Malankara World Journal Theme: Denho - Baptism of Jesus Volume 3 No. 118 January 3, 2013
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Table of Contents
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Congratulations to His Eminence Yeldo Mor Theethose, Arch Bishop and Patriarchal Vicar of Malankara Archdiocese of Syriac Orthodox Church in North America on the occasion of the 9th anniversary of His Eminence's consecration on January 4, 2013.
We also want to thank many of you who have written to us during the New Year. We hope to reply to each one of you personally. Unfortunately, due to the volume of mail received, we may be a bit late. We thank you for taking your valuable time to write and to let us know that we are on the right track.
This issue of the Journal is dedicated to Denho Feast - the Baptism of Jesus Christ. The church officially ends the Christmas Season with the celebration of Denho. We remember the beheading of John the Baptist on January 8 and the death of St. Stephen, the first martyr of the church, on January 9. Jesus starts the public ministry after his baptism. The only remaining item on the church Christmas season is the Ma'ltho Feast celebrated on February 2 when Jesus is presented in Temple at the end of purification rites and is seen by Simeon and Anna.
This issue of the Journal examines in depth the question of why Jesus was baptized. Our Nicene creed says "one baptism for the remission of sins" and John the Baptist was preaching the importance of repentance prior to baptism. So, why a sinless, second person of the trinity needs baptism? We hope that this question will be answered, at least partially, after reading today's carefully selected articles. One, not too often given, view by Msgr Pope is that Jesus' sole mission was to redeem the mankind. He will be sacrificed as the lamb in Calvary. He bears the sins of the world and undergoes baptism as the first part of the mission so that all the rites are accomplished for the remission of sins of mankind - the baptism (new covenant) and sacrifice (old covenant).
We welcome Chev. Cherian Venkadathu as one of the contributors to MW. I had heard him speak about baptism two years ago in Chicago and asked him to write about it. In spite of his busy schedule that includes editing a souvenir for his church on its Jubilee this summer, he has kindly consented. He has the unusual ability to simplify the mysteries associated with our sacraments. He will be writing a column in Malankara World soon describing various aspects about our tradition and liturgy.
Epiphany, Theophany, Denaha and Baptism of Jesus Christ
Many priests and others in our church seem to use these four terms synonymously. However, Catholic Church uses epiphany differently than baptism. They can fall on the same date in some years. But they are two different events theologically. According Rev. Fr. Michael Matusz of St. Peters and St. Paul Catholic Church in Cleveland, Ohio epiphany represents the arrival of Magi and is not the same as the baptism of Jesus which occurred about 31-32 years after the arrival of Magi.
I further did some research on this. Both epiphany and theophany means manifestation. Denaha (Denho) in Syriac means 'Dawn.'
Epiphany is a Christian festival held to celebrate the manifestation of the divine nature of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. Also called "Twelfth-day." from Greek epiphainein - to manifest; epiphania -the feast of manifestation.
Theophany means an appearance of God or of a god to a man; a divine manifestation. This comes from the Greek word theophaneia.
The Orthodox Christians celebrate the Great Feast of Theophany (aka denaha) the Baptism of our Lord and the Revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on January 6. After Jesus was baptized, according to scriptures, Holy Spirit descended onto him in the form of a dove and the heavens opened and God (the Father) revealed that he is the son of God - the divine manifestation.
When you look at the scriptures closely, the first manifestation of the birth of Jesus Christ came on Christmas Day when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. The shepherds came to Bethlehem to see the child as a result.
So, we have three manifestations. Manifestation to the shepherds on Christmas Day; manifestation to the Magi (via star) who arrived may be a year or two later. And finally the manifestation at the time of the baptism of Jesus about 32 years later.
According to Fr. Matusz, these are three types of manifestations aimed at three different audiences. The revelation to shepherds announced the event to the Jews. The revelation to the Magi represents the announcement to the Gentiles. The revelation at the time of baptism revealed that Jesus was the promised messiah - the second person of the Trinity. Only at the time of the baptism, all three persons of the Trinity participated. Thus, Denaha and Theophany happened on the same day. Epiphany happened about 31 years earlier when Magi visited Jesus. Epiphany and Denaha are not the same, although they may fall on the same day. Also unlike what you see on Nativity scenes and what we sing on Christmas Carols, the Magi and Shepherds did not show up together in the manger.
The orthodox prayer on Denaha include:
When You, O Lord were baptized in the JordanOn Denaha Feast day, we orthodox Christians celebrate Divine Liturgy (Qurbano) followed by the Blessing of the Waters. It is a very important feast for us.
While researching this, I also came across another not so known fact: Our church in Piravom is named after the Magi and hold their perunnal on Denaha days. According to folklore, the Magi went through Vadakara in Kerala (source: Rev. Fr. Saji Korah, San Francisco.)
We welcome any dissenting opinions on this from our clergy and learned laity. I certainly do not claim to be an expert in this.
On January 21, Malankara World will publish a Special Edition dedicated to Suriyani women, the women in our church. After the centennial volume, this will be the major keepsake volume that highlights the important role played by the women in our church. Keep an eye for it.
Please pray for Malankara World and its important mission. Please spread the word about MW to your friends.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
Denho - Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ
This festival is called Danaha in Syriac meaning 'Dawn'.
Before Holy Qurbana
Blessing of the Water
This Week's Features
We would see Jesus.
O LORD, we have waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee.
The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.
Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. - I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. - Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.
Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.
Now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. - Having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.
Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
JOHN 12:21. Isa. 26:8. Psa. 145:18. Matt. 18:20. John 14:18. Matt. 28:20. Heb. 12:1,2. I Cor. 13:12. Phi. 1:23. I John 3:2,3.
By Sharron R. Blezard
One of the wonderful things about Mark's gospel is that the evangelist gets right to what is important, omitting all fluff and extraneous detail. In less than a chapter we're at the Jordan for a holy collision of water, Word, and Spirit. In just a few short verses Jesus will submit to the baptism of the cousin/evangelist "unfit to tie the thong of his sandals" and will receive the heavenly stamp of approval in a dramatic scene involving heavens rent asunder and a dive bombing bird (aka Holy Spirit). Forget the delicate hovering dove and placid savior; this is intense drama that's going to move along faster than a Clint Eastwood blockbuster. Have you ever had a gull swoop down on you at the beach? Do you know what it is like to feel the rush of wings at your ear?
Today we celebrate this holy collision of water, Word, and Spirit. In celebrating the baptism of our Lord, we also remember our own baptism, our incorporation into the family of God, and into this wonderful, countercultural, dangerous discipleship journey. By water and Word God named and claimed us and gave us the gift of the Spirit. Nothing should ever be the same again; if it is, if the world is too much with you and you are distracted by worries and concerns then trouble those waters, my friend. Stir it up and remember whose you truly are. Let the grace and the wonder and the expectation wash over you again and again.
From the waters of creation to the waters of the flood, from the Red Sea to the Jordan River, and from the water of Baptism that quenches sin for all eternity to the water that slakes human thirst each day, this elemental substance is both mighty and merciful - the power to destroy and to ensure life. Water, Word, and Spirit are powerful images for this day. See, feel, and taste that the Lord Jesus Christ is near. Yes, Jesus is wherever we gather as a worshiping community, whenever we call on his name, and in, under, and through simple gifts of bread and wine.
May you be drawn out this day from your comfort and your slumber to the center of this holy collision of Word, water, and Spirit. Touch, taste, and see God's goodness and remember the promises of your baptism. Refreshed and renewed, go forth into the world to walk in the light and love of God. You are beloved, so be sure to live like it!
© 2010 Stewardship of Life Institute
by Fr. Tommy Lane
For more than two weeks we have celebrated Jesus as an infant. Now once again we begin celebrating Jesus as an adult. Therefore appropriately we begin with Jesus' first public appearance as an adult, his baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan.
Perhaps we wonder why Jesus requested John to baptize him. Jesus did not have any sins to repent of and the baptism offered by John the Baptist was for repentance of sins (Luke 3:3). When sinners went to John at the river Jordan they did so because they acknowledged their sinfulness and their baptism symbolized turning over a new leaf in their lives and leaving sin behind.
Jesus, although like us in every way, was without sin, as the Letter to the Hebrews assures us (Heb 4:15). That explains why John the Baptist objected to Jesus' request for baptism in the Gospel of Matthew, "I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?" (Matt 3:14). The answer Jesus gave John helps us to understand why Jesus wanted to be baptized, "Allow it now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." (Matt 3:15)
"To fulfill all righteousness" is why Jesus wanted to be baptized. We might say it is difficult to understand this answer because Jesus was not lacking in righteousness and was already righteous. So how could his baptism fulfill all righteousness? (I will draw on Pope Benedict's book Jesus of Nazareth pp 17-23 to help us to answer this question.)
Sinless Jesus did not have any sins of his own to take down into the river Jordan, therefore it could only have been our sins that he took down into the river Jordan. Naturally no one would understand this at that time but they would realize this later when they understood that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. So Jesus' baptism in the Jordan and his dying on the cross go together; he did both for our sins. He took our sins on his shoulders as he went down into the Jordan and as he died on the cross.
I think we can see this close connection between Jesus' baptism and his cross in the Scriptures.
The prophet Isaiah prophesied that a servant would suffer because of our sins (Isa 52:13-53:12). You are familiar with this prophecy of Isaiah from hearing it every year on Good Friday. This servant would be righteous and by his suffering would make sinners righteous. We obviously see this prophecy predicting Jesus' Passion.
Jesus, when speaking in prophecy about his Passion, described it as a baptism. "There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished!" (Luke 12:50) When James and John wanted to sit in glory beside Jesus he spoke about his Passion to them but we can be sure that they understand only later. Jesus said, "You do not know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup that I drink or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?" (Mark 10:38)
The Gospel of John tells us that when John the Baptist saw Jesus approaching him in the river Jordan he proclaimed, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) It is interesting that as Jesus appears at the river Jordan John the Baptist mentions that Jesus takes away the sin of the world. It is also interesting that John the Baptist describes Jesus as the Lamb of God. In the Gospel of John Jesus dies on the cross as the Passover lambs are being slaughtered in the temple. The Passover lambs were slaughtered in remembrance of the first Passover lambs whose blood was smeared on the doorposts the last night the Hebrews spent in Egypt to protect them from death. Jesus is the new Passover Lamb of the New Covenant who shed his blood for us to save us from our sins and already at his baptism he is proclaimed by John to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
On the cross Jesus took our sins on himself and made us righteous. When Jesus was baptized he was looking forward to taking our sins on himself on the cross. So when Jesus was baptized he was already taking our guilt down into the river Jordan. In this way we can see that when Jesus was baptized all righteousness was fulfilled. When Jonah was thrown overboard the ship the life of everyone else on the ship was spared (Jon 1:12-15) and when Jesus took our sins and unrighteousness on his shoulders we were saved and this begins with his baptism in the Jordan. So when Jesus is baptized he is already accepting his Passion and death.
Just as there is a close link between Jesus' baptism and his cross there is a close link between our baptism and Jesus' cross. Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us,
Paul is saying that when we were baptized we spiritually entered the tomb with Jesus to leave a life of sin behind. When we were baptized we buried sin by spiritually entering the tomb with Jesus and we rose again with the new life of Jesus just as Jesus rose to new life out of the tomb. Our baptism, just like the other six sacraments, receives its power from Jesus' death and resurrection. Our baptism is a sharing in the effects and salvation of Jesus' death and resurrection, a sharing in the new life of Jesus we receive from his death and resurrection.
Jesus' baptism in the Jordan expressed the intention of his whole life right up to dying on the cross for us, taking our sins on himself to save us. Our baptism also expresses the intention of our whole life up to our death, leaving our sin behind and living with the life of Jesus. Every day is to be a living out of our baptism with that new life of Jesus. Every day is another opportunity to turn from sin and continue following Jesus which we began with our baptism.
When we were baptized we entered the tomb with Jesus to leave a life of sin behind. Our baptism receives its power from Jesus' death and resurrection. Our baptism is a sharing in the effects and salvation of Jesus' death and resurrection, a sharing in the new life of Jesus we receive from his death and resurrection. Jesus was baptized so that all righteousness might be fulfilled and this happens when we live our baptism by turning from sin to live the life of Jesus and all righteousness is fulfilled.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2001-2012
by Chev. Cherian Venkadath, Chicago
A well-written article in Malayalam describing aspects of the Baptism of Jesus (Denaha) most of us are not familiar with. For example, why do we mix cold water, hot water and aromatic oil for baptism? Was it necessary for Jesus to receive baptism in Jordan river? Why was Jesus baptized when he was 30 years old? Since Jesus was sinless, why did he receive baptism? What is the concept of sin at birth?, etc. Read the article in pdf format in Malankara World.
by John PiperWhy Did Jesus Come to Be Baptized?
Why did Jesus come to be baptized, since John's baptism was a "baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" (Luke 3:3), and Jesus was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15)?
Luke shows in two ways that what is happening here is not important mainly because of the baptism but because of what happens afterward. First, Luke shows that Jesus came at the climax of John's ministry, "when all the people were baptized," and, therefore, that Jesus was not just one of the crowd. His coming had special significance. Second, the way Luke put his sentence together in verses 22 and 23 shows that the baptism is secondary and what happened afterwards is primary: the baptism of the people and then of Jesus are simply introductory time clauses telling when the last three things happened: "After all were baptized and Jesus was baptized and praying, then (the amazing thing happened) the heaven was opened, the Spirit came, and God spoke."
So Luke's interest is different from Matthew's, who focuses on the baptism itself and poses the very question we have posed. He tells (in Matthew 3:14, 15) how John tried to prevent Jesus saying, "'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' But Jesus answered him, 'Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.'" So Luke treats the baptism of Jesus simply as the occasion when God spoke to him from heaven, but Matthew deals with the baptism itself as a problem for one who had no sins to be forgiven. The answer he gives is that it is fitting for him to do everything that is right. There was enough in John's baptism for Jesus to affirm that the event was not meaningless: negatively it meant turning from sin, and positively it meant trusting God. Jesus could affirm both: he resolved not to sin but always to turn from it, and he committed himself always to trust God.
Probably then - and this is what Luke picks up on - Jesus' coming to be baptized was a decisive step of commitment to begin his public ministry. Thus he aligns himself with the people who turn from sin and trust God and resolves to fulfill his calling in that spirit. Luke focuses on God's approval and confirmation of his Son's resolve.
Why Mention That Jesus Was Praying?
But before we look at God's confirmation in verse 22, there was another question on verse 21: Why does Luke mention that Jesus was praying when the heavens opened and the Spirit came and God spoke? None of the other gospels tell us this. We are going to see in this gospel that Luke loves to picture Jesus in prayer. He shows him praying at all the crucial turning points of his life: here at the baptism, at the selection of the twelve apostles (6:12), at Peter's confession (9:18), at the transfiguration (9:28), in Gethsemane (22:41), on the cross (23:34). He tells us that Jesus went repeatedly to the wilderness to pray (5:16) and that he spent whole nights in prayer (6:12). The point of all this must be to show that even in Jesus' life there is a correlation between earnest prayer and the blessing of God.
Now what blessing was Jesus praying for after his baptism? Luke 11:13 suggests the answer, I think. Luke's version is different from Matthew's: "If you then who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?" What should obedient children ask from their heavenly Father? The Holy Spirit. Not that we or Jesus did not already have the Holy Spirit within us - even the weakest believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). But the Holy Spirit is infinite and always has more of himself to give, and his means of manifesting himself are so varied, there is always some new experience awaiting those who go hard after his fullness.
I assume that Jesus was praying for a manifestation of the Spirit to confirm to him his Messiahship, and that God's favor was on him as he set out on his public ministry. God answered his prayer. And that leads to a fourth question.
Why Does the Spirit Come in the Form of a Dove?
What is the significance of the Spirit's descending in the form of a dove and God's declaration of his love? God answers Jesus' prayer by sending his Spirit in a visible form and then declaring verbally his delight in his Son: "You are my beloved Son; in you I delight." This is a green light for Jesus. And not just a green light, but a powerful enablement and directive.
The way the Spirit comes gives a direction for how its power is to be used. The word "dove" occurs on Jesus' lips one time in the gospels, namely, Matthew 10:16: "Behold I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." The dove suggests to Jesus purity, meekness, innocence. It was not majestic like the eagle or fierce like the hawk or flamboyant like the cardinal. It was simple, common, innocent, the kind of bird poor people could offer for a sacrifice (Luke 2:24; Leviticus 12:8). This was a directive to Jesus from the Father: the Spirit with which I anoint you is not for ostentation or for earthly battle. What is it for?
An answer comes from Isaiah 42:1–4. This text is relevant because this is where the words of God the Father come from which follow the giving of the Spirit:
The beauty of this picture is that he has the power to bring forth justice to the nations, but he will not use it to "break a bruised reed or quench a dimly burning wick." That is, he will be tender with the weak and failing. He will be dove-like not hawk-like. So when God anoints Jesus with the Spirit in the form of a dove, he directs him to use his power in meekness and tenderness and love. Which Jesus does: "
"Come to me all you who labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest . . . for I am meek and lowly" - I have the Spirit of a dove not a hawk. He says in Luke 4:18, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor" - the bruised reeds of the world and the smoldering wicks. To these he comes with his dove-like Spirit and heals and fans into flame.
So in summary, what Luke is doing in verses 21 and 22 is setting Jesus' ministry off from John's, demonstrating that he has God's fullest approval and blessing, and revealing the kind of ministry he will have - namely, a dove-like ministry.
Excerpted from: The Baptism and the Genealogy of Jesus by John Piper. Read the full article in Malankara World: The Baptism and the Genealogy of Jesus
©2012 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission.
by Msgr. Charles Pope
In Mark 1:8, John the Baptist says,
Matthew and Luke add: and with fire.
What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (and with fire)? In the first place we must be careful to indicate, right from the beginning, that Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not distinct, different, or later than our reception of the Sacrament of Baptism. Rather it is the unfolding and deepening experience of what the Sacrament of Baptism (and Confirmation) have effected in us.
In a strictly theological sense, John the Baptist is distinguishing his Baptism, which was merely a washing that signified repentance, from the Baptism of Christ, which actually brings forgiveness and bestows the very life of God, and all the graces of this new life to the believer. We are not merely washed of our sins in the Sacrament of Baptism, we are made new, and the seed of God's very own life, love and grace are sown in us, to grow. We are actually sanctified and made new.
Some of the Fathers of the Church have this to say:
According to the Apostle Paul, the believer enters through Baptism into communion with Christ's death, is buried with him, and rises with him: Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Rom 6:3-4) The baptized have "put on Christ." (Gal 3:27) Through the Holy Spirit, Baptism is a bath that purifies, justifies, and sanctifies (1 Cor 6:11). Hence Baptism is a bath of water in which the "imperishable seed" of the Word of God produces its life-giving effect. (CCC 1227-1228)
This quote from the Catechism then moves us beyond the merely Theological answer to the question, "What does it mean to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?" and opens also, the "experiential" question: What is it "like" to be baptized with the Holy Spirit?
Experientially, It means knowing what we have received in Baptism and Confirmation. But here, "knowing" does not mean mere intellectual knowing (οἴδα – odia in the Greek New Testament). Rather it means experiential knowing (γινώσκo – ginosko in the Greek New Testament). It is one thing to "know about" God and to be able to pass a religion test. But to be Baptized with the Holy Spirit is to "know" the Lord, personally, deeply, intimately. It is to be in a life changing, transformative relationship with the Lord. It is experiential faith.
Too many people are satisfied with with living their faith by inference, rather than by experience. In other words, they are content to go along saying what they heard some one else say. "Jesus is Lord and risen from the dead" because my mother says so, or my preacher says so, (or even), the Bible says so. All of this is fine, for faith first comes by hearing. But there comes a point when YOU have to say so, because you personally know it to be true.
And this is what it means to be Baptized with the Holy Spirit and with fire. It is to be able to say, "In the laboratory of my own life I have tested the Word of God and found it to be true. I have personally met and know the Lord, I know Him for myself."
In other words, it is having faith come alive! Faith that is real, tested and certain. It is knowledge that is personal. It is to be a first hand witness to the power of Jesus Christ to change my life, for I am experiencing it in the laboratory of my very own life. He is changing and transforming me. I am seeing sins put to death and wonderful graces come alive. I am more serene, confident, loving, generous and chaste. I am more forgiving, patient, trusting and patient. I love the poor more, and I am less attached to this world. My prayer is becoming deeper as I sense his presence and power in my life. Yes, God is working in my life and He is real. This is my testimony. What is yours?
But this is what it means, experientially, to be baptized with the Holy Spirit (and with fire).
And this is also at the heart of evangelization. How are you going to convert anybody if you're not convinced yourself? Parents, you want your kids to go to Church? Great, and proper. But why do you go? Because it's Church law? Alright, fine, but shouldn't there be a deeper reason? To be Baptized with the Holy Spirit is to go to Mass and make the Christian walk because you know and love Jesus Christ yourself, and you want to bring your children into that living, powerful and life transforming experience of the Lord in prayer, the Mass, the Liturgy, and the Sacraments. That's what you're after. And that's what it means to be baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Pay attention to these word of St. John the Baptist. He, through the Holy Spirit, is teaching us about the "normal Christian life," which is to be alive, joyful, confident, serene and thrilled at what God is doing in my life, at to know (not just know about) the Lord. "I baptize you with water, BUT HE, will baptize you with the Holy Spirit" And he will light a fire in your life, a fire that never dies away, but that grows in intensity as it transforms your very self.
Let he who has ears to hear, heed what the Spirit is saying. Baptism is not a tedious ritual, it is a transformative reality.
Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog
By: Msgr. Charles Pope
On the Day known as New Years Day in the secular world, there is a veritable feast of identities for this day on the Church’s calendar. It is the octave of Christmas, the Feast of Mary Mother God, the Feast that commemorates the Holy Name of Jesus and also of the Circumcision. Quite a lot to ponder actually!
This year it strikes me to preach out of a text of St. Paul from the 3rd chapter of the Letter to the Philippians. The text recommends itself to a New Year’s theme, because Paul speaks and meditates on "what is behind, and what is before" him. And in his meditation he sets forth a kind of plan for a Christian to follow, a Christian who prayerfully reflects on the year that is passed, and the year that is about to unfold. Here then is the text from St. Paul, and a kind of four-point plan that follows.
I. Consider your Profit
In the text St. Paul says, But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him. …I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
At the end of one year the beginning of another, we do well to consider what it is that we truly value. Now we need to be careful when we make this consideration. For it often happens that we make answer the question, "What do I most value" in a way that speaks more to how we should answer the question, than what is really true. Most of us who are believers, know that we should value God, the Lord Jesus, above all things. But honestly, that is not always so.
So we ought to reflect, at the end of the year, what, or who, do we really value most. What, or who, is our greatest prize? Perhaps it is the Lord, but often other things compete for this title. Many idolize money, creature comforts, political outcomes, sports victories, career advancement, and many other things more than God, and the things of God.
Why is this consideration so important? Because, frankly, where our treasure is, our heart will also be (cf Luke 12:34). Thus, we do well at the beginning of the new year to ask the Lord to give us hearts that are more sure, more undivided, more single-hearted in our love for him.
But in order for us to receive this gift, we must also ask for new minds that become powerfully aware of just how great it is to know and love the Lord, and how comparatively passing the gifts and trinkets of this world are. Somehow, it has to get through our thick skulls that the things of this world don’t amount to much. They are but passing pleasures, mere trinkets upon which rust, decay and boredom soon descend. They are as St. Paul says, nothing but "rubbish," compared to the glory of knowing God, and the glories he has waiting for us. Thus St. Paul says that he "wants to know Christ."
One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. Well I have news for you, we’re all going to lose weight, a lot more than we think. These bodies of ours, when death has had its way, along with decay, will weigh little less than 5 pounds of dust and ashes. All our good looks, our big hair and youthful ruddiness will pass. We get worked up about secondary things. Perhaps losing weight is good, but knowing the Lord and valuing him is far more important. Why not resolve to pray for a greater love and desire for God instead of just praying for less desire for food?
So, step one in the four-point plan is to get this through our thick skulls: the glories of this world are passing away, they last but a moment. Our only true and lasting treasure is the Lord and the things he helps the store up in heaven. Step one, in our four-point plan is to consider our profit, to consider what is truly valuable, truly lasting in our life.
II. Chase your prize
St. Paul goes on to say, Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus
Having considered our true treasure, and asking and experiencing that our heart be supernaturally directed to what we most value, it becomes easier by God’s grace to walk a clear path in the new year ahead. There may be things in our past that we regret, mistakes that have caused us setbacks. But with hearts renewed in what is truly valuable we are enabled increasingly, to forget what is behind and to press forward to what is ahead, the great glory of heaven, union with God, and all the saints.
The Greek word here is διώκω (dioko) which means to aggressively chase, like a hunter pursuing a catch, or a runner seeking a prize. Do you get the picture? The Christian life is not to be a tepid and boring, reluctant slouching towards God and heaven. It is to be a joyful, focused, earnest pursuit of God, and his kingdom. It is to be an eager pursuit of his will, his Word, and his Sacraments, like a starving man who sees food in the distance and runs with joy and zeal to devour with zesty delight every morsel he can claim!
It is clear, that we will only vigorously pursue things which we value highly. That is why step one in the four-point plan is so critical. Consider the kinds of sacrifices that people make for careers, for things like the "American dream." People spend many years, and vast amounts of money pursuing the dream that lasts less than 80 years, maximum. But they make this pursuit, with zeal, even with joy, because they value the large home, the creature comforts, and the prestige of having "made it."
To the degree, that we value Jesus and his kingdom this way we too will pursue it with joy, and be willing to make any number of sacrifices. Thus, having considered what truly profits us, would truly is our treasure, we will naturally chase our prize with joy and zeal.
III. Confirm your Priority
St. Paul says: But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Note the expression, "this one thing I do." When something is truly our passion, and our focus it tends to order everything else in our life. Consider that a runner in a race does not stop to have idle discussions, or go to shopping malls and movie theaters when in the race. Rather, the runner in a race focuses on running, winning the race. Only those things that assist him in that task this year will he do. For example, a distance runner may reach out to receive a cup of cold water that is offered along the path, for that helps his goal.
If, to use another example, a person is driving from Washington DC, North to New York City, they will ignore signs that say South, Atlanta. If it is necessary to pull over and get gas, that makes sense, and they will do so. If directions or other provisions for the trip are necessary, they will do so. But the destination, New York City is the goal that determines everything else. And only those things that assist the goal make sense.
And so it must be for us. Our life must be increasingly about one thing, and one thing only: knowing, and loving Jesus Christ and earnestly running to his kingdom. Anything that distracts from that one goal is to be discarded. And things that help us are embraced.
Thus note this, for our life to be ordered, and not confused and chaotic, we must have our one goal, always consciously in mind. Our priority is Jesus Christ and whatever hastens us to his kingdom.
IV. Claim what is promised
St. Paul says, All of us who are mature should take such a view of things….Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
Here St Paul, in speaking about is living up to what we have already attained, is essentially saying that we must live with Hope, that is, with confident expectation that what is promised is ours.
People only strive for what they can reasonably possess. And thus, the Theological Virtue of Hope, which defined is "the confident expectation of God’s help in attaining eternal life," is an essential virtue for the Christian, both to have an cultivate.
When we know that what is promised is attainable by God’s grace we are all the more encouraged to strive eagerly for it, even if there are temporary setbacks and hardships involved. Thus, St. Paul says to us that we ought to live as those who have already attained, even though we are not yet at our goal.
In Christ our Head, we, the members of the Body, have already attained to the glory that is promised. And if we but run with him the race that is set before us, we will surely meet our goal. Thus as we enter this new year, we must renew our confidence in God’s providence, and in his grace.
The only ultimate obstacle, is our very self. We must neither surrender our confidence, nor conviction. Doubts and discouragement might cause us to veer from the path. Thus Paul counsels that we pray for vigorous Hope, a Hope that will strengthen our wills to endure, no matter the cost knowing that if we remain in Christ we will win.
Here then is a kind of four-point plan for the year ahead. We must consider what is truly our profit, what we value most. Chase our prize with a zeal that comes from that fact that it IS our prize, confirm our Priority by focusing like a laser on our Prize, Claim already what is our and live out of it.
Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog
by Dr. Michael Youssef
Facing a new year can elicit a variety of responses. Some feel a sense of excitement and renewal in looking forward to the coming year. Others feel like life is spinning out of control, wondering where the year went. Some feel lost without a clear purpose in life - something to be or do that makes sense of everything. Regardless of how you feel about the New Year, you can be assured that God has a plan for you in it.
God has a unique vision and purpose for each of His children. God wants to bring glory to Himself through our lives. Understanding God's vision, however, is different from casting our own vision. When we make plans, we want everything laid out. Think about the last time you traveled. When you mapped out the trip, you wanted to know where it started, where it ended, where you would stop along the way, and exactly how long it would take. Many of us approach our life plans in the same way - we try to plan out all the details in advance; we want to know all the answers before we begin the journey. The same is not true for God. When God reveals His vision for our lives, He does so step by step.
In John 16, there is an interesting exchange between Jesus and the disciples just before His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Jesus is telling the disciples what to expect when He goes away, and says, "I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear" (John 16:12). God reveals His vision to us when He knows we are ready and able to hear it. So how can we prepare ourselves to receive God's vision when He reveals it to us?
First, to understand and embrace God's vision, we must ask Him for it.
The Bible tells us we have not because we ask not - and sometimes when we do ask; we seek with selfish motives, not God-honoring motives. But God promises us, "Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know" (Jeremiah 33:3). God wishes to reveal Himself to us, but we must first ask with pure motives and persistence. The word for "call" in this verse means to do so continuously. We are commanded to not ask once, but to continue asking until God reveals His vision to us. Why should we persist? Persistence teaches us to rely on God while He is shaping our hearts to delight in the things of God. God does a wonderful work in us when we seek His will. When we delight in Him, He will give us the desires of our heart.
Second, God gives His vision to those who are good stewards.
God is looking for stewards who will manage His plans well, even in the face of opposition, frustration, impatience, or even spiritual attack. Because God's vision does not operate on our agendas or cultural norms, we may encounter criticism by friends and family who question our decisions and motives. As we follow God's timeline, we may experience anxious moments and frustration while we wait for God's plan to unfold. Satan will tempt us to bypass God's timeline and question God's direction. Yet God entrusts His vision to those He knows will persevere through criticism, seasons of waiting, and spiritual warfare.
Third, God gives His vision to those who are faithful in small things.
He will give a greater vision to those who are being faithful in what is already in their charge. The Bible teaches us that God rewards His faithful servants. "You have been faithful with a few things: I will put you in charge of many things" (Matthew 25:21,23). The good news is that it is never too late to start following God's vision. We are always at the right point in our lives to decide to honor God and to delight in Him. And when we do that, we will experience the broad and joyous vision of God at work in our lives.
Commit to God in this coming year to accept His vision for your life so that you may bring glory to Him. Prepare yourself to receive His vision by asking Him to show you His plan for your life. Seek the Holy Spirit's help to overcome the criticism, impatience, and spiritual attacks you may encounter as you follow God's will. And as you wait for greater responsibility in God's kingdom, continue to be faithful in the smaller tasks you already have.
Excerpted from My Journal, a monthly devotional magazine from Leading The Way with Dr. Michael Youssef.
by Joel Osteen
Very often, we see potential in other people that they can't see in themselves. When you speak vision into them, when you tell them what they can become, you can help set the direction for their life. Your words have the power to push people into their divine destiny. I believe that the reason some people are not living at their full potential is because no one has ever spoken faith into them. No one has taken the time to say, "Hey, you're great at this. You've got a gift here. You're going to do something amazing."
I believe that one of our assignments in life is to call out the seeds of greatness in other people. Look around at who God has placed in your life. They're not there by accident. Take time to study them. See what they're good at. What are their gifts? What do they excel at? Don't just think about it, speak vision into them. Tell them what they can become. Let your encouragement ignite the greatness on the inside. Help them rise up in confidence so they can be all God has called them to be!
Father, thank You for the people You've placed in my life. I choose to be faithful, to speak life and call forth the greatness in them. Thank You for bringing me to new levels as I help others rise higher, too, in Jesus' name. Amen.
Source: Today's Word with Joel Osteen
by John Cox
Have you ever found yourself on the edge of temptation where you are a moment away from sinning against God? The answer is a resounding yes! It could be in the dark hours of the night at home, in a meeting at work, or even when that person at the checkout steals your place in line. Temptation can arrive at any moment to battle over our affection for Christ.
We all know intimately the brief satisfaction when we jump off the cliff and give in to sin, then the crushing blow of shame awaits us at the bottom. Why? Did we fall merely because we did not act the way we were called to by Christ? Here is the truth. Overcoming temptation is not only about doing what you are supposed to do; it is about being who you are supposed to be. And we need to be like Jesus.
When temptation arises we need to ask ourselves this simple but profound question, "Do I want to be like Jesus?" The honest answer might grieve us. It is honesty that unveils, in that moment, that our affection for sin and self is greater than our love for Christ. The only reason why it exists is because temptation found us living in our own strength, and not in Christ's. Apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5).
Our preemptive strike is to be imitators of God, as "beloved children," who continuously "walk in love" as Christ loved us. In other words, we want to be like Christ when we love Christ most. If temptation finds us walking in the love of Christ, we will not sacrifice love for momentary pleasure, because our desire to be like Him is something we well not let go.
When Christ gave Himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God, He sacrificed His righteousness by becoming sin. We must sacrifice our sin to become righteousness, and it begins with the simple question, "Do I want to be like Jesus?"
For when the battle for our affections is at hand, Christ is standing there reminding us of His love for us, and calling us to love Him.
Father, I know Your desire for me to be like You. You transform me every day. You want me to love what You love and hate what You hate. Many times I have failed You. Thank You for Your constant love and forgiveness of me. May I never use the power of Your forgiveness to justify sinning, but may it draw me closer to You, so that when temptation comes I may boldly proclaim, "I want to be like Jesus!" In Jesus' name, Amen.
Source: Our Journey Online Devotional
On January 21, 2013, Malankara World, God willing, is
planning to publish a special edition of the MW Journal (Issue No: 121)
dedicated to Women. It will be released by Very Rev. Dr. Geevarghese Kunnath MD
Corepiscopa, Malankara World Board Member, after the Qurbana at Baselios Church,
Ohio on Sunday, January 20.
Women's role in our church is very mush misunderstood. They play a key role; but often do not get the recognition they deserve. Our Kochammas/ammayees (spouse of married clergy) work very hard behind the shadow of their husbands without much notice.
Women also play a key role in shaping the children - the future of our church. Pentecostal churches often target women because they know that they can capture the whole family by targeting the women.
Although, we were planning for this publication for nearly two months, the recent awareness of the women's plight in India following the rape-murder of a 23 year old medical student in New Delhi makes this issue quite timely.
We invite articles from our readers. Due to the time constraints, please send your article no later than January 15 to make it to the press. You can submit your article electronically to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Pam Harrison
Children and adolescents living in the United States in states with higher levels of ultraviolet B (UVB) exposure are much less likely to develop autism than their counterparts living in states with lower levels of solar UVB exposure, new research shows.
William Grant, PhD, Sunlight, Nutrition, and Health Research Center, San Francisco, California, and John Cannell, MD, Vitamin D Council, San Luis Obispo, California, found that children and adolescents living in states with higher solar UVB doses in summer or autumn had half the rate of autism as their counterparts living in states with the lowest UBV doses.
Rates of autism were also 40% higher in African Americans living in states with the least solar UVB doses compared with white Americans.
Further, African Americans had approximately 40% lower levels of vitamin D than white Americans.
"Summer is when people make the most vitamin D from UVB, and we found that the more UVB dose in summer or fall, the lower the prevalence of autism," Dr. Grant told Medscape Medical News
Latitude, on the other hand, is an indication of vitamin D production in winter.
Both latitude and UVB were found to be related to autism prevalence in the current ecologic study, Dr. Grant added.
The study was published online in the October/November/December issue of Dermato-Endocrinology.
According to Dr. Grant, the study was prompted by a map of autism rates published in the Los Angeles Times in December 2011.
The map showed that autism rates among children between the ages of 6 and 17 years in 2010 were highest in the Northeast and on the West Coast and lowest among the Southern and Plains states - a trend that is similar to that seen for many types of cancer.
The authors then calculated autism prevalence rates for white, African American, and Asian American persons by using total prevalence and relative populations of minors for each ethnic group by state.
Some states were omitted from the analysis either because no data were available or the numbers of minorities in these states were too low.
Results were reported as regression coefficients, which is a measure of the strength of the association.
For both whites and Asian Americans, solar UBV doses for March, July, and October were much stronger than either UVB doses in January or latitude.
This observation suggests that vitamin D's effect is associated with vitamin D production from solar UVB when doses are relatively high, the authors note - a finding that is again similar to observations for many types of cancer.
For African Americans, results for latitude were similar to those for UVB, they add.
As the authors point out, the literature supports the idea that vitamin D deficiency before or during pregnancy is an important risk factor for autism.
For example, as previously reported by Medscape Medical News, the older the man at the time of conception, the higher the risk for autism, a risk that is felt to be due to sporadic DNA mutations.
"Vitamin D can correct for sporadic mutations," Dr. Grant noted, "so it weeds out the bad genes and encourages the good ones."
The authors cautioned that they cannot rule out whether or not vitamin D status in the infant contributes to autism risk.
However, assuming that solar UVB production of vitamin D is an important factor in reducing autism risk, Dr. Grant advises that pregnant women take enough vitamin D3 to raise serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations to 30 to 40 ng/mL.
Gene Stubbs, MD, professor emeritus, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, told Medscape Medical News that more work needs to be done to prove the connection between low levels of vitamin D and increased autism risk.
Nevertheless, he said the current study provided "indirect but suggestive evidence" for such a connection.
Dr. Stubbs also noted that there has been at least 1 study in which vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy was associated with an increased risk for clinically significant language difficulties ( Pediatrics 2012;129:485-93).
Animal models of vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy have also shown that low levels have a definite effect on how the brain develops, and the same may be true for humans, although that is speculative, he added.
Dr. Stubbs is now in the early stages of a study in which investigators will evaluate whether vitamin D supplementation during pregnancy decreases the incidence of recurrent autism in women who have previously given birth to an autistic child.
"I'm aiming for 40 ng/mL of serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations," Dr. Stubbs observed, "as I think the 20 ng/mL levels now recommended for pregnant women are too low."
Dr. Grant received funding from the UV Foundation, Bio-Tech Pharmacal, the Vitamin D Council, the Vitamin D Society, and the Sunlight Research Forum. Dr. Cannell is president of the Vitamin D Council and received remuneration from Purity Products Inc. Dr. Stubbs has disclosed no relevant financial relationships.
Medscape Medical News,
Dec 27, 2012
Heavy metal poisoning is rampant. It is a major cause of hormonal imbalances, cancer, thyroid problems, neurological disturbances, learning problems, depression, food allergies, parasites, etc. etc. This is a great recipe that is not only easy to make but also really yummy, and it tells you how to remove heavy metals from the body!
Cilantro is truly a healing food. One friend suffering from high blood pressure due to mercury poisoning had her blood pressure return to normal after eating two teaspoons of this pesto daily for only a week. So whether you need to detoxify heavy metals from your body or just wish to use it as a preventative measure, 2 teaspoons a day is all you need to take. This pesto has now become a regular in my diet. Enjoy!
Cilantro Chelation Pesto
4 cloves garlic
Process the cilantro and flaxseed oil in a blender until the coriander is chopped. Add the garlic, nuts and seeds, dulse and lemon juice and mix until the mixture is finely blended into a paste. Add a pinch to sea salt to taste and blend again. Store in dark glass jars if possible. It freezes well, so purchase cilantro in season and fill enough jars to last through the year.
Cilantro has been proven to chelate toxic metals from our bodies in a relatively short period of time. Combined with the benefits of the other ingredients, this recipe is a powerful tissue cleanser.
Two teaspoons of this pesto daily for three weeks is purportedly enough to increase the urinary excretion of mercury, lead and aluminum, thus effectively removing these toxic metals from our bodies. We can consider doing this cleanse for three weeks at least once a year. The pesto is delicious on toast, baked potatoes, and pasta.
For information only. The statements pertaining to the properties and/or functions of food and/or nutritional products 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. Consult your physician.
by Barbara Rainey
When your marriage relationship hits a trouble spot, it may be difficult to find much to praise about each other. Yet those are the times we need praise the most. So I urge you to initiate praising your spouse. Make it a deliberate effort. Bring the power of positive words to him or her in the midst of trouble.
In the verse above, the author (who may have been Solomon) gave some very descriptive characteristics of well-spoken words. When you choose to encourage and praise your spouse, your words carry the ability to prod, or goad, him or her in the right direction. And notice the result: Those words become like "well-driven nails," the kind that secure all types of building projects.
In the hands of God, your words can be used like nails to secure your mate's self-esteem. Your wise and truthful words bring perspective to his or her life, to your relationship and to your situation as a couple. They make finding solutions to your problems a real possibility.
You may be asking, "What if all this praise goes to my spouse's head? Won't he become prideful?" There's a difference between truthful praise and flattery.
Flattery gratifies a person's vanity, but praise is based on a person's character and deeds. When you truthfully praise and applaud your spouse's choices, you reinforce the value of building godly character.
Paul exhorts us, "Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor" (Ephesians 4:25). A keyword in that phrase is "truth," which is the only real standard for bringing value to another person. Truth results in assurance and security, in worth and value. It becomes the compass during the storm that confidently steers us in the right direction.
So praise your spouse in all situations, using wisdom to meet the need of the moment, speaking truthfully to help construct character. Your words of affirmation can help rebuild what life has torn apart.
What's been blocking the flow of affirming words in your relationship? Share three real compliments with each other.
Pray for a heart that longs to build up, not tear down.
Source: Moments with You
There was a religious woman who had to do a lot of traveling for her business. Flying made her very nervous, so she always took her Bible along with her.
One time, she was sitting next to a man. When he saw her pull out her Bible, he gave a little chuckle and smirk and went back to what he was doing.
After awhile, he turned to her and asked, "You don't really believe all that stuff in there do you?"
The woman replied, "Of course I do. It is the Bible."
He said, "Well, what about that guy that was swallowed by that whale?"
She replied, "Oh, Jonah. Yes, I believe that, it is in the Bible."
He asked, "Well, how do you suppose he survived all that time inside the whale?"
The woman said, "Well, I don't really know. I guess when I get to heaven, I will ask him."
"What if he isn't in heaven?" the man asked sarcastically.
"Then you can ask him," replied the woman.
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