Malankara World Journal Theme: Cost of Discipleship
Volume 3 No. 145 May 30, 2013
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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This week's Lectionary Gospel Reading (Matthew 10:34-11:1) is perhaps one of the most controversial and difficult to understand teachings of Jesus. Jesus (Messiah) was described as the "Prince of Peace" by Isaiah. At the birth of Jesus, the angels came and told the shepherds, "Peace to Mankind." A savior, who advised his disciples to turn the other cheek rather than to fight, forgive and love instead of seeking vengeance and departed from the world with "My peace I leave with you - the eternal peace that no one else can give you" tells his disciples in Matthew 10:34-36:
Jesus seems to be saying here that he didn't come to bring peace but strife; following him may mean break up of families. How can that be?
We have collected several articles from experts on this issue explaining what Jesus meant here. Jesus knew that following him will mean martyrdom. In fact 11 of the 12 disciples who followed him died violently. Early Christians were tortured for their faith in Jesus. For example:
And the list list goes on and on. So, Jesus was advising his followers that they have to be willing to carry his cross if they want to be a disciple. So, choosing this path can lead to strife in the family especially if the person is the breadwinner and sole support for the family. So, this can lead to conflict.
On the other hand, Jesus is telling us that when we follow him, our first and foremost priority should be God. Everything else, including family, comes after God. Abraham was tested with his willingness to sacrifice his promised son. For Jesus, faith and obedience to God is very important.
However, there is another side of the story in interpreting Matthew 10:34-36. Kevin Cauley, in his article 'Understanding Matthew 10:34-36 in the Context of Micah 7:6' explains that well.
Let us look again at Matthew 10:34-36. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."
Kevin says that the last part of this verse is a quotation from Micah 7:6 which says,
The article explains in detail about how this Sunday's reading is an advise to the disciples about how to handle unbelievers. I will quote a relevant passage from Kevin's article here:
Please read the full article in Malankara World. ( http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermons_2nd-sunday-after-pentecost-Micah-7-Cauley.htm ) It is a fascinating article.
Today's passage also talks about the rewards for doing good. Reformed churches violently disagree with any notion of reward or credits for good behavior; they insist that everything revolves around grace. Orthodox and Catholic Churches teaches that both grace and good works are important. Although we cannot earn the grace, during baptism when Holy Spirit indwells in us, we will change and will reflect Jesus' image on our faces and our actions will reflect that. This is a complex theology to explain in a few sentence here; but notice Jesus telling us in Matthew 10:40-42
Our bishops and clergy are still being held against their will in Syria. Please continue to pray for their well being and for their release.
We extend our prayers to all our friends in Oklahoma who went through a terrible nightmare last week. The tornado went very near Babu achen's daughter and family; they were saved due to a shelter in their backyard. As far as I know, everyone from our church are safe.
We wish you all a safe Summer Season.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church
Second Sunday after Pentecost
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
by Dr. Timothy Emerick
When you see someone who is struggling -- a co-worker who is discouraged, a friend who is not up to par -- how do you respond?
Our words can be what keeps a person going; our compliments can put a spring back into their step. Now more than ever, we need to automatically let the encouragement flow. We need to tell others how much we love them, how we value them, and tell them that they are talented and creative.
Always remember, with your words you carry life-giving water. You carry hope, healing, encouragement and new beginnings, and you can pour it out everywhere you go.
Today, choose to speak encouragement. Choose to speak victory and faith. Instead of telling people what they're doing wrong, instead of pointing out all their faults, find what they are doing right. Focus on the good. There are already enough critical, judgmental people in the world. Let's be people who lift up others and restore them. Let's be the light of Jesus in the world.
by Haydn McLean, New Holland, PA
Scripture: Matthew 10:34-42
Dan Quayle, who wrote a book on family values, has announced his candidacy for the presidency. With the election on the horizon, I suppose we'll be hearing the phrase "family values" more often. Of course, when we talk about "values" we're talking worth. A judgment is being made about what is good, or better, or less good. Whose family values are we talking about? And whose family? Families come in all sizes and configurations: single parent, two parent, blended and adopted.
Recently, the Southern Baptists decided to boycott Disney World, because Disney had decided to extend benefits to persons in same-sex relationships. One letter to the editor illuminated the irony in it: married heterosexuals are getting divorced and homosexuals want to get married. The writer thought there was a lesson in this, but she wasn't sure for whom.
The slogan "family values" is flung around, and people have emotional reactions to it. People are reacting because no one has adequately defined the phrase so we are lost in the confusion of definitions. Many people envision their own Currier and Ives print, sentimentally imagining how life was in the good old days, as if they had really been that good. Such reflections are a bath in unreality, yearning for a time when they thought things were better.
Wouldn't there have been emotionally charged phrases in Jesus' day? I suppose there were folks back then who wished for the good old days. Like today, plenty of folks equated what they thought used to be with what ought to be. Ecclesiastes reminds us "Do not say `Why were the former days better than these?' for it is not from wisdom that you ask this."
While there were differences of opinion as to how it would come about, many Jews in Jesus' day expected a messiah who would come and set life straight, like it used to be, or at least like it ought to be. One way or the other, the messiah would institute peace. So when Jesus shows up to announce that he has come, not to bring peace, but a sword, his idea doesn't fit in with what the nostalgics had expected. With a flick of the wrist, Jesus erases false hopes from the blackboard of sentimentality... "I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and one's foes will be members of one's own household."
Don't jump ship yet. Jesus wasn't one to advocate conflict. He did say plenty of things in support of the family, and he wouldn't let people use religion as an excuse to get out of taking care of the family. It's just that he's predicting that following him won't always bring peace to the household. It's not inhuman to love our family, it's only human to love our family.
However, Jesus' ethic went beyond love for our family. For many people, their highest value is the family. Their life is their family, and for all practical purposes, their family is their God. Jesus measures himself against this concept of the family, and as he compares the good family to himself as the best, he says "Choose me above all." This is where the sparks begin to fly, because we've located the clash between loyalty to family and loyalty to Jesus. Jesus isn't interested in being an appendage or an afterthought. No second fiddle for him. So, in one way Jesus brings peace, in another Jesus brings division.
One of my seminary friends took some time while he was in school and hitchhiked across the country. Ride after ride, the conversation would eventually turn to what my friend was doing. When he mentioned that he was a seminary student, that had a way of turning the conversation in an uncomfortable direction. He often became the target of pent-up theological frustrations and not infrequently was put on the defensive. This occurred so many times that for a while he stopped telling his rides he was a seminary student. Representing Christ today can entice persecution.
Jesus sees himself as the fulcrum of the world: in him there is a decision about life. To turn toward Jesus necessarily means turning away from the other. So if we're looking for Jesus to provide peace in the sense of the status quo, we'll be disappointed, but also challenged. When a person commits to Jesus, tension will often come into other relationships, including family relationships. This may become the price to pay when our families provide us with identity, community, and security. Perhaps you've heard the popular rhetorical question: if we were charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us?
This extra-ordinary Christian life is possible, and there's no requirement for anyone to be a hero. Jesus simply tells us that true life is found in following him. But we must lose our present lives to find it. There's nothing here about family life. Hardly anything here about earthly life at all. In fact, it's about dying to earthly life because Jesus' ways are beyond human traditions and institutions. Of course, we don't know that until we live it.
C.S. Lewis summed up Jesus' teaching in the last paragraph of his book Mere Christianity: "The principle runs through all life, from top to bottom. Give up yourself and you will find your real self. Lose life and it will be saved. Submit to death: the death of ambitions and secret wishes. Keep nothing back. Nothing in us that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for Christ, and you will find him, and with him, everything else thrown in."
Jesus' new world order exacts a higher claim on us than even our families. When we worship anything less than God revealed in Jesus that is idolatry: whether sports, or ethnicity, or country...or family. One of the most memorable posters I've seen shows a football with the caption "Not all idols are made out of gold." Tension will be created whenever a person commits to the Gospel in the midst of a culture that does not. That was one of the first lessons the church learned, back in the good old days.
Source: The Sermon Mall, June 2011, Published by Theological Web Publishing, LLC
by The Reverend Peggy Little, Athens, Georgia
Scripture: Matthew 10:40-42
Years ago a wise teacher, seeking to help my youth group understand discipleship, shared a bit of sage advice which I heard for the first time that night and have never forgotten. "If you want your life to count for something, look at the world around you, then find a need and fill it. Your life will be rich and full if you learn right now how to find a need a fill it." That was one of the best pieces of instruction I've ever been given.
Even though we were kids, we understood our teacher's advice; we were to go out and mend the broken lives of others. We became dedicated fixers, trying in a variety of earnest, naive ways to find the needs around us and to fill then. Sometimes our efforts succeeded; sometimes our efforts failed. We tackled prisoners, the homeless, the hungry, the brokenhearted. We read to those who had no sight, comforted the sick, and befriended the lonely, always looking for ways to bring the light of Jesus Christ into the dark corners of our world. Even though we were kids, that is how we understood our call to discipleship.
That effort led to wonderful experiences within that youth group, produced a lot of good Christian men and women, and eventually led several of us to seminary. He was right, our long ago teacher. There is no better life than a life invested in others.
In today's text from Matthew, we hear Jesus the teacher speaking to his disciples, searching for ways to teach them discipleship. Certainly there was no shortage of human need all around them; everywhere they turned they saw lives invested in all the wrong things, lives lost and struggling and suffering. Jesus sought a way to show those first followers and to show us today how to be sensitive to human needs, and then do what can be done to make things better. Find a need and fill it, he might have said, and thereby bring humankind a baby step closer to God's kingdom.
These closing verses from the tenth chapter of Matthew follow on the heels of some of the heaviest pronouncements Jesus makes to his green-as-grass disciples. There in the tenth chapter of Matthew he says things like; "I have not come to bring peace to the earth, but a sword. I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother. And whoever loves father or mother, son or daughter, more than me is not worthy of me."
And then there is this commandment, offered without reservation: "Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me, for those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:34-39, RSV).
Listening to these words, those first well-intentioned but theologically unenlightened followers of Jesus must have paused to ask themselves what they had gotten themselves into. Would they, could they dare to live a life that demanded no such of then? Can we? The answer to that question lies in our understanding of our call to be sharers of compassion, people who search out human needs and try to fill them.
We can imagine the quick, instinctive emotional withdrawal of the disciples as they paused to weigh Jesus' heavy words. They had set out in search of a kingdom filled with spiritual riches at the very least, and perhaps earthly riches as well. Now comes all this talk of swords and crosses, of abandoning home and family, of losing their lives to gain their lives. This is hardly what they were expecting. Would they, could they dare to live a life that demanded so such of them? Can we?
We can further imagine the reaction of the ever-compassionate Jesus as he sensed their fearful withdrawal. Gazing with love upon their puzzled faces, he seems in verses 40-42 to bring the heavy talk of discipleship down to something, which is their size, something manageable for their just starting-out abilities and understandings. In these verses, Jesus speaks of acts of welcome, given and received; of righteousness; of reward; and of the beauty of small deeds carried out faithfully.
In The Message, Eugene Peterson presents the ever-compassionate Jesus speaking to his inexperienced disciples in language chosen to encourage their devotion. "This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice." (1)
A true apprentice. That, friends in Christ, is a goal to which we each can aspire. The word "apprentice" suggests long years spent learning. It suggests a life of simplicity and obedience. It suggests a strong mentor, enabling the green young disciple to experience and learn and grow. Most of all, it declares our lives to be about servanthood. It is in giving our lives away to others that we gain our lives. It is in giving our lives away that we grow more like our Master daily.
One of my friends with whom I studied youthful discipleship eventually turned his back on the Christian faith and walked away. I've talked with him on two occasions, hoping to understand why he turned away. The work was too hard, too frustrating, he says. He was usually disappointed in the people that he helped; so few of them ever seemed to change such, he says. They seldom seemed to get the point, he says. If they were selfish or bitter or miserable when he encountered them, they often seemed to stay that way no matter how he tried. He remembers how he poured time and effort and money into so many human needs, and there seemed to be so little to show for it. Or so he says.
The phrase "dipping the ocean with a teacup" arises when my old friend speaks of his years spent on a disciple of Jesus. He walked away, he says, because so such effort had been expended and so little good gained. These days he is an accountant, totaling sums into neat columns. Figures never disappoint, he says, and people always do.
How did his ministry, which began with such promise, eventually go so wrong? It might have been a problem of expectation: he always wanted people's lives to line up in neat, "fixed" columns, and human beings are always works in progress, never complete, never quite "fixed." It might have been a problem of degree: he burned himself out trying to line the world up and make it be orderly and whole. But I suspect his biggest problem was one of focus: for the sake of his own ego, he wanted to work great changes within the people around his, changes, which often did not come.
From our earliest youthful Christian efforts, he was the one among us who most longed to be an expert need-meeter, and he failed to live up to that prideful self-image. He failed to hear Jesus calling him into an apprenticeship, a quieter kind of Christian life where, even if he couldn't transform the world single handedly, his love for the world would have transformed him.
Apprenticeship is about humility and sacrifice and love. Its about looking within, knowing our own needs, and allowing our souls to be filled with so such love for Christ that it spills over onto everyone we meet.
My friend never grasped the concept of apprenticeship, of quiet, steady giving to the world, day after day, year after year, without measuring the successes or failures along the way. He failed to grasp that it's about trying, never about keeping score. He wanted to be recognized as an expert, a major player in the fixing of a broken world, and so he missed the joy and serendipity that comes from living out an apprenticeship to Christ.
Many disciples, faced with the magnitude of needs in the world and burdened with the life or death importance of the work, turn away from Jesus, sometimes publicly but more often privately, in the darkness or a troubled heart.
The ever-compassionate Jesus, who is able to see into our puzzled, overwhelmed souls, offers us a place to dig in, a beginning point, an invitation to apprenticeship. Permission in given to "start small." And, best of all, Jesus admits up front that it's "a large work" we're called to do, but we must not be overwhelmed by its magnitude.
Human needs will keep on coming, sometimes quietly and sometimes in a thunder of suffering. We are called to be apprentices, not experts on human need. We are called to offer tender, personal responses whenever and wherever we can, You may not see great changes in the world around you, but, over time, both you and the world around you will gee great changes within you. It's the reward for living an apprenticed life.
Some people spend their lives carrying spiritual water to a parched and dying world. I look back now and marvel at the importance of that long ago night when a small group of kids were given life-changing advice: "If you want your life to count for something, find a need and fill it."
He was right, my long ago teacher. There is no better life than a life invested in others. Can we, will we dare to live a life of true apprenticeship to Christ? AMEN
(1) Peterson, Eugene, The Message: New Testament, NavPress, Colorado Spring, Colorado, 1993, p. 29.
Source: 2011 June Issue of The Sermon Mall; Published by Theological Web Publishing, LLC.
Scripture: Luke 14:25-33
By studying almost everything that the Gospels record about the life of Jesus, we have an advantage over daily devotionals that only consider random portions of Scripture: we don't avoid or miss anything that God wants us to know about Jesus. The only record we have of Jesus' life is found in the writings of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Holy Spirit inspired them to write exactly what they did, so all of it is important, and we shouldn't neglect any part.
Today's reading is one of those portions that some people avoid, because what Jesus said seems too demanding of them. But ignoring what Jesus taught doesn't do away with what He said! Everyone needs to face up to what we've just read.
Jesus was very plainly teaching that there is a cost to be His disciple. He expects our highest devotion, and He couldn't have made His standards more clear.
First, we must love Him even more than the people we love the most: our fathers, mothers, spouses, children, brothers and sisters. In fact, Jesus said we must love Him more than our own lives. True disciples of Jesus are sold out to Him. Jesus is not just a part of their lives, He is the center of their lives.
Second, Jesus said that we must carry our own cross in order to be His disciples. What did He mean? He wasn't saying, of course, that His followers must literally carry a cross on their backs wherever they go. The carrying of the cross that Jesus talked about must be symbolic of something.
In Jesus' day, when crucifixion was a common means of punishment, the expression He used was probably common. It would have meant, "Do the thing that you would naturally not want to do," or "Deny your selfish desires for a greater cause." Those who are Christ's true disciples have done just that. The most important thing in their lives was no longer pleasing themselves, but pleasing God.
Third, we must love Jesus more than any material thing if we are to be His disciples. Jesus owns us and everything we own. Therefore, He should have control over everything we possess, and we should do with it as He directs.
Unfortunately, too many people decided to become followers of Christ without first considering what it might cost them. When they do realize the cost, they change their minds. For example, a person might decide to follow Christ, but when he does, all his friends abandon him. So, in order to gain back their friendship, he stops obeying Jesus. Or a new follower of Christ who didn't count the cost might be required by his employer to lie to customers or lose his job. In order to keep his job, he stops following Jesus.
Have you considered the cost of following Jesus? It seems like a contradiction, but it's true: Salvation is a gift that could cost you everything!
Q. Can someone be a Christian without being a disciple of Christ?
A. Not according to the Bible. Neither Jesus nor any of the apostles taught that a person could be a believer in Christ without becoming a follower of Christ. There are not two classes of Christians, the uncommitted who believe in Him and the devoted followers. Those who truly believe in Jesus become His disciples.
Q. Is it possible for a person to be a disciple of Jesus, but not give away any of his earnings to support the spread of the gospel or help the poor?
A. In light of all that Jesus said about our responsibility as His followers pertaining to money, it seems highly unlikely that such a person could actually be a true follower of Christ.
A major problem in churches today is that many people claim to be Christian, but they really aren't. They think they're going to heaven just because they prayed a prayer to receive Jesus, even though their lives are no different from that of non-Christians. They are unwilling to sacrifice anything for the sake of following Christ, such as their time, their selfish pursuits, their money or their reputation. Those kinds of people are going to be very surprised when they are condemned to hell. We need to tell them the truth.
Source: Family Style Devotions
By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.
The psalmist said, "I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart" (Psalm 40:8). Like the psalmist, we can be content to pray "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" until what God desires of us clashes with what we want.
How often do we know what God is calling us to do, but we want to do something else? Maybe we don't want to give up something important to us. Maybe we are afraid we won't succeed.
Maybe we are too busy focusing on what we want that we lose sight of what God desires for us. Oswald Chambers says, "When God draws me, the issue of my will comes in at once - will I react on the revelation which God gives - will I come to Him?"
As followers of Christ, we are called to a life of obedience to God's Word. However, we often find that there are areas in our lives in which we struggle against His plan. The Christian walk is all about knowing Christ and becoming like Him through the surrender of our selfish ways and desires.
When we make God the priority of our lives, we will want to obey Him - not just because He tells us to, but because we love Him. It is then that we gain a transcending peace (Philippians 4:7).
We should enjoy the journey of obedience. It is only when we make a commitment to follow the principles in God's Word that we find true joy and contentment. Have you discovered the pleasure that comes from doing what God asks you to do?
Lord, thank You for the journey of faith I am on with You. Only in Your strength will I succeed. I pray that through the power of Christ, I will be able to do whatever You ask of me. I pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
"If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love" (John 15:10).
Dr. Youssef has learned to trust and obey God throughout the years. As a young man, he journeyed from Egypt to Lebanon, Australia, the United States and then founded The Church of The Apostles and Leading The Way at the Lord's leading. Learn more about his journey to trusting and obeying God in his book, Trust and Obey.
Source: My Devotional; © 2013 Leading The Way
by David Bales Klamath Falls, OR
Scripture: Matthew 10:34-39
With an election on the horizon we will hear vague code words used by both political parties: "Family Values." The phrase angers me no matter who speaks it. When you talk values you are talking worth. You make judgments about what is good, bad, just, desirable. Whose family values? Not just whose values, but whose family? Families (at least those with children) come in all sizes and contortions: Single parent families, two parent families, blended families, adopted families.
The slogan "Family Values" is flung side to side and people have their emotional reactions to it. The reactions have to be emotional, because people didn't define the phrase so we could think about it. Many people envision their own romantic Currier and Ives print, sentimentally imagining how family life would have been in the United States if there had been any good old days. Such reflections on unreality are a bath in unearned emotions, nostalgically yearning for a time when they thought people had hope.
The years of Jesus' ministry were times when the Hebrew people had their emotionally charged phrases. They had their traveling and local preachers who made people wish for the ways things used to be, and plenty of people then equated what they thought USED to be with what OUGHT to be.
A good portion of Jews in Jesus' day expected a Messiah who would come and set life straight. He would gather an army, toss out the non-Jews from their country, and institute eternal peace. In Scripture "peace" is almost always a social word: welfare for a society, spiritual and physical well-being. Peace was not mainly an individual, inward reality.
So when Jesus pops up announcing that he has not come to bring peace but a sword the idea doesn't fit with what the nostalgia freaks hoped for. Jesus' realism continues to offend people, especially those who want life "nice" and cannot understand why everyone can't be as "nice" as they themselves. Yet with one flick of the wrist Jesus erases false hopes from the blackboard of sentimentality.
"For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one's foes will be members of one's own household." Don't jump ship. Wait here a moment and consider that Jesus never advocated conflict; and he said plenty of things for family.
Jesus wouldn't let people use the excuse of religion to get out of taking care of their families (Mt 15:1-6). It is not sub-Christian to love your family. It is only HUMAN to love your family. But that's the rub. Jesus said, "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children..." (Mt 7:11) And he said, "If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" (Mt 5:46). All humans love their children. It is only the exceptional culture or individual which doesn't love their children.
However, Jesus' morality was beyond love for one's family, because Jesus set out to lift us above the natural bounds of goodness. When he says in verse 37 "Whoever loves father or mother more than me," the word in Greek for "loves" means, "natural human affections." Jesus doesn't wipe out the natural, he wants us to live in a super natural way.
For many people their highest value is merely their family. Their life is their family; and for all practical purposes, their family is their God. Jesus measures himself against family, he lays the "good" family next to himself as the "best" and says: "Choose me above all." This is where the banging begins and the sparks start to fly, because precisely here is the clash between loyalty to family and loyalty to Jesus. Jesus will not allow himself to be an appendage or an after thought. He refuses to play music as second fiddle. He wants to be tied down to the center of our life, not flapping loose out on the edges. So, in a way Jesus brings peace, but also he brings division.
He says, "Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me." This is the first time in Matthew's gospel he mentions the cross. Those who hear know what he is talking about. He mean gallows. The Romans forced a condemned person to carry the horizontal beam of his cross to the place of execution. So Jesus says, "you'll be on your way to death when you follow me."
And he did go to death by a cross. He left his family. He taught us to trust God in all things; then he laid down his life next to his teaching and there was a perfect match. When he says, "follow me" he means to trudge on obeying him, living his way, even to a kind of death. Our only hope in such a life is that Jesus helps us carry our cross, and helps us live onward till we discover, after the cross, new life.
The cross is where Jesus fails into success. He dies into life. And doing so, he teaches us life. We can see his principle still operating. Those people who are constantly gazing at their own navel are doomed to life fenced round by their own pains and problems. A psychologist writes: "Nowhere is the New Testament statement, 'he who finds his life ... will lose it' illustrated more dramatically than in the personality of the impulse-ridden individual, whose excessive demands for immediate need-satisfaction from every person in his environment brings ultimate alienation and separation." (1) If you clutch to life, you lose it. If you cling to health you get hypochondria. If you try to sleep you toss around awake. Those straining to make a good impression seldom do. Happy people aren't those who are struggling to be happy. In a sense you need to abandon yourself to life and let life take care of you.
A newspaper article included a summary of studies showing that "those who did regular volunteer work had death rates two and a half times lower than those who didn't." And other studies conducted over a 40 year period found that altruism helped people "overcome stress and improve their lives." (2) Our congregation makes no apologies for asking people to give their money to the ministry here. Nor do we need apologize for sending around clip-boards to have people sign up for service. Doing so says, "This is who we are. This is what we believe. This is why we call our worship a service of worship."
When Albert Schweitzer was twenty-one he came to understand Jesus' way of life. After reviewing his childhood blessings he wrote: "While at the University and enjoying the happiness of being able to study and even to produce some results in science and art, I could not help thinking continually of others who were denied that happiness by their material circumstances or their health." He awoke one morning with the realization "that I must not accept this happiness as a matter of course, but must give something in return for it." So he decided to dedicate his life until age thirty to learning preaching, science and art, in order to devote himself from that time forward to the direct service of humanity. He had tried many times before to wrestle with the meaning of Jesus' saying, "Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." (3) Now the answer was found. In addition to the outward, he now also had inward happiness.
The extra-ordinary Christian life is possible, even for us who are less than such heroes as Schweitzer. Jesus promises his strength to all of us; that's why this morning's text is not a threat, but a promise. Jesus simply tells us this is true life: Following Jesus, loving God and others. True life fits such a pattern. Eternity merely confirms it. You lose your life to save it. You fling yourself into the ways of Jesus, and trust the everlasting arms to catch you. Jesus says, "Do not worry, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?' For it is the gentiles who strive for all these things: and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Mt 6:31:-33)
Nothing here about family life. Hardly anything here resembling earthly life as we usually endure it. In fact it is about dying to natural life. Jesus' ways are beyond every human tradition and institution. His path leads above the ordinary to the exceptional kind of life he lived with God. And it was enough. Yes, the cross was pain and suffering; but it led to true life, for Jesus and us and everyone. You don't know it until you do it, and until you do it and know it, you have to believe it.
In a scholarly way C. S. Lewis sums up our text in the last paragraph of his book 'Mere Christianity': "The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end...Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in." (4)
In a more scholarly way Kenneth Vaux portrays our text in the last paragraph of his book 'Health and Medicine in the Reformed Tradition,' "She lay under the oxygen tent: a young woman with young children. She was a nurse in the best tradition, one who knew the terrors patients faced in their last hours. She also knew the peace they experienced. Now she herself lay dying with a fulminating leukemia that took only weeks to seize her life. Through the misty plastic tent she could see me standing nervously, wondering what I should say or do. She was a good friend and I was scared - for her, for me, for her husband, for her family. She beckoned with her hand. I zipped open the tent and leaned in. She looked up and smiled, 'What are you worried about?' In death she gave life in the name of her Lord who had done the same for her." (5)
1. Robert A. Blees, Counseling With Teen-agers (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968).
Source: The Sermon Mall, June 2011; Published by Theological Web Publishing, LLC.
by John D. Morris, Ph.D.
Unfortunately, this and parallel passages have been wrongly used all too often to justify the abandonment of responsibilities to family in the name of following Christ.
But Christ is not here advocating repudiation of family. Instead, He insists that our allegiance be to Him and to His will. Nothing must be allowed to usurp His rightful position of supremacy in our lives. While it is true that for some a life unencumbered by family duties may result in more efficient ministry (1 Corinthians 7:1-9, 25-38), family relationships and responsibilities are of great importance to Him (vv. 10-24; see also many other passages).
Consider the case of Elisha. God had instructed Elijah to train Elisha to take his place as prophet (1 Kings 19:16). Finding Elisha plowing in his father's field (i.e., family duties) with 12 yoke of oxen, "Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him" (v. 19).
Elisha knew immediately that he was facing a dramatic change in his life. He did not refuse, argue with, or try to alter the call, but he did recognize a responsibility to his parents. "Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee" (v. 20). Elijah agreed. To solidify his determination to leave, Elisha immediately sacrificed a pair of oxen, using as fuel the plowing instruments he had been using. He was, in effect, making a clean break with his former life, yet honoring and respecting his parents.
"Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him" (v. 21). JDM
Source: Days of Praise [Creation Devotional]
by Sunitha Flowerhill, Editor, Malankara World
A bilingual poem dedicated to all the suffering Christians worldwide. Read it
by Dr. Maurie Pressman, MD
If we enter the quiet mind, we enter a borderland between waking consciousness and dream consciousness. It is the zone of Lucid Meditation. In this margin we have right of entry to many things: worries and fears, suppressed emotions, all of which can now rise to the surface to be relieved or made productive. Our dearest aspirations and longings may come up.
Our minds carry a magical power that we can mobilize when we become lucid. It is rewarding to develop this capacity, and to visualize what we dearly want to achieve. Though it may sound mysterious, it is not. Achieving what we visualize is fully possible if we make this way-- the way of lucid meditation-- a way of life and practice.
Lucid dreaming is a special kind of dreaming; the dreamer is awake and yet dreaming. He/she can direct the dream. At such a time, waking consciousness meets dream consciousness. When the waking mind and sleeping mind join, we have special access to high expanses of the mind.
In the lucid dream, we bring waking consciousness into the dream world; in lucid meditation we bring the dream consciousness into the waking world. In both cases, there is a joining. It is this joined consciousness that we cultivate in lucid dreaming and lucid meditation. But all this is of little benefit, if we do not bring the lessons learned from such dreams and meditation into waking life.
Lucid meditation helps us to achieve a cool and detached mind with which we can survey our emotions, make important observations about ourselves and others, and better decisions, therefore. We become more able to control passion and operate with wisdom. Practicing introspection, and keeping open to inner subtle cues, we contact the higher subtle realms. We broaden inner vision; we surrender, all the while looking inside with a surrendered expectation. We become progressively open to the higher realms and to messages that come from a higher place.
For instance, while watching a wildlife program, I was drawn in to the inner state of a puma hunting its prey. I felt the puma's hunger, its graceful and powerful burst of speed, its satisfaction as it filled an empty stomach. This experience let me know that when we identify with either person or animal, we do so by entering the other on the subtle plane. "Avesa," is the Sanskit term for moving into the subtle body of another entity. Our ability to experience avesa is the basis of sympathy, empathy, and identification with another. When we are disturbed by another person's problems, feeling their pain or their fear, they are uniting astral bodies on the subtle plane, creating avesa and identification.
Lucid meditation is the mirror of lucid dreaming. In lucid dreaming, our goal is to be awake in the dream. In lucid meditation, we are already awake, yet we try to connect with the power of the dream realm. Translated into waking life, this ability, cultivated during meditation, develops the power of our subtle senses. This capacity affirms our essential unity with all of life. It cultivates compassion, awareness, and a sense of our being in the flow of things. Using examples from meditations, I will share my experiences with lucid meditation, to show how it has helped me to be a better teacher, therapist, father, husband, and friend, and improved my sensitivity and compassion.
The Superworld and the Dream
The Supermind dwells in the Superworld. The Superworld extends across the universes; in it we are everywhere in a moment. It is the world of thought and at the same time a world beyond thought, reaching ever higher into a sphere of undiscovered power. A world of consciousness, it embraces all things, for all things have consciousness. It is ever present, yet hidden by the veil of cynicism and doubt. The Superworld can be reached through the silent mind, but at the same time, by elevation of the self, the personality, into that spiritual High Essence called Self. This is achieved by raising our thoughts and aspiration to high realms of beauty, love and service.
We experience the Superworld in our dreams, in which movement is easy, where all things are possible and reality is ever created anew. In our astral bodies, we visit the infinite realms of the dream. Finally, we visit the domain of All Love.
Dreams have an important relationship to the Superworld. The Supermind can be entered in a dream. There, we can understand more deeply. Our dreams help us to evaluate progress or lack of progress in our evolution, and through them, we can prognosticate and help to find our future path. But in order to see into the future and into the way things are in the higher realm, we must drop the shackles of doubt and the inhibition we have been taught. It is absolutely necessary to take the visions we see literally. In this way, we get a feel of the power that resides within, as we inhabit the Superworld: the facility to move, create, understand and change. I have always relied on dreams to understand my patients more deeply. Now I can use them to see into the higher world, which they and we can, and do, inhabit.
Dreams are thought journeys into the future. When we take our dreams seriously, even literally, we can use them to move upward, and create.
How Do We Move Through The Mirror To The Dream World?
How do we move through the mirror to the dream world-and access the Supermind? To enter this world that can bring us greater love, unity, knowledge, power, confidence and beneficence, and integrate it into the plane of existence with which we are so commonly familiar?
Settle into a half-dream place, a state of lucid meditation - remaining awake, and yet settling into the dream world. (A caution - remove doubt about what is seen until it can become understood and integrated with this world. Doubt is a barrier which can inhibit your movement between states.)
Begin your lucid meditation in this half-asleep state. Travel into a quiet receptive mood, ready for the unexpected. Set the ego aside, no longer clinging to our sometimes self-centered and already established assumptions. Once we have done this we have opened the gate called intuition and are ready to receive downloads from the Cosmic Mind, the Supermind that both surrounds us and is within us.
Source: Excerpted from the book, 'Living in the SuperMind--From Personal Mind to Spiritual Mind' by Dr. Maurie Pressman
About The Author:
Dr. Maurie D. Pressman is the author of 'Living in the SuperMind - From Personal Mind to Spiritual Mind'. A conventionally-trained psychiatrist, he has combined that work with studies in the high reaches of the mind. His practice focuses on spiritual psychotherapy and the exploration of the human soul. He is Emeritus Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Temple Medical School and Emeritus Chairman of Psychiatry at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Pressman was an early pioneer in visualization, creating a highly-successful innovative program in 1972 for Olympic ice-skaters using hypnosis and visualization. For more information, visit www.mauriepressman.com.
by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World
Ύ cup Hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Toast the nuts for 10 to 15 mts or until done.
When the nuts are cool rub in a kitchen towel to remove the skin. Chop coarsely
and set aside.
Cook the green beans in about 3 quarts salted water over high heat. Cook just
until it is crisp (about 4 to 7 mts.). Drain and put the beans in ice cold water
for a minute and drain. Set aside.
In a small bowl stir together the mint, cilantro lemon juice, and oil. Add salt
to taste. Wisk it well.
In a large bowl, gently toss the beans with the dressing and nuts. Add the nuts
just before serving so it wont get soggy. Serve at room temperature.
Enjoy this summer salad.
Ύ cup Hazelnuts
Preheat the oven to 375 degree F. Toast the nuts for 10 to 15 mts or until done. When the nuts are cool rub in a kitchen towel to remove the skin. Chop coarsely and set aside.
Cook the green beans in about 3 quarts salted water over high heat. Cook just until it is crisp (about 4 to 7 mts.). Drain and put the beans in ice cold water for a minute and drain. Set aside.
In a small bowl stir together the mint, cilantro lemon juice, and oil. Add salt to taste. Wisk it well.
In a large bowl, gently toss the beans with the dressing and nuts. Add the nuts just before serving so it wont get soggy. Serve at room temperature.
Enjoy this summer salad.
We regret that due to a minor typo error, your muffins may
not have turned out to be perfect. So, to really get a perfect muffin you need
to reduce the baking soda to 1/2 tsp; not 1/2 cup as is given in the recipe.
The corrected recipe can be found here:
Here are some added tips from Dr. Seena Mathew:
Revised Perfect Muffin Recipe
After correcting for the typo in the recipe (changed 1/2 c to 1/2 tsp of baking
soda) I made my first batch of muffins for the second time :). I didn't know if
I were supposed to fill the muffin pan all the way or halfway, so I filled it
all the way. I didn't get as many muffins this way so next time I'll fill them
I added 1 tbsp honey and it had a nice taste. You could not tell there was honey
in it. I also may add more bananas next time. My husband really liked them! Thought
I'd share some photos of the muffin with you. I think they came out well.
After correcting for the typo in the recipe (changed 1/2 c to 1/2 tsp of baking soda) I made my first batch of muffins for the second time :). I didn't know if I were supposed to fill the muffin pan all the way or halfway, so I filled it all the way. I didn't get as many muffins this way so next time I'll fill them only halfway.
I added 1 tbsp honey and it had a nice taste. You could not tell there was honey in it. I also may add more bananas next time. My husband really liked them! Thought I'd share some photos of the muffin with you. I think they came out well.
by Eric Metaxas
As a journalist and cultural commentator, my friend Rod Dreher seemingly had it all. In addition to his strong Christian faith, Rod was a successful writer and editor, a family man with a lovely wife, Julie, and three beautiful kids. Yet it took his sister Ruthie's horrible illness to show him how much he'd been missing.
Rod and Ruthie were raised in the small town of Starhill, in West Feliciana Parish, which is not too far from Baton Rouge, Louisiana - but not too close, either. In his arresting new book, 'The Little Way of Ruthie Leming: A Southern Girl, a Small Town, and the Secret of a Good Life', Rod describes the little red brick house they grew up in as "smack in the middle of plantation country." Yet it wasn't a good fit for Rod, a bookish sort who didn't always fit into the outdoorsy mold expected by the town.
Not so Ruthie, whom he describes as "probably our town's only homecoming queen who really did know how to skin a buck and run a trot line." For Ruthie, Starhill meant comfort, security, and a sense of belonging. She put down roots, got married to her high school sweetheart Mike, and began raising a family. Rod, however, facing "the intolerance, the social conformity, the cliquishness, the bullying," got out as soon as he could - and he didn't plan to look back, ever.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Rod's career success out East, writing about such things as the fragmenting modern family and "every other thing under the sun that undermines our sense of home and permanence": You see, Ruthie got sick - very sick with cancer. So Rod and wife Julie and kids left their farmhouse near Philadelphia and came back to help.
They were stunned by the simple, practical faith they experienced. Ruthie, always helping others, received help from them now, accepting her illness as God's will. "The love that had sustained Ruthie through her cancer, and that now surrounded and upheld her family," Rod writes, "came from somewhere." Rod saw Ruthie's death reveal a "bright sadness."
"I was able to see," he writes, "the effect of Ruthie's love, given and returned, in steadfast acts of ordinary faith, hope, and charity. The little way of Ruthie Leming is the plainest thing in the world, something any of us could choose."
Rod and Julie, sensing a longing, chose to move back to Starhill to support, and be supported by, imperfect but incredible people. It was messy, as family things often are, but it was real. After Ruthie died, Mike, a man of few words, said, "We're leaning, but we're leaning on each other." Rod and Julie were drawn to this loving community.
"To look upon beauty that powerful," Rod says, "is to receive a calling and a command to change your life - and that can make you afraid. It can always be refused, but grace like that doesn't come often." So Rod began to work through his own lingering hurts, tears, and need to seek forgiveness from others in his past.
"Contemporary culture," Rod says, "encourages us to make islands of ourselves for the sake of self-fulfillment, of career advancement, of entertainment, of diversion, and all the demands of the sovereign self. When suffering and death come for you you want to be in a place where you know, and are known."
Friends, this isn't about Rod Dreher. We also need to put down roots and build relationships so we can share the love of God, minister, and be ministered to. We need to be, not just to do. And that takes time.
I urge you to get a copy of The Little Way of Ruthie Leming. It's an amazing book. It'll probably make you cry; it will certainly make you think. And if you sense the call of God to re-establish yourself in a community, well, it just may change your life.
About The Author:
Eric Metaxas is a co-host of BreakPoint Radio and a best-selling author whose biographies, children's books, and popular apologetics have been translated into more than a dozen languages.
Source: BreakPoint Commentary
What Will Really Make You Happy?
Research Reveals 4 Common Misconceptions
The idea of a happy and meaningful life has become unnecessarily complicated in some circles, says author and certified positive psychology coach Lynda Wallace, who left a high-powered executive career with Johnson & Johnson to pursue her real passion helping individuals and groups achieve greater happiness and success.
"Happiness has been appropriately cited as a goal in political debates on issues from taxation to the social safety net to marriage equality, but the debate is often confused," says Wallace, author of "A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life," which topped Amazon's Self-Help Best Seller list.
"Some people claim that happiness is all in your DNA or bank account. The truth is that happiness is largely a matter of everyday choices and actions. There are straightforward, well-researched and effective things every one of us can do to create greater happiness in our lives and in the lives of those we care about."
The essential elements of a happy life are not mysterious, she says.
Research shows that the happiest people do four basic things that make the difference: they focus on what is good and positive in their lives; cope effectively with life's inevitable challenges; develop strong relationships; and pursue meaningful goals.
"We can all become happier by putting our efforts into these areas," Wallace says.
One of the first steps we can take is to get past some of the common misperceptions about happiness that can stand in our way. Wallace offers these four examples.
Misconception #1: Happiness is about getting the big things right.
It's natural to think that if we were suddenly rich, beautiful and living on the beach somewhere, we'd be happy. But that type of good fortune turns out to have a surprisingly small impact on happiness. The happiest people are most often not those in the most enviable circumstances, but those who cultivate positive emotional outlooks and actions. So how can we do it? "Take concrete steps to practice optimism, gratitude, kindness and self-compassion in your everyday life," says Wallace. "The cumulative effect of those everyday choices can have a tremendous impact on how you experience your life."
Misconception #2: Happy people suppress negative emotions.
Happy people actually experience sadness, grief, worry and other so-called negative emotions nearly as frequently as unhappy people do. The difference is what happens when those feelings occur. Happier people are generally able to experience negative feelings without losing hope for the future. "They give themselves permission to feel sad, angry, or lonely, but they remain confident that things will get better. As a result, their sadness progresses into hope and action rather than regressing into anxiety and despair."
Misconception #3: Pursuing happiness is self-centered.
The strongest of all conclusions drawn by researchers into emotional well-being is that our happiness is determined more by our relationships with other people than by any other single factor. The happiest people build their lives around good, trusting relationships. "If other priorities are getting in the way of your relationships," says Wallace, "take steps to shift the balance back to where it will really make a difference."
Misconception #4: I'll be happy when I achieve my goals.
Have you ever noticed that when someone wins the Super Bowl or an Academy Award, or when you achieve a long-sought ambition, that wonderful sense of accomplishment and happiness seems to fade faster than you'd expect? "That's just the way our brains work," says Wallace. "Committed goal pursuit is one of the keys to a happy life, but most of the happiness we get from striving for goals comes while we're making progress toward them, not after we achieve them. That's why it's so important that we choose goals that are in synch with what we love and value, and that we make a conscious effort to enjoy them along the way."
About Lynda Wallace
After twenty years as a highly successful executive with Johnson & Johnson, where she was responsible for a $1B portfolio of businesses including Band-Aid, Neosporin and Purell, Lynda Wallace chose to change careers to pursue her passion. She now helps individuals and groups apply proven insights and techniques to achieve greater happiness and success in their lives, families, careers, and businesses. Lynda holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and is a certified positive psychology coach. She is also a sought-after speaker and the author of the #1 Amazon Self-Help Best Seller "A Short Course in Happiness: Practical Steps to a Happier Life." More information is available at her website: www.lyndawallace.com.
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