Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal

Volume 2 No. 104 October 18, 2012

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Psalm 27-14
Table of Contents
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Bible Readings for This Sunday (Oct 21)

Sixth Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross

Sermons for This Sunday (Oct 21)

Sermons for the Sixth Sunday After Sleebo

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_6th-sunday-after-Sleebo.htm

Inspiration for Today

Featured: Who Is "That Girl?" - Rekindling The Romance in Marriage

For my husband and me, our marriage has never reached a crisis point. But like many couples, we had taken our marriage for granted. Slowly, we had become so involved with other people and with raising our kids, that we had little time left over at the end of the day for each other. We had stopped dreaming together. ...

In The Beginning - Beginning with the Beginning

The Creation account is more than a myth. It is greater than a metanarrative. The Creation is the beginning of God's greatest work in the universe, the redemption of mankind. Ignore the beginning and you'll miss the end. For without the beginning, there would be no end. ...

The Gnostic Gospels: Are They The Real History of Jesus?

Even though the Gnostic writings have impressed some scholars, their late dating and questionable authorship can't compare with the New Testament. Such contrast between the New Testament and the Gnostic writings is devastating to those pushing conspiracy theories. New Testament historian F. F. Bruce wrote, "There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament." ...

Your Obituary - Your Eternal Life

As he stood with his tempter high on a mountain taking in the kingdoms of the world and all of the splendor that was being offered to him, Jesus considered the reputation of God and not his own. As he hung on the Cross, scorning its shame, he took death instead of glory; he bore the disgrace of man instead of the splendor of God. His obituary was insignificant to all but a few. And then he rose from the grave, forever rewriting the headlines of all who would believe. ...

God's Love vs. Wrath

"Scripture says that God is love and that he has wrath. This means that love lies deeper than wrath in the character of God. Love is his essential perfection, without which he would not be who he is. Wrath is love's response to sin. It is God's voluntary gag reflex at anything that destroys his good creation. God is against sin because he is for us, and he will vent his fury on everything that damages us." ...

The Sadhu Returns - Dharma vs Sin

Real story from the early childhood of Sardar Sundar Singh. Sundhar grapples between dharma (devotion) and adharma (sin). ...

Health: Three Tips for Dental Health

In general, toothpastes are often just a cosmetic product with limited decay-preventive value. ..For now, the most reliable approach is to use the common, time-tested agents: baking soda and salt, or a mixture of both with hydrogen peroxide. Other natural products and options are listed in the chapter on gum disease. ...

Recipe: Pineapple Pepper Burritos

Humor: Tombstone writing

Headstone of Russell J. Larsen in the Logan City Cemetery, Logan, Utah ...

About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (Oct 21)
Sermons for This Sunday (Oct 21)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. -- MATT. 5:8.

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. -- HEB. 12:14.

Since Thou Thyself dost still display
Unto the pure in heart,
Oh, make us children of the day
To know Thee as Thou art.
For Thou art light and life and love;
And Thy redeemed below
May see Thee as Thy saints above,
And know Thee as they know.
J. MONTGOMERY.

Doubt, gloom, impatience, have been expelled; joy has taken their place, the hope of heaven and the harmony of a pure heart, the triumph of self-mastery, sober thoughts, and a contented mind. How can charity towards all men fail to follow, being the mere affectionateness of innocence and peace? Thus the Spirit of God creates in us the simplicity and warmth of heart which children have, nay, rather the perfections of His heavenly hosts, high and low being joined together in His mysterious work; for what are implicit trust, ardent love, abiding purity, but the mind both of little children and of the adoring seraphim!
J. H. NEWMAN.

Source: Daily Strength for Daily Needs

Featured: Who Is "That Girl?" - Rekindling The Romance in Marriage

by Heidi St. John

Do you remember "That Girl?" You know the girl I'm talking about: her spirit is unfettered, her hopes are high, her schedule is uncluttered. That Girl is a dreamer. She still flirts with her husband. She looks in the mirror and is filled with awe at the body that God has given her. She does not see stretch marks; she sees the unmistakable signs of motherhood. She does not lament over impending physical changes in her body, because she does not know that they are coming.

Sometimes I wonder whatever happened to that spontaneous, flirtatious girl that Jay wrote love songs to. Even though Jay and I have a wonderful, strong marriage, it is still easy for me to think of myself in the light of the grocery store checkout line magazine covers. You know, those magazine covers that tell me how I should see myself. The trouble is, magazines lie. The culture that we live in has its priorities all wrong. You need new thinking if you are going to be the woman God created you to be.

A few years ago, I began to pray specifically that God would help me be the girl that Jay married. I am not saying that I was asking to be nineteen again - goodness knows I don't want to go back and re-learn some of the lessons of my twenties - but I needed to see myself with new eyes. As much as I longed to be, I knew that I was not That Girl any more. Between pastoring, pregnancies, newborns, homeschooling and home making, I had somehow lost sight of the girl that I was when we were first married. My husband noticed, too. Time and stress had created a certain distance between us. Most people wouldn't have noticed it because from the outside, we had it all together.

In our case, the distance showed up in many areas of our marriage. Jay was at work too much, and I found myself caring less and less. We stopped leaving little notes for each other on the bathroom mirror. We kept right on going as if nothing was different. You see, that "distance" I am talking about didn't happen overnight. It took me a few years of being too busy and Jay being too absorbed in his work before we started to notice.

For my husband and me, our marriage has never reached a crisis point. But like many couples, we had taken our marriage for granted. Slowly, we had become so involved with other people and with raising our kids, that we had little time left over at the end of the day for each other. We had stopped dreaming together. With a full-time ministry position at a growing church and young children to raise, LIFE was in full swing.

One morning, my husband's parents offered to take our children out for breakfast, so Jay and I took the rare opportunity for uninterrupted conversation and headed to our favorite coffee shop. After a few minutes of sipping lattes and enjoying pumpkin scones, I sensed that Jay had something on his mind.

What he said surprised me.

"I miss you, Heidi. Are you in there somewhere?" he asked.

"You miss me?" I did not understand what he meant, until he began to talk about things I had not thought about in what felt like forever: date night, weekend getaways, long drives for no reason. He missed the woman that lit candles in the bedroom and who wasn't embarrassed by the sight of her own body. He too sensed the distance between us, and it was troubling him.

Please understand, Jay is my closest friend. He was not criticizing me: He really did miss me. He missed That Girl. Frankly, I knew exactly what he was talking about.

It's funny how certain conversations stand out as unforgettable. I remember that conversation in the coffee shop as clearly as I remember our first kiss and the day Jay proposed to me.

I think it's because that conversation forever changed the way I viewed my role in our mar­riage. Jay didn't miss me literally - I was there all the time (at least physically). He missed That Girl. When I finally stopped to think about it, I missed her too!

The next few weeks provided many opportunities for me to think about the girl I was versus the girl I had become. I also had time to think about how quickly time was passing. Had we already been married for ten years? If the first ten went by fast, I could only imagine how fast the next ten would fly. As I write this book, it occurs to me that the next ten years are already gone; we recently celebrated our 20th anniversary.

The Homeschool Vortex

Somehow, I had been sucked into the home­school vortex. Do you know what I mean? It's a place where time doesn't just stand still, you actually forget that time is going by! My days were all about the children, curriculum, and crock pots. From the moment my feet hit the floor, I was "all homeschool mom all the time." As I struggled to figure out how this homeschool thing looked (and I think I made every mistake a busy homeschool mom can make), I forgot to nurture That Girl! I now understand why the famous "denim jumper" became the required uniform for so many homeschool moms: that's what they're wearing in the vortex!

Now, I've met a few busy homeschool moms over the years who claim that there is no such vortex, but I have been inside it. Trust me, it's there. And if you think it's not there, you are setting yourself up to fall right in. In fact, you may be inside it and not even know it!

The homeschool vortex is tricky because most of the time, you're in it before you can say "Classical Education!" There is no time for romance inside the vortex because in the vortex, Latin is more important than lingerie. Legalism is the official language and laughter is lost as homeschooling becomes more and more wearisome. Believe me, it's possible to be inside the vortex and not even know it.

I am forever grateful that my husband threw me a line and pulled me up out of that place. At the time, I was too exhausted to appreciate what my life would have looked like if I had stayed there even one more minute, but I am sure that I would never have found That Girl without the patient, loving pursuit of my husband.

Romance Redefined

In the months that followed, I did some soul searching. I realized that if I wanted to be That Girl again, I needed to recognize that my husband - not our homeschool - needed to be my priority. It was time to revisit our romance.

The longer I've been married, the more my idea of romance has changed. When we were dating, my idea of romance was an "I love you, baby!" phone call before a test or an impromptu meeting under the streetlights that lit up our college campus. My beloved would leave love notes for me and I would find them in the funniest places: in my car, inside of textbooks, under my plate in the cafeteria. He went all out and I loved it!

Twenty years and six kids later, my idea of romance has changed. Jay's has too. My husband is as attractive to me with dish soap on his hands or a grinning little girl on his lap as he was when he sang the lead in his rock-n-roll band, Saint John, probably even more so because we now have years of shared experiences that serve to strengthen our romance.

I don't know about you, but when my husband sees a need and goes out of his way to meet it, I can barely contain my love for him! His love, lived out in practical ways, is romantic. Why? Because true romance is love lived out. And real life includes dirty dishes and piles of laundry.

When I stop and think about it, the reality is that it was not the notes, the flowers, the moonlight, or the poetry that I really loved; it was the thrill of the being pursued. That was the way we lived out our love: Before dishes and diapers, there was date night.

Now, as a busy homeschool mom, the thrill of the pursuit includes ordinary things. Here's the tricky part: the homeschool vortex is a no-romance zone. If you want to be That Girl again, you've got to start back at the beginning. You've got to start romancing your husband.

Yes, the homeschool years may redefine how that romance is lived out, and yes, it will require more effort on your part. But trust me, busy homeschool mom, the blessing you will receive as you pursue your husband will be worth it!

Don't Scare the Mama

Every home has its quirky little rules. In our house, quirky rule #246 is: Don't scare the mama. For some reason, I am one of those individuals who does not recover gracefully from a child jumping out at me in the dark. I can think of a thousand scenarios over the past twenty years that have ended up under the "Don't scare the mama" clause in our marriage. For the sake and sanity of the mama, any practical jokes involving plastic spiders, pretend injuries, or other potentially scary scenarios get left at the door.

That rule really is all about me. In the interest of allowing me to live to see my grandchildren get married, I've asked my kids to help me keep my adrenaline at what might be considered normal levels. Sometimes they forget and I wind up the unwitting victim of a practical joke, but for the most part, we have come to an agreement.

My point is that there are some things you need to do just for you. Take care of yourself. Busy homeschool moms who are burned out, stressed out, and tired are not very romantic. If you want to find That Girl again, you might need to take a look at some things about you that need to be addressed.

Only you can determine how much rest you need and how much stress you can take. Only you can decide how many activities you can take on before other people around you start to suffer the consequences of an "over-done" busy homeschool mom. If you feel better about yourself as a person, and more confident in the way you look and feel, That Girl will be easier to track down.

Everything I Needed to Know About Romance I Learned in Third Grade

It started in grade school. I will always remember recess at the little private school that I attended in Portland, Oregon. Like all school children, we had a recess routine. If it wasn't raining, we played our favorite recess game, "boys chase the girls." The rules were pretty simple: the girls ran around screaming, the boys captured them and carried them back to the big wooden fort in the middle of the play­ground. Several boys stood watch over the fort to make sure some sneaky little third-grader didn't get in and release the captives.

Even at such a young age, the thrill of the chase was on our minds. We loved it. Once the girls were captured, they made "soup" out of water mixed with mud and basically called for help until the recess bell rang. It was third-grade bliss.

This grade school game went on for at least two years, but one incident still stands out to me: At some point, the boys quit. Yep, that's right. They quit. The girls were horrified. The boys sent a representative to inform us that they had decided they were tired of chasing the girls. They wanted the girls to chase them for a change.

We did, but it wasn't as much fun for either the boys or the girls. After a day or two, the boys decided they would rather chase the girls, but that occasionally, they would like for us to chase them. I didn't know it then, of course, but this is exactly how God made us to be. At the end of the day, romance is about pursuit. I like to use the word pursue as a verb when I think of romancing my husband. When I pursue him or when he pursues me, it is love in action. That pursuit says, "I love you!"

Most women yearn to be pursued by their husbands. I believe that this is because God has created us uniquely to be responders. Yet pursuing my husband felt foreign to me, which brings me back to those instinctive feelings I noticed as a grade schooler. The only difference between then and now is that I had forgotten that determined look that flashed across little Johnny's eyes when the boys had decided that they finally had enough! One-sided relationships are wearisome. When I put my grown-up self back in the playground for just a moment, it made perfect sense. Why wouldn't I pursue my husband?

In fact, when I stopped to think of what that would actually look like in practice, I felt like a little wire in my brain short-circuited. What did that look like, anyway?

If I was going to be That Girl, I needed to find what made my husband tick. I had to actually ask Jay what he needed from me (besides sex, and we'll get to that in just a bit) in order to feel loved - no - cherished. I wanted him to feel how much I love him by everyday actions. We all need to feel appreciated. Husbands included.

Turns out, men are not nearly as complicated as busy homeschool moms. (Can't you just hear the angels singing?) A busy homeschool dad, on even his worst day, does not come close to having the same estrogen-enriched needs of a busy homeschool mom. We are women; we like to talk it out at the end of a hard day. More often than not, though, by the time we're done mixing our commentaries with the unique joys and stresses of homeschooling, we've forgotten to pursue, or even include, our husbands!

I think on some level, we expect our husbands to be just like us. We assume they want us to show love to them in exactly the way we want them to show love to us. Praise God for His amazing design in making men and women so different!

Simply put, most husbands, at their core, are pretty easy to please. For the past twenty years, I have been a student of my husband.

Here are a few things that made it to the top of the list of ways to romance your husband - from the perspective of a busy homeschool mom:

Prefer your husband in all things.

Jay is the phone call I take when I think I can't take another call. He is the dinner date I make before I put anything else on the calendar. He is the reason we have white space on our calendar. Our marriage is the priority in our home, and our children know it.

Actively communicate that you respect your husband. (Respect means a high or special regard.)

I fear many women do not grasp the importance of this crucial aspect of the marriage relationship. We communicate respect to our husbands when we trust them to meet our needs; from asking for directions when lost (or not) to providing for our families.

Men tend to have a great need to be respected and the Scriptures are very clear that wives must respect their husbands. The way we behave from day to day with our husbands says a lot about our love for them. When was the last time you told your husband how much you respected him?

Here are a few ways you can show him your respect:

Verbally:

Try to minimize complaining. Compliment him instead.

Physically:

Find out what his top three needs are. Ask your husband what he needs from you in those three areas, and then make a conscious effort to meet those needs. Don't be afraid to ask tough questions-that's how you get to the truth of the matter!

Spiritually:

Encourage your husband when you see him leading your family. If he is not the spiritual leader in your family, pray for him. Talk to him about it in a way that helps him see the importance of his God-given role as the leader in your home.

Emotionally:

I've learned that I can respect Jay by recognizing that we are totally different creatures, especially emotionally. Men don't give a lot of weight to feelings. They are more likely to respond to facts. For example, let's say your husband wants to buy a new car. Rather than get upset and become emotional and irrational, write out a budget that clearly explains how much money is needed to meet your expenses each month. Let the facts speak for you, and then respect your husband by allowing him to make that final decision.

Make time.

Remember, your calendar will reflect your priorities. Most busy homeschool moms don't choose curriculum with their husbands in mind. But I'm here to tell you that if your curriculum leaves you cold and exhausted at the end of the day, it's time to find a curriculum that is more suited to helping you put the priority on your marriage.

Be That Girl.

You can do it. Be the girl your husband fell in love with. Were you spontaneous, funny, sexy, and giving towards your husband when he chose you? You still are those things. And even though now you're a busy homeschool mom, he still needs you to be That Girl!

Revisit your romance.

In other words, get back to basics. What is it that makes your husband's eyes light up? Is it a post-it note on the bathroom mirror? Is it an invitation to an intimate rendezvous? Every busy homeschool mom was once a girl who worked to gain the affections of the man she married.

Do you have a vision for bringing romance back into your marriage? If you don't, you should! Ask the Lord to help you be the girl your husband married, and commit yourself to being a student of your husband. If he likes M&M's, put them in his lunch box. If he en­joys basketball, find out what time the game starts.

And be there.

You'll be amazed at what a difference your efforts to keep the home fires burning will have on your on your husband.

About The Author:

Heidi St. John and her husband Jay have seven children ages 1 to 20 and have homeschooled all the way through high school. Heidi has written three books for busy homeschool moms.

Source: Live It Devotional; Reprinted with permission from Home Educating Family Magazine 2011 Issue 1

In The Beginning - Beginning with the Beginning

by Dr. Peter Beck

Philosopher Bertrand Russell said, "There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all." The poverty of Russell's thought begins not with the idea that all things must have a beginning but his own failure to see the value of that beginning.

The account of God's creating the world comes first in the biblical record for greater reasons than explaining how the world came into being. The Creation is the opening act of God's redemptive play. The Creation introduces the reader to the key players in this great drama. It sets the theological stage upon which the rest of history will be played out.

Consider the following five key elements of the beginning:

1. In the beginning God is introduced.

God, Moses writes, "created the heavens and the earth" (Gen 1:1, ESV). He is Elohim, the creator God. This is the God with whom the Israelites would have to deal and this is the God with whom we must deal today.

He is God alone. He needs no help to create. He requires no consort as did the gods of the Canaanites. Instead, God operates according to His own will and creates according to His own great power. Moreover, this verse tells us that God is preexistent. He was before the universe. He was before time. He created them both. He created them ex nihilo, out of nothing – no big bang, no primordial soup, just God, His divine imagination, and His boundless power. Now that's a God worth worshiping.

Bound up in one short sentence is the majesty of God's character. If there was a beginning, there must be a God, a Creator who exists independent of the creation. By denying a beginning, man denies God His claim to authority and character.

2. In the beginning the Trinity is invoked.

Moses laid the ground work for later theological development. He writes of "the Spirit of God … hovering over the face of the waters" (1:2). This Creator God is unlike any other god. He is plural in Person yet One in nature. He is transcendent and He is imminent.

Later God would announce His determination to create mankind according to the plural image, "according to our likeness" (1:26). While scholars point out that any idea of the Trinity would have been foreign to Israel, the value of man according to Genesis 1 is determined by his creation in the image of God not the image of an angel. Taking into account the idea of progressive revelation, we find the first hints at Trinitarian theology in the beginning.

The New Testament further adds to our understanding of the Trinitarian involvement in the Creation. John 1:1 speaks of the Word being with God "in the beginning" because He "was God" and the Creator of all that was created (John 1:3). As such, with the Apostles, we interpret the Genesis account in Trinitarian terms. To deny the supernatural in the Creation is to deny the Trinity – a thought that is unacceptable and unchristian.

3. In the beginning the world is created.

The Creation provides a marvelous demonstration of God's power and care. He created according to His good pleasure. He created according to His great power. He said it and it was.

God superintended every step of the Creation and He did so according to His own time line. That which God began, He completed. He did not create a partial, imperfect world. He did not wind the world up and hope it turned out as planned. God created what He wanted, how He wanted, when He wanted. And, it was "good" because God created it.

Moses' account of the universe's beginning does not end there. The creation isn't the end; it is just the beginning. The story Moses is about to tell is greater than the stage that he has set. God did what He did for a purpose.

4. In the beginning man is introduced.

Many deny the historicity of Adam and Eve. It's another myth, they say, a metanarrative meant to give man a sense of self-worth. Well, at least they got part of it right. The Creation account does give us a sense of self-worth – a very high sense of self-worth. According to Genesis 1, the creation of man is the climax of God's creativity activity.

Every step in the creative process pointed to and prepared the way for God's greatest creation. He created a world in which man would live. He provided the foods man would need. All those things, God said, were good. When the time was right God created man. More than that, they are created in God's image, meant to be a human reflection of His divine goodness, His ambassadors here on earth. As such, man is more than an apex animal as evolution suggests. He is the apex of the creation itself. Everything has been done for this purpose.

With the creation of man, Creation was complete. God surveyed His masterpiece and pronounced it "very good." No other response was possible as the creation, like man, reflects its Creator.

5. In the beginning the end is in sight.

With His work finished, God rested. The seventh day, anointed blessed and holy by God, set the pattern for Jewish life and worship throughout the rest of the Old Testament as they followed His example. Christians, too, have applied the principle, if not the law, of the Sabbath to the Lord's Day.

Yet, such a reading of the final words of the Creation account seems incomplete. The wonder and the majesty of it all are lost, if the seventh day becomes little more than a holiday. On the other hand, if the message of the Sabbath rest is seen in light of the Creation itself, it takes on a greater meaning. God rested, not because He was tired but because His work was complete. He had created that He might be known and worshiped.

The rest of history has been the outworking of God's plan. The Fall, the Flood, the Covenants, they're all part of this great drama. Just as man, created in the image of God, was the height of the creative process, God sent His Son, the God-Man, the perfect image of God, to restore order, to renew hearts, to create new worshipers. Those that trust in Him will rest from their labors. What God began will be complete when God's people find their rest in Him. This is the end to which the beginning pointed.

Thus, the Creation account is more than a myth. It is greater than a metanarrative. The Creation is the beginning of God's greatest work in the universe, the redemption of mankind. Ignore the beginning and you'll miss the end. For without the beginning, there would be no end.

About The Author:

Peter Beck is Assistant Professor of Religion and Director of the Honors Program at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the author of 'The Voice of Faith: Jonathan Edwards' Theology of Prayer.'

The Gnostic Gospels: Are They The Real History of Jesus?
Are there secret writings about Jesus?

In 1945 a discovery was made in Upper Egypt, near the town of Nag Hammadi. Fifty-two copies of ancient writings, called the Gnostic gospels were found in 13 leather-bound papyrus codices (handwritten books). They were written in Coptic and belonged to a library in a monastery.

A few Gnostic scholars have gone so far as to assert that these recently discovered writings are the authentic history of Jesus instead of the New Testament. But does their faith in these documents square with the historical evidence? Let's take a deeper look to see if we can separate truth from fiction.

Secret "Knowers"

The Gnostic gospels are attributed to a group known as (big surprise here) the Gnostics. Their name comes from the Greek word gnosis, meaning "knowledge." These people thought they had secret, special knowledge hidden from ordinary people.

As Christianity spread, the Gnostics mixed some doctrines and elements of Christianity into their beliefs, morphing Gnosticism into a counterfeit Christianity. Perhaps they did it to keep recruitment numbers up and make Jesus a poster child for their cause. However, for their system of thought to fit with Christianity, Jesus needed to be reinvented, stripped of both his humanity and his absolute deity.

In The Oxford History of Christianity John McManners wrote of the Gnostics' mixture of Christian and mythical beliefs.

Gnosticism was (and still is) a theosophy with many ingredients. Occultism and oriental mysticism became fused with astrology, magic. 8 They collected sayings of Jesus shaped to fit their own interpretation (as in the Gospel of Thomas), and offered their adherents an alternative or rival form of Christianity.1

Early Critics

A mild strain of Gnostic philosophy was already growing in the first century just decades after the death of Jesus. The apostles, in their teaching and writings, went to great lengths to condemn these beliefs as being opposed to the truth of Jesus, to whom they were eyewitnesses.

Check out, for example, what the apostle John wrote near the end of the first century:

Who is the great liar? The one who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Such people are antichrists, for they have denied the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22, NIV).

Following the apostles' teaching, the early church leaders unanimously condemned the Gnostics as a cult.

Church father Irenaeus, writing 140 years before the Council of Nicaea, confirmed that the Gnostics were condemned by the church as heretics. He also rejected their "gospels." But, referring to the four New Testament Gospels, he said, "It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are." 2

Christian theologian Origen wrote this in the early third century, more than a hundred years before Nicaea:

I know a certain gospel which is called "The Gospel according to Thomas" and a "Gospel according to Matthias," and many others have we read - lest we should in any way be considered ignorant because of those who imagine they possess some knowledge if they are acquainted with these.

Nevertheless, among all these we have approved solely what the church has recognized, which is that only four gospels should be accepted. 3

Mystery Authors

When it comes to the Gnostic gospels, just about every book carries the name of a New Testament character: the Gospel of Philip, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Mary, and so on. But were they even written by their purported authors? Let's take a look.

The Gnostic gospels are dated about 110 to 300 years after Christ, and no credible scholar believes any of them could have been written by their namesakes. In James M. Robinson's comprehensive The Nag Hammadi Library, we learn that the Gnostic gospels were written by "largely unrelated and anonymous authors." 4

New Testament scholar Norman Geisler writes, "The Gnostic writings were not written by the apostles, but by men in the second century (and later) pretending to use apostolic authority to advance their own teachings. Today we call this fraud and forgery."5

Mystery Versus History

The Gnostic gospels are not historical accounts of Jesus' life but instead are largely esoteric sayings, shrouded in mystery, leaving out historical details such as names, places, and events. This is in striking contrast to the New Testament Gospels, which contain innumerable historical facts about Jesus' life, ministry, and words.

Who would you be more likely to believe - someone who says, "Hey, I've got some secret facts that were mysteriously revealed to me," or someone who says, "I've searched all the evidence and history and here it is for you to make up your mind on"? Keeping that question in mind, consider the following two statements, the first from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas (c. 110-150 A.D.) and the second from the New Testament's Gospel of Luke (c. 55-70 A.D.).

These are the hidden sayings that the living Jesus spoke and Judas Thomas the Twin recorded. 6

Many people have written accounts about the events that took place among us. They used as their source material the reports circulating among us from the early disciples and other eyewitnesses of what God has done in fulfillment of his promises. Having carefully investigated all of these accounts from the beginning, I have decided to write a careful summary for you, to reassure you of the truth of all you were taught. (Luke 1:1-4, NLT)

Do you find the open and aboveboard approach of Luke appealing? And do you find the fact that it was written closer to the original events to be in favor of its reliability? If so, that's what the early church thought as well.

And most scholars concur with the early church's view that the New Testament is the authentic history of Jesus. New Testament scholar Raymond Brown has said of the Gnostic gospels, "We learn not a single verifiable new fact about the historical Jesus' ministry, and only a few new sayings that might possibly have been his."7

Thus, even though the Gnostic writings have impressed some scholars, their late dating and questionable authorship can't compare with the New Testament. Such contrast between the New Testament and the Gnostic writings is devastating to those pushing conspiracy theories. New Testament historian F. F. Bruce wrote, "There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament." 8

Endnotes

1. John McManners, ed., The Oxford History of Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 28.

2. Darrell L. Bock, Breaking the Da Vinci Code (Nashville: Nelson, 2004), 114.

3. Bock, 119-120.

4. Ibid.,13.

5. Norman Geisler and Ron Brooks, When Skeptics Ask (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1998), 156.

6. Quoted in Robinson, 126.

7. Quoted in Lutzer, 32.

8. Quoted in Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (San Bernardino, CA: Here's Life, 1999, 37.)

© 2007 B&L Publications. Used with Permission

Your Obituary - Your Eternal Life

by Jill Carattini

Swedish chemist Alfred Bernhard Nobel was once largely known as a maker and inventor of explosives. In 1866 Nobel invented dynamite, which earned him both fame and the majority of his wealth. At one point in his life he held more than 350 patents, operated labs in 20 countries, and had more than 90 factories manufacturing explosives and ammunition. Yet today he is most often remembered as the name behind the Nobel Prize, the most highly regarded of international awards for efforts in peace, chemistry, physics, literature, and economics.

In 1888 a bizarre incident occurred, which seemed to have afforded Alfred Nobel an unlikely opportunity for reflection. Many believe it was this event that ultimately led to his establishment of the Nobel Prize and subsequent change in his reputation. Alfred’s brother Ludvig died while staying in Cannes, France, but the French newspapers mistakenly confused the two brothers, reporting the death of the inventor of explosives. One paper’s headline read brusquely: “Le marchand de la mort est mort”- the merchant of death is dead.

I can’t imagine reading the headlines of my life written at the hands of my harshest critic, but I do remember laboring over an assignment in middle school in which I was required to write my own obituary. Some of the class was given the task of writing it as if they died well in their eighties; others had to write as if they died that year. The assignment was meant to incite reflection, and in most of us it did - particularly those of us who were designated early deaths. As in the case with Alfred Nobel, my premature obituary suggested headlines I did not want to live with; that I was the one writing them made this all the more sobering.

In a very real sense, I am still (as is each of us) the writer of my own obituary. But I am no longer thinking about the words and headlines in the way I was thinking about them in middle school. As I struggled to find the words, it seemed I had so little with which to work - no graduations, no family, no accomplishments worth mentioning, no overarching purpose for my life. I was imagining all the things I had not done and feeling quite insignificant about the things I had. At that point in time, it seemed clear that a few more years were necessary in order to make a meaningful headline.

Today I realize that a life well lived is not about time at all. The writers of Scripture seem less concerned with the reputation we leave behind as they are with the reputation we are moving toward. “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness” before people, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). There is the sense that our hearts hold the words of an obituary that no one here will fully see. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

The headlines we write on earth are printed on pages that will eventually fade and crumble. But there is one who reads the words imprinted across our hearts, engraved on the lives we have affected, stored up as treasures in a greater kingdom. As he stood with his tempter high on a mountain taking in the kingdoms of the world and all of the splendor that was being offered to him, Jesus considered the reputation of God and not his own. As he hung on the Cross, scorning its shame, he took death instead of glory; he bore the disgrace of man instead of the splendor of God. His obituary was insignificant to all but a few. And then he rose from the grave, forever rewriting the headlines of all who would believe.

About the Author:

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

Copyright © 2012 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, All rights reserved.

God's Love vs. Wrath

by Tim Challies

It is good and useful to consider the relationship of God's love to his wrath. Are they equal characteristics or is one greater than the other? How can God both love and hate?

In his book, "Don't Stop Believing", Michael Wittmer, professor of systematic and historical theology at Grand Rapids Theological Seminary looked at the question concerning the cross and whether, as some have suggested, a traditional Christian understanding of the cross is tantamount to cosmic child abuse.

Wittmer explains how we can (and must) reconcile God's wrath with his love. "Scripture says that God is love and that he has wrath. This means that love lies deeper than wrath in the character of God. Love is his essential perfection, without which he would not be who he is. Wrath is love's response to sin. It is God's voluntary gag reflex at anything that destroys his good creation. God is against sin because he is for us, and he will vent his fury on everything that damages us."

Love is at God's very core. First John 4:8 says, "Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." Through all of eternity, God has been love; he has existed in a state of love of Father to Son, Son to Spirit, Spirit to Father. There has never been a time that God has not been expressing love; nor will there ever be. But God's wrath is far different. God has not always been wrathful. He has not always had to express anger. His anger is a reaction to a lack of love—a lack of love for him or a lack of love to others. Wrath is a response to sin. Thus wrath did not exist until sin existed. And as sin came to be, God had to respond to it in a way befitting his holy character. God's response to sin is wrath. How could it be otherwise? Sin is cosmic treason against the Creator of the universe. He must respond.

At the cross, God's love met God's wrath. Wittmer says, "Jesus endured God's wrath when he bore the curse of sin, but he also experienced God's love, for the cross was a necessary step in crowning Jesus as Redeemer and Ruler of the world, the Lord whose exalted name forces every knee to the ground. Similarly, though we receive unmerited grace from Jesus' passion, our old self of sin must die in order to rise to his new life of love." And so wrath is closely tied to love. If God did not love, God would not be wrathful. It is because of his love that God has to feel and express his wrath. We cannot neatly separate the two. "Every act of God flows from his love, even - and especially - those that demonstrate his wrath."

Is he a God of love or of wrath? God expresses both love and wrath, but where wrath is demonstrated, love is personified. God is love.

Excerpted from 'Gods Gag Reflex' by Tim Challies

About the Author:

Tim Challies is a pioneer in Christian blogging (www.challies.com) and author of 'The Discipline of Spiritual Discernment' (Crossway) and 'The Next Story: Life and Faith after the Digital Explosion' (Zondervan).

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

The Sadhu Returns - Dharma vs Sin
With pleading eyes, the boy looks up at his father:

"Please help her, Father! She is so old and the weather is turning cold. I spent all my pocket money to buy food for her, but I did not have enough for a blanket. Please give me money to buy her a blanket."

Sardar Sher Singh retorts:

"Listen, Sundar! Over the years I have given that widow all manner of help. We are not responsible for her. The other people in town should also help look after her. They must also learn charity. You cannot be responsible for everyone all the time. Others must learn to play their part. Do not worry about her now. You have done more than enough for her."

Downcast, the boy turns away.

Has not Mother always said we should show compassion and pity? Has Father no heart? What if no one else helps her? She might freeze in the night. Is there nothing I can do? Maybe. No, I mustn't! That would be wrong. But then again, Father has so much; he will never miss a few rupees. It is for a good cause; I'm not stealing for myself.

Sundar was wrong. Father did miss it. In the evening, Sardar Sher Singh calls together the household and announces that he is missing five rupees.

"Has anyone taken money from my purse?" he asks, gently but firmly. Each one answers in turn. Sundar quietly says, "No Father, I didn't do it." The day closes somber and unresolved.

Sundar sleeps fitfully. He tosses and turns. In his dreams, he sees the stern face of his father, hears the disappointment in his voice: "How could you steal from me, your father? How could you secretly disobey me? Even now, after I ask for the truth, still you lie to me."

Sundar knows this is not dharma - devotion. This is adharma - sin. It is evil. The holy books speak of karma - the relentless cycle of sin and death by whose law every sinful act burdens the soul and carries painful consequences. The holy books warn that we will reap what we sow, in this life or the next. How can I escape this karma? How can I undo what I have done? What good is compassion for others in need if my own soul is burdened?

Sardar Sher Singh hears a quiet, frightened voice:

"Father! Wake up, Father! Something terrible has happened. It was I, Father. I stole your money to buy a blanket for the widow. Forgive me, Father. I want to escape the karma; I am ready to accept punishment; I am ready to accept it as penance for this sin."

Now awake, Sardar Sher Singh sees the anguish in the boy's face and sees the hours of anguish behind it. He takes hold of the boy - not to punish him, but to take him up into his strong arms; not with anger, but with love. Gently he says: "I have always trusted you, my child, and now I have good proof that my trust was not misplaced. Sleep in peace now, for you have shown courage to choose what is right. In this way, you have turned the wrong to good. I, too, am sorry that I refused you money for the widow. I will not refuse you such a request again."

Source: "Wisdom of the Sadhu" - The Bruderhof Foundation

Health Tip: Three Tips for Dental Health

by David Kennedy

[Editor's Note:

The following excerpts on toothpastes and preventing tooth decay are from the book 'How To Save Your Teeth: Toxic-Free Preventive Dentistry', by David Kennedy, Doctor of Dental Surgery. Excerpted by Dr. Ben Kim.]

Toothpastes: Do They Help?

In general, toothpastes are often just a cosmetic product with limited decay-preventive value. If you stain your teeth with smoke or tea, then a toothpaste may help reduce the staining. Pleasant flavored toothpastes seem to help motivate children and adults to brush. However, kids may be tempted to swallow the good-tasting stuff, and if it contains preservatives, saccharin, lead, colorings, or fluoride, they will receive a dose of a questionable or toxic substance. The fact that a tube of toothpaste contains a lethal dose of fluoride for a small child has been discreetly obscured from the general public's knowledge.

And remember when toothpaste tubes stayed rolled up? Many of those tubes contain lead which the toothpaste absorbed and thus gave you an additional daily dose of lead every time you brushed. Until manufacturers furnish complete evidence that their products are effective and harmless, I refuse to recommend them.

Many dermatologists are aware that some of the additives in toothpaste can cause a rash or sores inside the mouth. Fluoride is particularly notorious in this respect. One patient came to me after going to see a dermatologist about an irritation at the corners of her mouth. She had always had beautiful skin, but for the previous several months, she had a persistent rash. The doctor correctly identified her toothpaste as the culprit, and as soon as she switched to a non-fluoride brand, her problem cleared up.

The abrasiveness of toothpaste can help polish teeth, but too much abrasion will wear away the enamel and especially the root. Many of the gritty products sold as smokers' toothpastes are overly abrasive. In time, they may actually cause yellowing of the teeth by wearing down the enamel. Gritty toothpaste should not be used around the root surfaces, since even the mildly abrasive products can damage this area. That does not mean you should not brush around the gums. I'd rather see a root worn down by brushing than rotted away by neglect. Wear is usually a minor problem but root decay can destroy teeth quickly. Baking soda should not wear away enamel, but if it is improperly applied, it can scratch the gums.

Other toothpastes contain bleaching agents that are supposed to whiten your teeth. Teeth can be whitened through the use of a mouth guard which holds the whitener against the tooth surface for several hours, but the topical application of a paste has only little effect on the brightness of teeth.

Several companies have advertised new toothpastes designed to prevent the buildup of tartar in the hopes that they will reduce gum disease. These tartar-control toothpastes apparently interfere with the remineralization of the teeth. Several of my patients have reported increased root sensitivity after using tartar-control toothpaste. There is little evidence at this time that the tartar itself is the cause of gum disease. It is but one of several factors that contribute to the spread of disease. Since I am concerned about the long-term effects of demineralization, I do not recommend the use of tartar-control toothpastes. Where root sensitivity is a problem, there are toothpastes designed to help remineralize root surfaces. These pastes are best applied after brushing just before bed. That way they will stay on the tooth longer. Just dab a spot on the sensitive root and go to bed. It usually takes six weeks to feel the improvement.

Why haven't any reliable scientific studies been carried out to determine the comparative safety and effectiveness of the different toothpastes? Maybe because there is no money to be made from such a study. Maybe because large toothpaste manufacturers don't want you to know that fluoride-containing toothpastes cause allergic-type reactions and gum damage and that a family-sized tube of fluoridated toothpaste contains enough fluoride to kill a small child.

Many believe the pronouncements and recommendations made by the American Dental Association and leading consumer magazines, but few realize that these organizations have not done the scientific research necessary to show safety. In fact, in many cases, just the opposite has been found – the products they have recommended have been shown to be unsafe!

For now, the most reliable approach is to use the common, time-tested agents: baking soda and salt, or a mixture of both with hydrogen peroxide. Other natural products and options are listed in the chapter on gum disease.

Toothpaste is good to the extent that it encourages kids to brush. It is bad if it discourages dry brushing anywhere and anytime. Only a few commercial toothpastes are helpful in controlling tooth decay or gum disease. Feel free to brush without toothpaste; don't get fixated on the idea that you must have it in order to clean your teeth.

To prevent tooth decay, Dr. Kennedy recommends the following three-step approach:

The first step is nutritional. The amount of decay is proportional to the length of time the teeth are in contact with sugar. Diet is very important. I can recall the surprise on a very health-conscious mother's face when she found out that apple juice is a common cause of children's tooth decay. "But it is natural," she protested. Decay germs grow faster and produce more acid to damage teeth if sugar is present. Any kind of sugar will do, even the sugar found in dried fruit such as raisins.

The second step is easy. I call it antibacterial. The germs that eat teeth are removed by baking soda. They can be washed away after soda is applied. The soda also helps neutralize any acid present.

The third step may be the most important. The weak grooves in a child's permanent molar teeth can be completely protected. By sealing them with a bonding material, tooth decay can be sealed out before it begins. If left unsealed, more than 50% of these grooves will decay within just a few years. The twelve permanent molars erupt four at a time at ages 6, 12, and 18. Other permanent teeth may have a significant groove defect that may need sealants but the six and twelve year molars are the critical ones.

About the Author:

Dr. David Kennedy practiced preventive dentistry for over 25 years in San Diego, California. He holds a bachelor's degree in Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology from the University of Kansas and a Doctor of Dental Surgery from the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He served for two years in the United States Navy Dental Corps. He has lectured internationally to dentists and professionals on preventive and restorative dentistry and on the hazards of mercury and fluoride. He is a past President of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology.

Recipe: Pineapple Pepper Burritos
Ingredients:

1 can crushed pineapple in juice
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 bunches green onions, diced
1/4 cup cilantro, diced
Ground red pepper to taste (or fresh minced habanero pepper)
Spanish rice or fried rice or vegetable biriyani or shrimp biriyani
4-8 whole wheat tortillas, soft taco or regular burrito size

Directions:

Start with pineapple in a large mixing bowl. Add all peppers, onion, and cilantro. Add red pepper until it is spicy enough for you (should be a nice combination of sweet and spicy).

Chill while you make Spanish rice or fried rice or vegetable biriyani or shrimp biriyani.

When this is done, heat the tortillas in the microwave or on the burner.

Fill with a mixture of pineapple stuff and Spanish rice or equivalent.

If you want a healthier burrito, add some spinach leaves after the rice and pineapple mixture.

Roll up and eat.

Notes:

The burritos are pretty juicy, especially towards the end of the batch, so use a fork or else have a paper towel handy.

For a variation, put the stuffing and spinach in a pita pocket.

If you are only serving one, one batch of this should last you a whole week.

Serves 4 to 8.

Source: H& B Weekly

Humor: Tombstone writing
Headstone of Russell J. Larsen in the Logan City Cemetery, Logan, Utah

FIVE RULES FOR MEN TO FOLLOW FOR A HAPPY LIFE:

1. It's important to have a woman who helps at home, cooks from time to time, cleans up well and looks good in a skirt or jeans.

2. It's important to have a woman who can make you laugh.

3. It's important to have a woman who you can trust, and doesn't lie to you.

4. It's important to have a woman who is good in bed, and likes to be with you.

5. It's very, very important that these four women do not know each other, or you could end up dead like me.

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