir.
Prof: Tell us if you have ever heard your God?
Student: No, sir.
Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?
Student: No, sir. I'm afraid I haven't.
Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?
Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn't exist.
What do you say to that, son?
Student: Nothing. I only have my faith.
Prof: Yes. Faith. And that is the problem science has..
Student: Professor, is there such a thing as heat?
Student: And is there such a thing as cold?
Student: No sir. There isn't.
(The lecture theatre becomes very quiet with this turn of events.)
Student: Sir, you can have lots of heat, even more heat, superheat, mega heat, white heat, a little heat or no heat.
But we don't have anything called cold. We can hit 458 degrees below zero which is no heat, but we can't go any further after that.
There is no such thing as cold .. Cold is only a word we use to describe the absence of heat. We cannot measure cold. Heat is energy. Cold is not the opposite of heat, sir, just the absence of it .
(There is pin-drop silence in the lecture theatre.)
Student: What about darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as darkness?
Prof: Yes.. What is night if there isn't darkness?
Student: You're wrong again, sir. Darkness is the absence of something. You can have low light, normal light, bright light, flashing light....But if you have no light constantly, you have nothing and it's called darkness, isn't it? In reality, darkness isn't. If it were you would be able to make darkness darker, wouldn't you?
Prof: So what is the point you are making, young man?
Student: Sir, my point is your philosophical premise is flawed.
Prof: Flawed? Can you explain how?
Student: Sir, you are working on the premise of duality. You argue there is life and then there is death, a good God and a bad God. You are viewing the concept of God as something finite, something we can measure. Sir, science can't even explain a thought. It uses electricity and magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one. To view death as the opposite of life is to be ignorant of the fact that death cannot exist as a substantive thing. Death is not the opposite of life: just the absence of it.
Now tell me, Professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?
Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.
Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going..)
Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher? (The class is in uproar.)
Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor's brain?
(The class breaks out into laughter.)
Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor's brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, sir.
With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?
(The room is silent... The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)
Prof: I guess you'll have to take them on faith, son.
Student: That is it sir... The link between man & God is FAITH . That is all that keeps things moving & alive..
Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. - 1 PETER 4:8
I can't attribute this story to its source, but a number of years ago I read a story about Babe Ruth. At the end of his legendary baseball career, the Babe had become obviously overweight. During one of his final contests, he bungled several fly balls in the outfield and struck out weakly with every plate appearance.
Fans who had seen or heard about his once-proud exploits were now quick with catcalls, mocking this man who had hit twice as many home runs as anyone else in baseball.
But as the jeering got louder and louder, a little boy leaped over the railing and onto the playing field. With tears streaming down his face, he ran to the Babe and threw his arms around the legs of the fading athlete. Babe Ruth reached down, picked up the boy and hugged him tight. Then setting him down and patting him on the head, they walked hand in hand toward the dugout, while the jeers turned to cheers. Hardly an eye remained dry in the whole place.
The crowd had been correct in their assessment, of course. The Babe had let much of his athletic prowess go to seed. Yet a little boy had remembered him for who he was . . . and had covered over his errors with love.
This is not unlike what marriage was established to be - two people saying to each other, "I know you've failed me and disappointed me at times (as I have you), but I'm still going to put my arm around you and tell you, 'I love you.' I'm on this journey with you one way or the other."
I believe the angels burst into praise when they hear that, because this is the visitation of God's love on two imperfect people.
How are you two doing right now? Are you standing by one another in the midst of life's turbulence? Perhaps you need to just look one another in the eyes and smile at one another.
Thank God for His love that has already covered a multitude of your sins.
Source: Moments with You Devotional
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