Malankara World Journal New Year Special
Volume 3 No. 117 January 1, 2013
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Table of Contents
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I like a list of resolutions prepared by the Rev. Walter Schoedel. He calls them '7-UPS for the New Year.' No, this has nothing to do with the soft drink. These 7-UPS fall under the heading of attitudes and actions. ...
by Dr. Timothy Emerick
One thing I've learned is that you cannot out-dream God. When God brings a dream to pass that He's placed in your heart, it's going to be greater than you ever imagined. It's going to be bigger, better and more rewarding. You could say: God's going to enlarge your dream!
Your dream may be to just get well, to be able to get around like you used to. That's good, but God thinks bigger. When He enlarges that dream, you'll not only be able to walk, you'll be able to run!
Your dream may be to just keep your marriage together. But God's dream is to make your marriage happier and more fulfilling that it's ever been before.
Your dream may be to just pay your bills each month, but God's dream is to give you an abundance so that you not only have enough for your needs, but you have money left over to be a blessing to other people!
Today, have faith in God. Trust Him because He has good plans for you, and He is ready to supersize your dreams!
Happy New Year - 2013!
Did you know that New Year's Day is the one holiday that is
It is the world's most observed holiday.
We wish you the best for you and your family. May God bless you and have mercy on you. Please remember us in your prayers. Thank you.
New Year (January 1) Circumcision of our Lord, Feast of St. Basil and St. Gregory.
This Week's Features
by Wes Hopper
We would all like to be happy, wouldn't we? Fortunately there's a lot of research in recent years that's shown us exactly how to make that happen.
The funny thing is that it's not any of the reasons that pop culture would tell us. It isn't lots of money, the glamour spouse, the important job, or any of those things.
It's just having a sense of purpose in life, and working on it, whatever it is.
Why would this be so? Because we want our lives to have meaning. We want to matter, even in a small way.
When we find ourselves in the faceless multitude that marches off to work every morning, and drags back in the house at the end of the day tired and unfulfilled, we seem to just slowly decay away.
So choosing your life purpose is important if you want to enjoy life, but many people don't know where to start.
You can start with any of the positive psychology books that you can find at the bookstore, or you can do the Purpose process in the "How To Create Success" program that I mention above.
There is no right answer, there is only your answer. Choose something that makes you feel good, and feel free to change it whenever you need to.
At the end of the day, write a couple of sentences in a notebook about how you lived your purpose.
It will make all the difference for you!
by John Mark Reynolds
My grandfather's generation faced fascism, communism and the Great Depression. They felt blessed if they were able to attend school through junior high. Indoor toilets were not a given and success might be rewarded by a second bathroom. Kids did not expect their own bedrooms or radios. My grandmothers were born without the guaranteed right to vote and drinking fountains were still segregated.
I have lived in more peaceful times, with more educational opportunities, and with greater prosperity. The past was measurably worse in so many ways that only a fool would want to go backwards to it. My grandparents and parents made the world a better place, though they did not do so perfectly.
What they did not do is make their grandchildren and children happier. Maybe a few were foolish enough to think that winning wars against great evils or making life more comfortable could make their children happier, but we at least know better than that now.
My grandparents jolted over clay roads and complained no more than I do sitting on the tarmac waiting for my jet to fly. They made travel faster, more comfortable, but we aren't happier as a result. What does it profit me to rush over the entire planet in comfort, only to be miserable when I get there?
What does it profit a man to gain the Internet, if all he does is pour out his misery online? Ambitions that were science fiction in their generation are now fact. Star Trek (the Original Series) computers do less on the '60s show than my phone, but access to information is not the same as joy.
That is not a complaint.
A happy man would rather see peace and prosperity in his time, but it is not the peace and prosperity that made him happy. If we ever thought they could, then we confused external goods for internal happiness.
Our daily experiences should have shown that happy men and women find comfort even in tough times, but that miserable people often ruin parties held in their honor. You cannot make Eeyore jolly in anymore than you can hold down Tigger.
Some people are ambitious and don't seem to mind the misery if they are “winning.” The rest of us just want to be happy. Of course, if you are a Christian, there is some guilt that goes with admitting this want of ambition.
Shouldn't we at least want Jesus stuff?
And of course that is exactly what we should want. We should want for ourselves exactly what Jesus wants for us and what Jesus wants for us is a more abundant life. An abundant life is a pretty good definition of happiness.
What about taking up our cross and following Jesus?
We must take up our cross. Jesus commanded us to do it.
A cross brings great pain and death, but God does not want to torture His children. The cross exists as remedy and like a good medicine it is precious to sick souls. The purpose of our life is not the cross anymore than medicine is the purpose of healthcare. The cross is to kill our miserable life so we can have abundant life imperfectly here and perfectly in the world to come.
God does not delight in our suffering as suffering and He does want us to be happy. Why else would a good and loving God create humans?
We cannot be happy as we are now.
Humans are not the way we were created to be. We are broken physically and spiritually. Nobody can avoid dying, physically and spiritually as a result, but we can choose the manner of our death. We can choose to die spiritually before dying physically and so being the process of healing or we can die physically before the second death and damn ourselves.
God, after all, has never needed us to do anything.
Jesus loves me and does not even require me to love Him. I should love Him, it would be good for me to love Him, but Jesus will let me say “no” to Him for all eternity. He is no cosmic lounge lizard always waiting for an answer, but a courtly lover. He woos, but He does not demand.
If I insist on seeing His love as wrath and of turning from love to lusts than He will let me go to hell.
He would prefer that I be happy ... to flourish as a human being. That is why human beings never go to “heaven.” Heaven is where God and the holy angels live now. Instead, God is making a new earth and a great city in which grownup humanity can live with Jesus. Someday humans can live on earth as they were meant to live.
Happiness cannot be found by fixing one part of a person. We have minds so we have to think. We have hearts and so we must feel. We have passions and so we must express them. We have bodies and so we must use them.
When every part of a human is working as it was designed to work by God, then a man is happy. Another way of saying this is to say that a happy man is “flourishing.” Like any living thing that gets just what it needs and uses it well, the happy human is flourishing. Virtue, excellence, produces flourishing, while vice withers us.
The greatest philosophers before Christ, Plato and Aristotle, knew this was true, but knowing was not enough. They could not find anyone who was happy or virtuous. They knew a lover of wisdom could achieve it, but lovers of wisdom are scarce! Jesus, Wisdom in skin, came down to be happy through virtue in actions and not just in theory.
Amongst the most basic human right given to people by Creator God is the right to flourish fully as a human, the right to happiness. No government is just, which prevents men from thinking, feeling or being good. There can never be a law against the fruits of the Spirit!
The founders of the United States were picking up on this classical and Christian tradition when in the Declaration of Independence. Over time the idea of happiness has been corrupted by errors and lies. Shysters continue to sell the idea that some good thing or experience can make us happy.
After all, there is money to be made selling experiences or products. Internal happiness comes painfully, and may cost all we have, but there is no money to be made in the true cross or in true happiness.
Most Americans are confused about this truth. They believe the right to happiness in the West should promise a free trip to Las Vegas, if that is what they wish. There is, however, not right to vice.
Government or society cannot justly stop a man from doing good, but they may stop him from doing evil. I may wish to do things that are wrong or unhelpful, but that does not matter. Human experience shows that we are very good at knowing what we want, but very bad at knowing what we need.
When I wish to eat more than I need, I think it will make me happy. Indulging wants proves a bad way to happiness. One reason the Bible exists, I think, is to show us through examples what people need. The Bible is full of stories of indulgence turned to vomit and restraint becoming pleasure.
David followed his heart and harmed all he loved. Joseph followed God's heart and gained all he needed.
People have minds, so they must think. Plenty of people with little formal education, like Abraham Lincoln, learn to think well and plenty of the rest of us go to much school, but gain only credentials. Four years of Spanish credentials will not get you through Madrid, but Spanish will.
My grandparents had little access to formal education, but they maximized what they had. Reading the King James Bible every day, and working to understand it, was intellectually transformative. They were wrestling with one of the sources of the English language while reading this translation of a great book: the Bible.
My grandparents could not “relate” to this book. Seventeenth-century English was no more their speech pattern as country folk in West Virginia than it is for my college students. The difference is that they did not ask the Bible to relate to them, they grew in order to understand it.
All four of my grandparents would have made excellent college students, but they were not given that option. Instead of being bitter, they kept learning so that in the end they gained more wisdom than most folk who have been to more school.
They learned the language of knowledge, if they never got the credentials.
In the same way, their jobs in and out of the home demanded a level of physical fitness of them. They walked, they made and they gardened. They had to do so. Advertising had not yet utterly overwhelmed common sense so they had fewer body image issues. They hated their bodies less and used them more.
Music was not free to download or pervasive in the background of every place they visited. If you wanted music, the cheapest and easiest way to get it was to make it. The same thing was true of clothing and furniture. They sang, wrote plays, gospel songs, and built homes. This did not just exercise their minds, but their passions and their spirits. The quilts my grandmothers made were art and the houses my grandfathers built were architecture.
Talking on the porch in an evening, arguing politics and theology, was a longer pursuit of the dialectic, Socratic questions and tentative answers than most college graduates now do after college.
Relative poverty demanded they do what we all should do and protected them from the vices of wealth. They lived in no golden age. Poverty is not good and it dulled much that could have been better. Ignorance as harder to dispel and sometimes was not. While they learned to love their neighbors, they sometimes lacked experiences to love more distant folks.
Nobody would return to that time, especially my grandparents, because they saw the evils clearly enough to fight and defeat many of them for us.
Instead of continuing and improving on this accomplishment, too many of us (though not all!) coasted. We spent what they left us and a good bit more. Our passion for social justice declined and we were content with “better.”
J.D. Salinger, author of Catcher in the Rye and other penetrating stories from the 1950s and early 1960s, does condemn my grandparents' generation for one thing. His adults, men and women of my grandparents' age, often thought that their sorrows, and they had many sorrows and made many errors, were the result of their struggles.
If they created a world of order and affluence for their children, then their children would be happier. Most had been protected from poverty from the errors of the 1920s, the Gatsby belief that money could renew hope, but when they had money made it for their children. Fortunately for my parents, my grandparents' Christianity kept them from this mistake, but many children of the '60s were not so blessed.
My grandparents became better people and parents the older they got. Many of their peers just got old and comfortable. Technology started giving them the riches that only the wealthy enjoyed in earlier times, but nobody educated that generation in what to do with the power. They were already formed, but their children were not. Just the radio gave them power of choice in music that even Queen Victoria would have envied.
Rich people of earlier ages could have warned my grandparents' generation that indulgence would not make happy children, but my grandparents were not rich. Rising technology had given them wealth, but they did not know it, because they still measured riches by their bank account.
As a result, my grandparent's generation too often allowed too much self-indulgence and so received the result Oscar Wilde would have predicted in earlier times of the children of overly indulged idle rich: shallow, credentialed, bored brats. The only difference was that the children of the middle class in the '60s were less cultured.
Still despite this folly, my grandparents and their friends were personally happier than their grandparents' generation.
They would have said, because of Jesus. And they would have been right, but following Jesus in some ways was easier (though harder in others), because of their situation.
My grandparents were happier, because given little they made much of it. Given much, I have made too little. My waste overwhelms my tiny accomplishments.
My grandparents were happier, because most never expected to get their reward in this life. They mostly did not, so they were not disappointed. Nobody remembers my grandparents outside my family today. They are not in Wikipedia and cannot even be Googled.
When my grandfather died, he heard the bells of heaven at the end of a life well lived. He was a happy man. That is enough for me.
About The Author:
John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute and professor of philosophy at Biola University. In 1996 he received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Rochester.
Source: Christianity.com Daily Update
by Darryl Dash
A man went in for his annual checkup and received a phone call from his physician a couple of days later. The doctor said, "I'm afraid I have some bad news for you." "What's the news?" the man asked. "Well, you have only 48 hours to live." "That is bad news!" said the shocked patient. "I'm afraid I have even worse news," the doctor continued. "What could be worse than what you've already told me?" the patient stammered. "I've been trying to call you since yesterday."
That's not a message that any of us want to hear, especially at the start of a new year. The first day of a new year is a day of optimism. But we all do ourselves a service if we remember that our time here is limited. All of us have a limited number of New Year's Days. They may seem endless, but they're not. One of the wisest things we can do at the beginning of the year is to live in light of this perspective.
If you go on Google Earth, you can see a picture of the whole earth spinning in space, as if you were looking at earth from a spaceship. Then, slowly, it finds your location, and it feels like you're flying through space towards where you are. First you see your country, then your province, then your city, and then your street. Sometimes when you move to a new location, it's still stuck in your old one, so you can press a button at the bottom that says "Find Me." It will send you back in the air, shift you to your new location, and then zoom back in so you can see where you are.
What I want to do is to press the "Find Me" button in our lives today. To do this we're going to use Psalm 90. The first day of a new year is a perfect time to think about where we are right now, and to chart a course for moving forward.
Psalm 90 is going to ask us to consider two things, and then to take two actions. That's it. So let's get going.
First: Consider two things.
This psalm has 17 verses. 11 of the 17 are spent getting us to consider two realities. In order to take the action prescribed in verses 12 to 17, we need to take in the realities this psalm presents us in verses 1 to 11. Before we can navigate to where we want to go, we need to understand where we are right now.
Notice that this psalm was written by Moses. It was written in the wilderness during the 40 years that Israel was wandering in the dessert. Some two or three million people left Egypt; a whole generation of people had to die as they made that 40-year trek. There would have been constant funerals. As Spurgeon said, you could track the progress of the nation by the graves they left behind. In the middle of this, Moses reflects on two realities that were true then, and they're just as true today. It's ironic that to find our location today, we need to turn to something written thousands of years ago. But there's no better place to turn.
Psalm 90 wants us to find our current location by understanding two things.
First: God is eternal.
Verses 1 and 2 say:
Think about this. Moses zooms out to consider time. A couple of years ago, the Art Gallery had an exhibit on King Tut and Egypt. I remember walking through the exhibit, marveling at the age of what I was seeing. Some of the exhibits are over 4,000 years old. I couldn't help but think about Moses as he grew up in Egypt.
We think Moses is old, but back then Moses zooms out and says helps us see time from another perspective. Before Egypt, before there were any mountains, before there was even an earth, God was God. God has no beginning. He was God before the mountains were brought forth. He is God from everlasting to everlasting, with no beginning and no end. God exists from eternity and to eternity.
Not only that, but enormous periods of time are insignificant to God. Read verse 4:
This is amazing. A thousand years ago, the Normans hadn't invaded England. Vikings were establishing small settlements in North America. A Chinese artisan invented ceramic movable type printing. It was still the middle ages. It was a vastly different time from now. Moses reminds us that a thousand years ago to God is like yesterday to us. In light of God's eternality, a thousand years is like a day to him.
Moses wants us to grasp the eternality of God. Consider this as we begin 2012. The past year has gone fast for a lot of us. Nobody here knows what the next year is going to bring. But God stands outside of time, and a thousand years is insignificant to him. For people living in tents in Moses' day, or for people living in homes today, God can be our dwelling place in all generations, because God never changes.
Second: Your life is short and difficult.
Moses next invites us to consider our lives. In contrast to God, who is eternal, Moses says two things about our lives. First, he says that our lives are short. Verses 5 and 6 say:
A human life - even the longest of human lives - is insignificantly brief. It's like a watch in the night, a flood, a dream, or some grass that sprouts in the morning and dies at night. When I lived in North Bay one summer, they had these things called shadflies that would come out. They were everywhere. You couldn't drive your car without turning your windshield wipers on. But these shadflies live for only one day. In parts of the world, they're called one-day flies. The psalmist says that this is a picture of our lives. Our lives are brief. God is eternal, but we're only here for a fleeting moment, and then we're gone.
Not only that, but Moses says that our lives are hard as well. Read verses 7 to 11. The point that Moses makes is that our lives are hard, and they're hard for a reason. Why? Because of God's anger. Remember why so many were dying in the wilderness. They had rebelled against God after the spies had returned from Canaan, saying that they could not enter. God said, "I, the LORD, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die" (Numbers 14:35). They were living and dying in tents in the wilderness as the consequence of sin. We're not living in tents and dying in the wilderness, but life is still unbearably hard. We are still dealing with the results of human sin, and the mess it has made in this world. We are still dealing with God's righteous anger against human rebellion, high treason against his reign.
So consider this today. This goes against how most of us think most of the time, which is exactly why we need to hear it. Consider these two things, and you'll be much better for it. Consider that God is eternal, and that your life is short and hard.
Secondly, take two actions.
Nobody really wants to be told that God is eternal and that your life is short and hard, unless it's for a reason. And in Psalm 90 it is for a reason. This psalm is meant to get us to take action. Specifically, two actions.
First: Number your days.
Verses 10-12 say:
Andy Stanley tells the story of a man who bought 1,300 marbles on his 50th birthday. He figured that, if he lives to be 75, he would have about a 1,300 Saturdays left. So every Saturday he goes and takes a marble out of that jar and throws it out. It's a reminder to him that time is fleeting, and that he only has a short time left.
I don't know what you need to do, but how will you remind yourself to number your limited days? To remember that your life is short? Steve Jobs once said:
Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Second: Seek God's mercy.
Read verses 13 to 17:
In light of the brevity and difficulty of life, Moses asks for three things:
First, pray that God would relent in his anger. Look at verse 13. This is really a prayer for the gospel. This is a prayer that God's anger would not be the final word, that God would not pay us as we deserve. It's a prayer that God would show us grace. It's a prayer that has been answered in Jesus Christ, who bore the punishment for our sins and has given us grace upon grace. If you haven't put your trust in him and his gospel yet, then do so today. Thank God that he has already answered this prayer in Jesus Christ.
Second, pray that we would be satisfied by God. This is one of the best prayers you could ever pray. Our hearts were meant to find their ultimate delight in God. I love how John Piper puts it: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him. Or, as C.S. Lewis put it, "God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing." You've just come through Christmas. Christmas has all this build-up. It promises that we will find happiness in gifts and family and food. And every year we're a tiny bit disappointed as we come out of Christmas, because as good as these things are, they're not enough to really satisfy us. So pray this year that you will find your heart's deepest hungers met in God, because he is the only one who can truly satisfy.
Finally, pray that God's favor would rest upon your life. Pray that God would show you his favor in the coming year. Ask for God's blessing on your life, that God would establish the work of your hands. Without his help, you can do nothing.
There is no better way to begin 2013 than by considering two things: that God is eternal, and that our lives are short and hard. And then there's no better way to respond than by numbering your days and praying for God's mercy on your life. God's eternal, and you're not. So make the most of your limited time, and seek God's mercy.
He who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. PROVERBS 29:25
In September 1939, Great Britain allied with France and several other alarmed countries in declaring war on Hitler's Germany, which had invaded Poland in its intended march toward global domination. By the end of the year, anxieties throughout England remained on high alert; everyone was fearful of bombing and invasion.
When King George VI sat down before two large microphones to make his Christmas Day speech to the nation, he was dressed in his official uniform as Admiral of the Fleet. With so many parts of the world facing an uncertain future, his goal was to reassure the people that their nation was prepared and able and their cause right and just.
"A new year is at hand," the king said. "We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted."
Then, turning to some lines of poetry his wife had recently shared with him, he concluded his speech with these words, which are a fitting close to our year together. They offer a word of encouragement that-we hope-will settle your hearts amid the troubles of our own era in history. These lines are from "The Gate of the Year," a poem written in 1908 by Minnie Louise Haskins:
I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied, "Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!"
As you make the turn to a new year, what are you facing that needs you to sink your hand more deeply into God's hand?
Pray for one another that as you embark upon a new year, God will grant you and your family His favor.
Source: Moments with You
by Peter Beck
Another New Year is upon us. For many of us there have been too many and they come too quickly. As Christians we understand the idea of new beginnings. In salvation God has given us new life and new hope. We know that we don't have to wait for New Year for a second chance to get things right. God's grace is available to us as long as we have breath in our lungs.
However, celebrating the New Year can help us to refocus our efforts, redirect our thoughts, and remedy lingering weaknesses in our lives so that we might live more holy lives. To that end, we make New Year's resolutions.
Many of my spiritual heroes made resolutions of their own.
Jonathan Edwards, the great Puritan preacher, kept a diary. In that diary he wrote 70 resolutions, things that he resolved to do. Many of us would do well to emulate his resolve.
Another Puritan, Matthew Henry, had great resolve, as well.
What resolutions are you going to make this year? Lose weight? Find time? Break habits? Mend fences?
I would like to suggest a few things that we all should be resolved to do in the New Year:
May Matthew Henry's New Year's prayer be ours:
Peter Beck (Ph.D. Southern Seminary) is assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina and a former Senior Pastor.
Source: Christianity.com Daily Update
by Justin Holcomb
Willpower Is Weak
If you're considering making some New Year's resolutions this year, consider this: like other exercises of raw willpower, most New Year's resolutions fail miserably.
According to research, 80 percent of those who make resolutions on January 1 have given up by Valentine's Day. Nutrition experts say that two-thirds of dieters regain any weight lost within a year, and more than 70 percent of people who undergo coronary bypass surgery fall back into unhealthy habits within two years of their surgery.
"Most of us think that we can change our lives if we just summon the willpower and try even harder this time around," says Alan Deutschman, the former executive director of Unboundary, a firm that counsels corporations on how to navigate change. "It's exceptionally hard to make life changes, and our efforts are usually doomed to failure when we try to do it on our own."
As we think about New Year's resolutions, it's important to realize something about human nature: people do what they want to do. The Reformation theologian Thomas Cranmer held this view of human nature (as summarized by Anglican historian Ashley Null):
What the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. The mind doesn't direct the will. The mind is actually captive to what the will wants, and the will itself, in turn, is captive to what the heart wants.
So making a resolution and summoning up all your willpower does little good if, ultimately, your heart isn't in it. Does this mean you should abandon any hope of change? Not at all. If you're going to make a New Year's resolution, here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Is It A Good Resolution?
Try to determine if the resolution is actually good. Are you planning on working out more? If so, is it because you want to be a good steward of the body God gave you or is it vanity? In reality, it is probably some of both. But what is the driving desire? Is it a good one?
2. Just Do It
If your resolution is actually a good one, just do it. Go ahead and work out more, smoke or drink less, read your Bible more, pay down your debt and save more for retirement, focus on your marriage, spend more time with your children. Every once in a while, people start a New Year's resolution and it sticks. But most don't. That's because (1) you are sinner and (2) your heart is an idol factory.
3. Grace Actually Works
The reality is that your resolution is likely needed because, like everyone else except for Jesus, you are not loving God with your entire being and not loving your neighbor as yourself. These two failures lead to havoc, discord, pain, and destruction. Jesus gave us the basic requirement: "‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets" (Matt. 22:40).
That basic failure is why we need the gospel: Jesus' life, death, and resurrection deal with the guilt and the stain of sin. It's also why we so often fail at our attempts to improve ourselves.
But Jesus also gave us the Holy Spirit, who can change our desires and empower us to love God and neighbor. As Paul tells us, "it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13). With us and our willpower, Jesus says, change is impossible, "but with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26).
God Gives Grace to Change
As Cranmer realized, our wills are captive to what our hearts love, and we are powerless to change ourselves without the work of God's Spirit changing our desires. When you think through New Year's resolutions, here's a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer as you ask God to work on your heart:
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
[Editor's Note: Justin Holcomb is Theologian in Residence at Mars Hill Church, where he also serves as Executive Director of Resurgence and the Leadership Development department. He is also Adjunct Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary.
Justin wrote On the Grace of God. He and his wife, Lindsey, are the authors of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture.]
Source: Christianity.com Daily Update
by Betsy St. Amant
Christmas has been unwrapped. You stare at the Christmas lights outside on your roof, wondering how you're going to convince your husband to take them down before July rolls around. You notice the tree standing alone in the corner, unlit and undecorated. Somehow, you just can't bear to put it back into its pine-strewn box for another 11 months.
You look away and realize there is still confetti from the New Year's party littering the corners of your living room. The clumps of ash on the street testify that there will be no more fireworks. Everything feels barren. No more sparkling apple cider. No more brightly colored gifts nestled under your tree. There's not even a sale at the mall to cheer you up. You feel the familiar Holiday Blue Bug creeping up to nibble at your ankles.
This time of year can be hard. It seems all the fun has passed and there is nothing to look forward to. It's just back to the same old routine, the same job at work, and the same family problems except this time you feel a few extra pounds have joined you for your venture into the New Year. All this, plus a glance at the credit card statement, is more than enough to send any wife or husband into the holiday blues.
As tempting as it may be, don't let the blues settle in. Fight back! Start by thinking back to the holiday fun with a cheerful heart, ready to relish the memories. Scrapbook the pictures from your camera and provide yourself something in which to reminisce occasionally.
Then, look forward. Realize this is an exciting time of year - a time for a fresh start and a second chance. The year before you is pure and untouched. At this moment, there are no mistakes dragging you down. There are no guilt trips or "should-have's" tapping you on the shoulder. There is just a glorious, long year ahead of you, a whole 365 days in which you can make new memories.
Drag out the pen and paper. Make yourself a list of goals in which you would like to accomplish this year. Go a step further and make yourself specific timelines for these goals rather than just "within the year." You'll be amazed at how simply writing something down can help make it happen.
What are your dreams for this new year? What do you want to accomplish with your spouse? Do you want to go on that vacation this summer? Do you want to reupholster that couch? Redo the bathroom? Add on to the garage? Dream together and dream big! There is no goal too unreachable, no star set too high in the sky for you to touch because with God, nothing is impossible.
It might make you feel a little sad to put away your Christmas decorations and to let life return to "normal." But it doesn't have to be this way. Look to the future with joy and spend this time preparing for what God has in store for you and your marriage. Find ways to focus on being the best wife or husband you can be this coming year, and watch what can happen.
Most importantly, don't forget to add God to your list for the new year. Make a resolution to spend more time in His presence. Losing weight and adding on to the house are great goals, but nothing is more worthwhile or brings more joy than committing in your heart to know your Savior a little better this upcoming year.
The tree is put away. The lights are back in the storage room. The confetti has been vacuumed up. But spring is just around the corner. Hope blooms anew in your heart and the fragrant smell of the future wafts in front of you. And in the midst of it all, God beckons: "For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord. ‘Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11).
[Editor's Note: Betsy St. Amant resides in northern Louisiana with her husband, Brandon. Betsy has an associate's degree in Christian Communications from Louisiana Baptist University and is actively pursuing a career in inspirational writing.]
Source: Live It Devotional
I like a list of resolutions prepared by the Rev. Walter Schoedel. He calls them '7-UPS for the New Year.' No, this has nothing to do with the soft drink.
These 7-UPS fall under the heading of attitudes and actions.
The first is WAKE UP--Begin the day with the Lord. It is His day. Rejoice in it.
The second is DRESS-UP--Put on a smile. It improves your looks. It says something about your attitude.
The third is SHUT-UP--Watch your tongue. Don't gossip. Say nice things. Learn to listen.
The fourth is STAND-UP--Take a stand for what you believe. Resist evil. Do good.
Five, LOOK-UP--Open your eyes to the Lord. After all, He is your only Savior.
Six, REACH-UP--Spend time in prayer with your adorations, confessions, thanksgivings and supplications to the Lord.
And finally, LIFT-UP--Be available to help those in need--serving, supporting, and sharing.
If you're going to make New Year's resolutions this year, let me suggest Rev. Schoedel's list.
Why do we bother to make New Year's resolutions in the first place? Why do we feel this need each January 1 to set new goals? Maybe it is because resolutions help us to identify our priorities. They answer the Question: how do I want to invest my time, energy, money, and talents in this New Year? The New Year reminds us that time is passing. It is up to each of us to maximize the potential of every moment.
by Samantha Reed
I sometimes struggle to see how God's Word applies to me and my life. Especially when I've been waiting a long time for some prayers to be answered. For hearts of loved ones to fully turn to Jesus. For manna to rain from heaven.
The funny thing about waiting is it can be all-consuming. It inhales my attention, chews my focus and swallows my thoughts, leaving me in a place of uncertainty and doubt. I forget God's power to fulfill my hopes for prayers answered. Its then, when I can't see how He's going to bring things to pass, I have to rely on His faithfulness in the past.
Remembering God's faithfulness in other's lives in Scripture, reminds us of His faithfulness in our own.
When the waters rise, you've waited long for rescue and you feel God's forgotten, remember... Genesis 8:1*:
When dust and debris threaten to replace passions, dreams and callings and you feel God's forgotten, remember... Genesis 9:15:
When the pitter-patter of little feet is silent and you feel God's forgotten, remember... Genesis 30:22:
When fear, worry, doubt and anxiety enslave and you feel God's forgotten, remember... Exodus 2:23a, 24a, 25b:
When you can't sleep and restlessness sets in, remember... Psalm 63:6-7:
When guilt consumes and you fear God will never forget your sins, remember... Isaiah 43:25:
When all hope is lost, remember... Luke 24:6a-7:
When your marriage comes back from the brink of despair, remember... Deuteronomy 8:2:
When dreams come true and you're thriving in your calling, remember... 1 Chronicles 16:12a, 15:
Recalling these accounts in Scripture helps me remember His goodness in my own life. When I can't see how He is moving on my behalf, I choose to remember that He promises to be just as present and faithful to me and you today as He was for others in the past.
When joy surrounds. When sorrow clobbers. When all's right in our world. When the bottom drops out. When we feel loved and cherished. When we feel abandoned and alone, let's remember... They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer. (Psalm 78:35)
Dear Lord, Your love and Your grace never fail. Please help me remember this today and always. Thank You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
Reflect and Respond:
Remember times God has been faithful to you. Recount those out loud today.
Focus on the everyday miracles that remind us of God's faithfulness like waking up and breathing.
Psalm 143:5, "I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done." (NIV)
Jeremiah 31:34b, "I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." (ESV)
*All verses NIV © 2012 by Samantha Reed. All rights reserved.
Source: Proverbs 31 Ministries
For more articles, sermons, reflections, devotionals etc.,
Malankara World New Year's Supplement
by Chet Day
When I was growing up in the '50s, my grandmother always said chicken soup was good for what ails you.
Interestingly enough, scientific evidence today supports what dear old granny used to say.
Several medical experts have proven that old-fashioned chicken has healing properties.
Although a 12th century physician named Moses Maimonides first prescribed chicken soup as a cold and asthma remedy, its therapeutic properties have been studied by a host of medical experts in recent decades. Findings vary.
Some say the steam is the real benefit. Sipping the hot soup and breathing in the steam helps clear up congestion.
Irwin Ziment, M.D., pulmonary specialist and professor at the UCLA School for Medicine, says chicken soup contains drug-like agents similar to those in modern cold medicines. For example, an amino acid released from chicken during cooking chemically resembles the drug acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
Spices that are often added to chicken soup, such as garlic and pepper (all ancient treatments for respiratory diseases), work the same way as modern cough medicines, thinning mucus and making breathing easier.
Another theory, put forth by Stephen Rennard, M.D., chief of pulmonary medicine at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, is that chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory. The soup, he says, keeps a check on inflammatory white blood cells (neutrophils). Cold symptoms, such as coughs and congestion, are often caused by inflammation produced when neutrophils migrate to the bronchial tubes and accumulate there.
In his lab, Rennard tested chicken soup made from the recipe of his wife's Lithuanian grandmother. He demonstrated that neutrophils showed less tendency to congregate - but were no less able to fight germs - after he added samples of the soup to the neutrophils. Diluted 200 times, the soup still showed that effect.
Rennard based his chicken soup research on a family recipe, which he referred to in his article as Grandma's Soup.
Dr. Stephen Rennard's Recipe for Grandma's Soup
1 5-6 lb stewing hen or baking chicken
Clean the chicken, put it in a large pot, and cover it with cold water. Bring the water to a boil. Add the chicken wings, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips and carrots. Boil about 1.5 hours. Remove fat from the surface as it accumulates. Add the parsley and celery. Cook the mixture about 45 minutes longer. Remove the chicken. The chicken is not used further for the soup. (The meat makes excellent chicken parmesan.) Put the vegetables in a food processor until they are chopped fine or pass through the strainer. Both were performed in the present study. Salt and pepper to taste. (Note: this soup freezes well.)
Soups Used in Dr. Rennard's Study
When Rennard set out to determine whether there was any truth to the tales that chicken soup has medicinal qualities, he used an old family recipe - and found encouraging results. But he also found that some store bought soups fared even better.
It must be stressed that Rennard did only the one study. He concluded that to draw any definite scientific conclusions, further study would be needed. However, that's unlikely to happen because there's no money to be made with chicken soup.
Here's the list of brand name soups Rennard used - in order of how effective they were in slowing the progress of colds and flu.
Knorr's Chicken Flavor Chicken Noodle
Finally, here's one more healing chicken soup recipe from 'How to Beat Colds and Flu with 37 Natural Remedies:'
Sickbed Chicken Soup
1 large chicken
Put everything into the pot with about 3-4 quarts of water. Simmer until done. Debone the chicken, put into the refrigerator and skim off the fat.
Source: How to Beat Colds and Flu with 37 Natural Remedies by Chet Day
Disclaimer: Statements are made in this article pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and these materials and products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
"A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other."
Researchers have determined that advertisers bombard us with approximately 2,000,000,007 messages a day telling us to buy, buy, buy. Then, there's the news channels telling us to worry, worry, worry. And there's all the other things we hear from teachers, bosses, spouses, kids… Wow! No wonder we have a hard time with New Year's resolutions. We have so many people telling us what to do, we barely have time to think for ourselves… let alone think about what God thinks.
So if there is one resolution that I might offer as a valid one for someone who is in Christ, it would be this:
In 2013, just listen up.
Ask Christ to create a quiet spot in your soul where just the two of you can meet, and talk, and rest as you go about your days. Sure, reach for the stars and plan for the future if you wish, but ask Him to make His presence a deeper reality as you go about life.
You can claim the same promise that the prophet Isaiah gave Israel during some very difficult and noisy days of their own:
Your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, "Be gone!" - Isaiah 30:20-22 (ESV)
Where might this lead? I have no idea. But God does. If you are aware of who He is in you, and if you reflect on the truth of His Word and listen to the Spirit, all the details will work themselves out step-by-step.
Lord Jesus, I thank You that You are with me, that You are in me. Resolutions might come in one year and go out the other. Open my ears this year, so that I can hear You and enjoy You at every junction, when You tell me to turn right or left. Amen.
Source: Experiencing LIFE Today by Pete, Jill & Stuart Briscoe
The late Erma Bombeck made some memorable resolutions over the years:
1. I will go to no doctor whose office plants have died.
2. I'm going to follow my husband's suggestion to put a little excitement into my life by living within our budget.
3. I'm going to apply for a hardship scholarship to Weight Watchers.
4. I will never loan my car to anyone I have given birth to.
Joke writer Ed McManus has some words of comfort for those of us who are setting resolutions:
"Don't worry about those 2013 News Year's resolutions. You only have to deal with them until the end of February and then you can give them up for Lent."
I heard about one poor guy who dialed his girlfriend and got the following recording: "I am not available right now, but thank you for caring enough to call. I am making some changes in my life. Please leave a message after the beep. If I do not return your call, you are one of the changes."
Wife to Spouse: "I don't want to brag, but here it is February and I've kept every one of my New Year's resolutions. I've kept them in a manila folder in the back of my desk!"
Orben's Current Comedy
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