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

Special: The Bible

Volume 3 No. 146 June 6, 2013

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Word of GodEndures Forever
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword: Introduction to The Bible

For the Christian of true worship, the Bible is the "greatest source of truth, virtue, and moral ethics. It is invaluable as a source of teaching doctrine and holiness. We call it the "Book of Life," for in its pages we find the closest expression we have of the Inexpressible. ...

THIS SUNDAY IN CHURCH

Bible Readings for This Sunday (June 9)

Third Sunday after Pentecost
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_3rd_sunday-after-pentecost.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (June 9)

Sermons for the Third Sunday After Pentecost
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_3rd-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

Featured: Manna and the Eucharist

"I am the bread of life", Jesus claims. It was a truly a difficult moment for the Jews for they were supposedly very familiar with Jesus' background. They simply found him too much, too overwhelming. We too can find such a claim difficult to believe. But with constant reflection, openness of heart and mind, as well as faith, such a profound truth may be perceived and accepted. ...

THEMATIC ARTICLES - THE BIBLE

Inspiration for Today: Jesus Is The Whole Gospel

Jesus Christ is not only the center of the gospel but the whole gospel. The four evangelists never focus on another personality. Fringe people stay on the fringe, marginal men remain on the periphery. No one else is allowed to take center stage. Various individuals are introduced only to interrogate, respond, or react to Jesus. ...

Jesus Through the Bible

From Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament is all about Jesus. But of course it is in the New Testament that Jesus actually comes to save His people. Whereas the Old Testament gives us His background, the New Testament presents His biography. ...

The Bible Is Not about You

In the Bible we are watching as redemption comes to pass on the pages of Scripture, one unbelievable event after another, eventually leading to Christ. Each page rumbles with anticipation. When you see it from here, the Bible opens up in ways you've never imagined. It takes off. ...

Your Bible: A Living Treasure, Part 1

I want you to learn how to study your Bible - how to make it burst aflame in your hand. Knowledge is power. That's true in any realm, business, athletics, or theology, for knowledge of truth transforms. We need to be molded, motivated, and managed by the Word of God. ...

Your Bible: A Living Treasure, Part 2

When you read the Bible, you find phrases like "the Word of the Lord," "the Word of God," or "the Lord said" used 3,808 times. If the Bible is not the Word of God, it's the biggest bundle of lies ever unleashed on planet Earth. The Bible is truth, absolutely. Let's look at other virtues of the Bible which set it apart, for if you don't appreciate the virtues of the Word of God, you won't have any desire to understand it. ...

Your Bible: A Living Treasure, Part 3

In the first two parts of this study, we saw the Bible as a timeless, truthful, treasured book, a living book because the Creator of the universe literally breathed out the Word of God. We saw that it must be assimilated - taken into your mind, understood, and provided as nourishment for your soul and spirit. How do you do that? First by praying, asking God to be your teacher, then by meditating. ...

One of the Most Important Principles in Reading the Bible

Bible is full of conditions we must meet for God's blessings. But God does not leave us to meet them on our own. The first and decisive work before and in our willing is God's prior grace. Without this insight, hundreds of conditional statements in the Bible will lead us astray. ...

7 Ways to Make Bible Reading Fun

The Bible intimidates many people; even those who are avid readers of other books. .. We need to figure out how to enjoy reading God's Word. Part of maturing as a believer is to fall in love with the Bible. ...

The Nourishing Bread of Scripture

Patristic exegesis might be described as a "real" reading of Scripture, as contrasted with a literary or positivist approach. The main object of the Fathers was to penetrate beyond the signs, the words, to the reality signified, even to the mystery of Christ and God. They were aware they could reach this mystery only through faith in Christ and obedience to his word. ...

Family Special: Keep Going Strong

A testimonial of how spending time together in prayer and God's Word has helped save a troubled marriage. ...

GENERAL ARTICLES

Health: The Greatest Cancer Fighter

There's sound evidence that the holy grail of cancer fighting is not a drug. The most powerful cancer fighter ever discovered is naturally occurring vitamin D. ...

Recipe: Double Orange Carrots

Teachers and Tornadoes

Every day we are surrounded by examples of the dark side of human nature - selfishness, greed, dishonesty and cruelty - which make it hard to resist cynicism. It's a pity that it often takes a disaster and the heroic actions it evokes to provide compelling contrary evidence, to remind us of the best in human nature. ...

The Truth About Positive Thinking: When to Use it - and When to Ignore It

Lack of self-confidence, Peale said, "is one of the great problems besetting people today." He makes reference to a survey of college students indicating that for 75 percent of them, confidence was the thing most lacking in their life. ...

Humor: The Lungi, The Legend

A Lungi is simple and 'down to earth' like the mallu wearing it. Lungi is the beginning and the end of evolution in its category. Wearing something on the top half of your body is optional when you are wearing a lungi. Lungi is a strategic dress. It's like a one-size-fits-all-bottoms for Keralites. ...

About Malankara World

Foreword: Introduction to The Bible

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

This edition of Malankara World Journal is a first of a series on the Bible. Bible is the most important book for all Christians. Bible provides nourishment to our soul like food gives nourishment to our body.

Bible - The Most Important Book in the History of the World

Bible has transformed the world. Without it, the world would have been very different.

Bible is one of the most published and printed books in the history of the world. It is available in just about every known language (including braille). Since its inception, the bible has been the world's greatest bestseller year after year.

The Bible was the first book ever printed. The man who first printed it, Johannes Gutenberg, was voted the most important man to have ever lived within the past 1000 years!

The Bible is the most copied book of antiquity. It was written over a time period of some 1,500 years and was completed about 2,000 years ago.

The Bible has been sifted, studied, commentated upon and dissected more than any book in history. Volumes of books have been written about the bible. If they are stacked on top of one another, they would reach to the sky!

Experts had been trying to test the accuracy of historical events as portrayed in the bible with tools and external events such as archeology, geography, custom, politics, culture, known world history and writings in other ancient texts. So far, bible has passed all these tests. New discoveries always support it, never vice versa. It has never once been proven faulty on single detail or fact, although many have mightily tried and failed. Todate, none of its contents have ever been found inaccurate.

In spite of its importance and easy availability, Christians are not taking advantage of the power of the bible to transform their daily lives. Studies have shown that only a very small percentage of Christians in the west read the bible regularly. The percentage of couple who read the bible together is even lower. We hope to change these dismal statistics.

Importance of Bible for Christians

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)

The ordinances of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. (Psalm 19:9)

For the Christian of true worship, the Bible is the "greatest source of truth, virtue, and moral ethics. It is invaluable as a source of teaching doctrine and holiness. We call it the "Book of Life," for in its pages we find the closest expression we have of the Inexpressible. From generation to generation, the books that make up the canon of Scripture have communicated to us the lessons God has taught, and still is teaching His people. It is open to all and should be read by all men and women: clergy and laity, children and adults, believers and unbelievers. (The Right Reverend JOSEPH, Bishop of Los Angeles and the West, Orthodox Church of America)

The Bible is not merely words on pages in a book, but it is God's living Word. These words contain God's authority. These words contain God's power. These words contain God's strength. (Dr. Michael Youssef)

Bible is our life-line to God.

The Bible is All About Jesus Christ - ALL of It - Old Testament and New Testament

"If one carefully reads the Scriptures, he will find there the word on the subject of Christ and the prefiguration of the new calling. He is indeed the hidden treasure in the field - the field in fact is the world - but in truth, the hidden treasure in the Scriptures is Christ. Because he is designed by types and words that humanly are not possible to understand before the accomplishment of all things, that is, Christ's second coming." (Irenaeus - 2nd century)

"Every part of Holy Writ announces through words the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, reveals it through facts and establishes it through examples. ..For it is our Lord who during all the present age, through true and manifest foreshadowings, generates, cleanses, sanctified, chooses, separates, or redeems the Church in the Patriarchs, through Adam's slumber, Noah's flood, Melchizedek's blessing, Abraham's justification, Isaac's birth, and Jacob's bondage." (Hilary of Poitiers, 4th century)

"You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time." (Augustine of Hippo, 5th century)

So, every passage of the Scriptures is about Christ. The prophets and patriarchs point to Jesus. The Lord opened the minds of the Apostles so that they understood the Scriptures with the help of Holy Spirit. He will open our minds too with our prayers.

Bible Has To Be Taken and Studied Together

I have seen many people taking one verse or passage of the bible out of context and formulating a big thesis out of it. This is wrong. The bible is intended to be used as one unit.

The plan of the Bible can be compared to a mosaic. Each word, chapter and book form components that are necessary, yet incomplete in themselves. They can never be viewed in isolation, just as a mosaic is only meaningful as a unified whole. To profit from the Bible the reader must be able to work with the individual parts as well as the overall themes and purposes. (Scofield Study Bible)

The sacred Scripture, taken as a whole, is like a human being. The Old Testament is the body and the New is the soul, the meaning it contains, the spirit.

From another viewpoint we can say that the entire sacred Scripture, Old and New Testament, has two aspects: the historical content which corresponds to the body, and the deep meaning, the goal at which the mind should aim, which corresponds to the soul.

If we think of human beings, we see they are mortal in their visible properties but immortal in their invisible qualities.

So with Scripture. It contains the letter, the visible text, which is transitory. But it also contains the spirit hidden beneath the letter, and this is never extinguished and this ought to be the object of our contemplation.

Think of human beings again. If they want to be perfect, they master their passions and mortify the flesh.

So with Scripture. If it is heard in a spiritual way, it trims the text, like circumcision. (Maximus the Confessor (7th century) - 'Beyond the literal sense to the deeper meaning of the Scriptures')

There are four gospels and only four, neither more nor less: four like the points of the compass, four like the chief directions of the wind. The Church, spread all over the world, has in the gospels four pillars and four winds blowing wherever people live.

These four gospels are in actual fact one single Gospel, a fourfold Gospel inspired by the one Spirit, a Gospel which has four aspects representing the work of the Son of God.

These aspects are like the four cherubs described by Ezekiel. In the prophet's words: 'The first had the likeness of a lion,' symbolizing the masterly and kingly role of Christ in priesthood; 'the second had the appearance of an ox,' the beast of sacrifice, recalling the perfect sacrifice of Christ; 'the third had the face of a man,' undoubtedly referring to the coming of the Lord in human nature; 'and the fourth had the aspect of a flying eagle,' with a clear allusion to the grace of the Spirit hovering over the Church. [cf. Ezek. 1:10; Rev. 4:7]

The four Gospels correspond to these symbols. Christ is at the center of them.

John actually speaks of his kingly and glorious Son-ship to the Father in his opening words: 'In the beginning was the Word.' [John 1:1] Luke begins with Zaccharias offering sacrifice. Matthew chooses first of all the Lord's human genealogy. And Mark leads off by calling on the prophetic Spirit which invests humanity from on high. ('Against Heresies' by St. Irenaeus -2nd century)

Allow God to Transform Your Life By His Word

Merely reading the bible is not enough. We should embrace it. We should pray over what we read. We should meditate over what we read. We should allow Holy Spirit to act on us and change our lives. It will change our lives.

The Bible has the power like a sharp sword to pierce through to our very hearts and speak to us like no friend, teacher, or other book can.

"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do." (Heb 4:12 )

Once the truth of God is accepted, and a person surrenders his pride and his denial of reality, his eyes become open to Christ our God, whose divine Light invisibly enters in. This is what we call holiness, and therefore only in genuine holiness can we begin to understand the Bible and experience God revealed in it. The Scriptures and the histories of the martyrs bear witness to the glory of God as it enters us. They also witness to us the terrible price that people pay when they refuse to acknowledge the presence of the Lord. (The Right Reverend JOSEPH, Bishop of Los Angeles and the West, Orthodox Church of America)

The Word of God is sharp like a surgeon's scalpel, capable of cutting out the sin and disobedience in our lives. Surgery is never easy, but it is necessary for good health. The double-edged sword of God's Word can cut straight to our hearts and souls. It penetrates deep into the inner recesses of our spiritual being. It can judge our motives and attitudes, and all of our hidden thoughts. We may try to deceive others and even ourselves, but we cannot deceive God. He knows everything about us.

Yet after having been cut open, God does not leave us there to bleed. He heals us and restores us. He wants to fulfill us and bless us. God not only uses His Word to rebuke us but also to enrich us and pour His grace upon us. (Dr. Michael Youssef)

The end result is that we will start reflecting the image of God (whose image we are created) in ourselves. That is the power of the bible. That is the power of our liturgy. That is the power of the Living Sacrifice.

Jesus has warned that not all people who come across his teachings will embrace it. And it is a real pity.

"And every one that hears these sayings of mine, and does them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." (Mat 7:26)

If you embrace everything . . . about the facets of the gospel, but do it in a way that does not make the glory of God in Christ your supreme treasure, then you have not embraced the gospel. Until the gospel events of Good Friday and Easter and the gospel promises and justification and eternal life lead you to behold and embrace God himself as your highest joy, you have not embraced the gospel of God. You have embraced some of his gifts. You have rejoiced over some of his rewards. You have marveled at some of his miracles. But you have not yet been awakened to why the gifts, the rewards, and the miracles have come. They have come for one great reason: that you might behold forever the glory of God in Christ, and by beholding become the kind of person who delights in God above all things, and be delighting display his supreme beauty and worth with every-increasing brightness and bliss forever. ('God is the Gospel' by John Piper, pp. 37-38)

Bible and Church Cannot Be Separated

Bible is not intended to be used in isolation. Jesus Christ has provided us His Body - the Church - to help us to take full advantage of the power of the bible just as He has provided the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Orthodox Study Bible has explained this best:

Only with the teachings of His Church - the Church that proclaims the Truth found in the Bible - can we begin our true work of breaking out of the self-imposed imprisonment of self-idolatry. When we submit our lives to Christ in repentance and humility, the Holy Spirit comes to us through the Holy Mysteries and lifts us up. Therefore, it becomes our joyful duty to ceaselessly knock on the door of the Scriptures, asking God to reveal the truth to us through His Word, that we might walk through the gates and grow into an ever greater appreciation and experience of Him and His Heavenly Kingdom.

Simply put, the Bible must be read with serious and humble prayer, a genuine desire for God's mercy, along with sound instruction from the Church and the very presence of the Holy Spirit within us. Our Lord Jesus Christ left Himself within this Holy Book, that He might be found by those who genuinely seek Him. May you find Him today! (Orthodox Study Bible)

Final Thoughts:

We hope that you will enjoy this special issue of Malankara World Journal featuring The Bible.

Please continue praying for our abducted bishops in Syria and the Christians caught in the cross fire of the civil war being waged there.

Oklahoma had another set of twisters, tornadoes and violent weather early this week. Please pray for them too.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World 

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (June 9)

Third Sunday after Pentecost

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for This Sunday (June 9)
This Week's Features

Featured: Manna and the Eucharist
Gospel: Jn. 6:41-51

Today, Jesus attempts to link the Old Testament event of the feeding of the manna to the Israelites to his ego eimi or the "I am" sayings, that is, his being the bread of life. Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

As we all know, bread is something that is considered as staple for many cultures unlike in the Philippines and Asia where we tend to eat more of rice. But more than the physiological satisfaction that bread or rice gives us, it is good to ask: what do we feed ourselves for nourishment?

Nowadays, we hear of various ways by which we somehow pamper ourselves. We cannot seem to be contented with how things are. For those with curly hair, they want it to be straightened and vice-versa. Those who have darker skin they like to look fairer. Those who are excessively overweight go to health clubs so that they might trim down.

While some of what has been mentioned is commendable, it is good to ask whether we are able to do something to enhance the other aspects of our lives. Do we do something for our emotional and spiritual dimensions, which Jesus is likewise concerned? What have we done to nourish our relationship with Jesus? Do we make time for prayer? Or is prayer something we remember only when we have problems or are in need of help from Jesus?

Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was the former archbishop of Chicago, Illinois, USA. One of his most practical advices was that we should pray when we are still healthy because when the time comes that we are sick, it would be very difficult to focus our attention to God. He arrived at this conclusion because he himself experienced getting seriously sick, that is, his encounter with cancer. Isn't this true? Just a simple running nose, headache and toothache make us easily distracted. What more for illnesses and diseases where pain can be so much that we feel so helpless as it cannot be sufficiently managed. During those times, it is easy to neglect the presence of Jesus as we are so enmeshed in our suffering.

But, in ways that we cannot fully comprehend, Jesus continues to offer himself to us. In our desperation, we are able to suddenly remember to call on him, whose availability and love are without question. These then are the moments that Jesus becomes truly the bread of life because from hopelessness, we become hopeful. From lack of meaning in life, we find reason to move on. We find that even in moments of weakness and insignificance, Jesus continues to sustain us and make us feel special. These, in the end, would only be experienced with the eyes of faith. Just as Jesus has become the bread of life to us, we are likewise invited to be bread too for others.

"I am the bread of life", Jesus claims. It was a truly a difficult moment for the Jews for they were supposedly very familiar with Jesus' background. They simply found him too much, too overwhelming. We too can find such a claim difficult to believe. But with constant reflection, openness of heart and mind, as well as faith, such a profound truth may be perceived and accepted.

Today, let us pray that we may experience true nourishment in our hearts, mind and body. May we grow in deeper relationship with him, who manifests in finding meaning in life. May we look forward to reaching the eternal life as he promised.

Inspiration for Today: Jesus Is The Whole Gospel

by Brennan Manning

Jesus Christ is not only the center of the gospel but the whole gospel. The four evangelists never focus on another personality. Fringe people stay on the fringe, marginal men remain on the periphery. No one else is allowed to take center stage. Various individuals are introduced only to interrogate, respond, or react to Jesus. Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, Peter, Thomas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and a score of others are background to the person of Jesus. He dwarfs everyone else.

This is as it should be, because the New Testament is a time of salvation. When the final curtain falls, Jesus still upstages all the famous, beautiful and powerful people who have ever lived in the course of human history. Every person will be seen as responding to Jesus.

As T. S. Eliot put it, "O my soul, be prepared to meet him who knows how to ask questions." This the proper theological understanding of the New Testament and the eschatological Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Excerpted from Reflections for Ragamuffins

Jesus Through the Bible

by Philip Graham Ryken

We believe in a Christ-centered Bible. The salvation that was expected in the Old Testament is exhibited in the Gospels and then explained in the rest of the New Testament.

From Genesis we learn that Jesus is the seed of the woman who will crush Satan's head, and the son of Abraham who will bless all the nations of the earth. From Exodus we learn that Jesus is the Passover Lamb whose blood saves us from the angel of death, and the wilderness tabernacle where God dwells in glory. From Leviticus we learn that He is the atoning sacrifice that takes away our sin. From Numbers we learn that He is the bronze serpent lifted up for everyone who looks to Him in faith. From Deuteronomy we learn that He is the prophet greater than Moses who comes to teach us God's will.

So much for the Pentateuch.

What do we learn from the historical books? From Joshua we learn that Jesus is our great captain in the fight. From Judges we learn that He is the king who helps us do what is right in God's eyes, and not our own. From Ruth we learn that Jesus is our kinsman-redeemer. From 1 and 2 Samuel we learn that He is our anointed king. From 1 and 2 Kings we learn that He is the glory in the temple. From 1 and 2 Chronicles we learn that He is the Son of David - the rightful king of Judah. >From Ezra and Nehemiah we learn that He will restore the city of God. From Esther we learn that He will deliver us from all our enemies.

Then we come to the poetic writings. From Job we learn that Jesus is our living redeemer, who will stand on the earth at the last day. From the Psalms we learn that He is the sweet singer of Israel - the Savior forsaken by God and left to die, yet restored by God to rule the nations. From Proverbs we learn that Jesus is our wisdom. From Ecclesiastes we learn that He alone can give us meaning and purpose. From the Song of Solomon we learn that He is the lover of our souls.

This brings us to the prophets, whose special mission it was to prophesy about the coming of Christ. Isaiah tells that He is the child born of the Virgin, the son given to rule, the shoot from the stump of Jesse, and the servant stricken and afflicted, upon whom God has laid all our iniquity. Jeremiah and Lamentations tell us that Jesus is our comforter in sorrow, the mediator of a new covenant who turns our weeping into songs of joy. Ezekiel tells us that the Spirit of Jesus can breathe life into dry bones and make a heart of stone beat again. Daniel tells us that Jesus is the Son of Man coming in clouds of glory to render justice on the earth.

These are the Major Prophets, but the Minor Prophets also bore witness to Jesus Christ. Hosea prophesied that He would be a faithful husband to His wayward people. Joel prophesied that before He came to judge the nations, Jesus would pour out His Spirit on men and women, Jews and Gentiles, young and old. Amos and Obadiah prophesied that He would restore God's kingdom. Jonah prophesied that for the sake of the nations, He would be raised on the third day. Micah prophesied that Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. Nahum prophesied that He would judge the world. Habakkuk prophesied that He would justify those who live by faith. Zephaniah prophesied He would rejoice over His people with singing. Haggai prophesied that He would rebuild God's temple. Zechariah prophesied that He would come in royal gentleness, riding on a donkey, and that when He did, all God's people would be holy. Malachi prophesied that before He came, a prophet would turn the hearts of the fathers back to their children.

From Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament is all about Jesus. But of course it is in the New Testament that Jesus actually comes to save His people. Whereas the Old Testament gives us His background, the New Testament presents His biography.

The gospels give us the good news of salvation through His crucifixion and resurrection. The Gospel of Matthew is that Jesus is the Messiah God promised to Israel. The Gospel of Mark is that He is the suffering servant. The Gospel of Luke is that He is a Savior for everyone, including the poor and the weak. The Gospel of John is that He is the incarnate word, the Son of God, the light of the world, the bread of life, and the only way of salvation. But all the gospels end with the same good news: Jesus died on the cross for sinners and was raised again to give eternal life; anyone who believes in Him will be saved.

Then the New Testament turns its attention to the church, which is still about Jesus because the church is His body. The book of Acts shows how Jesus is working in the church today, through the gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then come all the letters that were written to the church - letters that tell about Jesus and how to live for Him. In Romans Jesus is righteousness from God for Jews and Gentiles; in 1 and 2 Corinthians He is the one who unifies the church and gives us spiritual gifts for ministry. In Galatians Jesus liberates us from legalism; in Ephesians He is the head of the church; in Philippians He is the joy of our salvation; in Colossians He is the firstborn over all creation. In 1 and 2 Thessalonians Jesus is coming soon to deliver us from this evil age; in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus He shepherds His people; and in Philemon He reconciles brothers who are separated by sin. This is the gospel according to Paul.

Hebrews is an easy one: Jesus is the great high priest who died for sin once and for all on the cross and who sympathizes with us in all our weakness. In the epistle of James, Jesus helps us to prove our faith by doing good works. In the epistles of Peter He is our example in suffering. In the letters of John He is the Lord of love. In Jude He is our Master and Teacher. Last, but not least, comes the book of Revelation, in which Jesus Christ is revealed as the Lamb of God slain for sinners, Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the great Judge over all the earth, and the glorious God of heaven.

The Bible says that in Jesus "all things hold together" (Colossians 1:17) and this is as true of the Bible as it is of anything else. Jesus holds the whole Bible together. From Genesis to Revelation, the Word of God is all about Jesus, and therefore it has the power to bring salvation through faith in Him. It is by reading the Bible that we come to know Jesus, and it is by coming to know Jesus that we are saved. This is why we are so committed to God's Word, why it is the foundation for everything we do, both as a church and as individual Christians.

We love the Word because it brings us to Christ.

Philip Ryken is the Bible teacher on the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals' weekly radio broadcast, Every Last Word, and is a member of the Alliance Council. Dr. Ryken also serves as president of Wheaton College. He was educated at Wheaton College (IL), Westminster Theological Seminary (PA), and the University of Oxford (UK), from which he received his doctorate in historical theology. He is the author or editor of more than 20 books, including Written in Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today's Moral Crisis and He Speaks to Me Everywhere: Meditations on Christianity and Culture.

Source: Today's Topical Bible Study; OnePlace.com All rights reserved.

The Bible Is Not about You

by Byron Yawn

I hate to disappoint you, but the Bible is not about you. Specifically, it was not written to improve the quality of your daily existence (in the way you think). It is not a spiritual handbook and it is not a guide to determining God's will for your life. The Bible is not a story of God determining in eternity past to send His Son to earth to create a more satisfactory existence for you. But, this is usually where we take the story. We are seriously self-absorbed when it comes to our Bibles.

Who else could take the unbelievable episode of Moses and the burning bush and bend it back toward our everyday experience? Or, the life of Joseph and draw out principles for effective management? Your life and happiness are not adequate points of reference for the scope of what God has done and is doing. Neither are mine. It's bigger than you and me.

In the Bible we are watching as redemption comes to pass on the pages of Scripture, one unbelievable event after another, eventually leading to Christ. Each page rumbles with anticipation. When you see it from here, the Bible opens up in ways you've never imagined. It takes off.

Unfortunately, we've been conditioned to read ourselves onto the pages and into the events of Scripture. We don't even realize we're doing it. What's the first question we ask of the Bible in our personal reading times or church services? "How is this relevant to me?" This is the wrong question entirely. No question could push us further from the real story. It's very much like walking out into the night sky and assuming all the stars showed up to look at us.

When we approach the Bible this way, we can't help but read it as if we're the center of the biblical universe and all of its history revolves around us. When everything is read through the lens of self, self-improvement, and self-contentment, we're destined to miss the point. But this is what we always do. Is it any wonder most Christians - even those who care deeply about the Word of God - are unable to put it all together?

Usually, biblical stories are approached as a set of isolated events with no connection to each other or to the greater redemptive plotline of the Bible. Without the real story, the events of the Bible become merely parables for better living, moral platitudes, character studies, or whatever else we can come up with. In the absence of a greater plot this is all we have. Over the years popular Christianity has practically rewritten the Bible. Our version of various events reads more like a fairy tale than God's story.

· Eve's decision to eat of the fruit and the subsequent disintegration of humanity becomes a lesson on the effects of negligent leadership and an absentee husband.

· Cain's homicidal rage becomes a lesson on avoiding sibling rivalry.

· Abraham's attempted sacrifice of his only son becomes a lesson in trusting against all odds for God to provide, or how we should all surrender our children to God.

· Moses before a burning bush becomes a prototype for decision-making.

· Gideon becomes an example of how to determine the will of God.

· The prayer of Jabez becomes a lesson about expanding our personal influence.

· David's encounter with the fighting champion of a hostile nation becomes a lesson in overcoming our greatest personal challenges ("giants").

· Jonah, a prophet miraculously swallowed by a fish and vomited out on a specific shoreline, becomes an example of the futility of resisting God's purpose in your life.

· Jesus' testing in the wilderness in a template for how we resist temptation.

· The story of a caring Samaritan is a model of how we should reach out with compassion to those of other races and classes.

· A young unnamed paralytic dropped through a roof at the feet of Jesus by four men becomes a lesson on the value of friendship.

None of these interpretations are remotely close to the real point of the events themselves. We've told them wrong. You may think I'm crazy, but stick with me. I used to approach the Bible the same way. I totally missed it. Or to be more specific, I missed the point. All these events and people lead us to the person of Jesus. It's about Jesus.

The lessons we typically draw out of the biblical stories are secondary observations at best. Usually this is because it's all we know to do with them. Fact is, the same sort of life lessons could be derived from any contemporary biography or history. The meanings and applications we've given these events have nothing at all to do with what's going on in the true story. Our approach is about the same as looking for stock tips in the sonnets of Shakespeare. This oversight is so very tragic.

Something so much greater is underway in these sacred pages. These events were not intended to be spiritualized into oblivion and dissected as lessons about raising kids or starting businesses. They are intended to be marveled at by God's people. We stand and point at what God has done. They are each a link in a chain of redemptive history that moves from Genesis to Revelation. They're not isolated at all. They're amazing demonstrations of the divine continuity of God's power. They are each the commitment of a Holy God to keep His promises and honor His holy name among men.

Our response to the individual incidents should be, "Look how God used this to get us to Jesus," not "Look how this relates to my longing for significance."

We've lost the main story line that pulls all the pieces together and gives them a consistent meaning, so we essentially take what's available and make up a story. What we've come up with in evangelicalism is a bit like Little House on the Prairie. (Didn't Michael Landon bear a strange resemblance to King David?) The Bible is now the epic tale of trials and triumph on the frontier of a long-ago land. It is no longer about what God has been doing for man and is more about what humanity has done to impress God. We approach it more as a collection of fables that indirectly offer principles for life. The Bible is no longer about how God went about saving humanity from the brink of desolation. The Bible is more the account of how God occasionally stopped to applaud the faith of a few exceptional people. It's less about what He has done. It's almost exclusively what we can do if we learn from the lives of heroic figures in God's Word.

We do the weirdest things to the Bible in the absence of the cohesive theme. No other book is treated so recklessly by people who honor that same book so greatly. Among our favorite rewrites are character sketches. We like to examine the lives of Old Testament saints - triumphs and tragedies alike - and offer various patterns for living. Almost everyone assumes this is the very reason the Old Testament saints show up in the biblical record. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Gideon, and Deborah have all come to represent examples to live by (or not to). What else could be the reason for the focus on their lives? Therefore we mine them for spiritual and moral principles. Sermons are preached and books are written about their lives and offered as blueprints for daily life, success in business, or practical decision-making skills.

Every Sunday kids sit in Sunday school classes, look at flannel boards or snip at construction paper with safety scissors, and learn how these ancient figures are examples of faithfulness or failure. The consistent message is, be like them and life will work out better. Or don't be like them and life will work out better. Work harder, make good decisions, and stay out of trouble like Joseph, and God will bless you.

When these same kids reach their early twenties, struggle with real life, and fail to reach Joseph's moral high ground, they despair. They can't do it. Joseph was exceptional. They get angry with God when life does not work out according to the coloring pages. Eventually they find Christianity irrelevant and powerless to save them, and they walk away.

They're exactly right - Joseph is powerless to save them. We're creating angry moralists, setting them up for failure, and blaming it on the Bible. Tragically, the one message that actually could save them from their failure was before us in the story of Joseph the entire time. We failed to mention it. Families would run from our children's programs if parents knew the effect our Bible lessons are having on their kids.

This approach to understanding this amazing book could not push us further from the real message and central character of the Bible. I know this sounds ridiculous to most of us and maybe even sacrilegious to some, but it should be obvious. The Bible is about Jesus, not Moses or any other biblical figure. The point of Moses is not Moses, but the one to whom Moses points. The Bible explicitly argues this very thing.

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house - whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end (Hebrews 3:1).

[Editor's note: taken from the forthcoming book by Byron Yawn, suburbianity: can we find our way back to biblical christianity?Used by permission.]

Byron Yawn is the senior pastor of community bible church in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of what every man wishes his father had told him, and the forthcoming suburbianity: can we find our way back to biblical christianity? (Harvest House) You can follow him on Twitter@byronyawn.

Source: Christianity.com - Christian Living Connection

Your Bible: A Living Treasure, Part 1

by Dr. Adrian Rogers

In this study of the Word of God, you will see some of the qualities of the Bible that can be said of no other book.

If you do not love, know, understand, practice, and obey the Word of God, you cannot be a victorious Christian.

I want you to learn how to study your Bible - how to make it burst aflame in your hand. Knowledge is power. That's true in any realm, business, athletics, or theology, for knowledge of truth transforms. We need to be molded, motivated, and managed by the Word of God.

We must know the Word to have spiritual power. Yet for many the Bible remains a closed, mysterious book. They just don't understand it. There is no cheap, lazy, or magical way to understand the Bible, but it's not impossible. In fact, it's joyful and thrilling.

Psalm 119, the longest psalm in the Bible, is entirely focused on the Word of God. For your Bible to truly come alive, you must appreciate the qualities that set it apart from all other books.

The Bible is a Timeless Book

The Bible is not the book of the month or the book of the year. It is the book of the ages, unchanging and timeless.

"For ever, O LORD, Thy Word is settled in heaven." Psalm 119:89

"Concerning Thy testimonies, I have known of old that Thou hast founded them forever." Psalm 119:152

"Thy Word is true from the beginning: and every one of Thy righteous judgments endureth for ever." Psalm 119:160

In the New Testament, 1 Peter 1:25 states, "But the Word of the Lord endureth for ever ..."

Forever! God says the Word - the Bible you hold in your hand or have on your shelf - is done, settled in heaven. So, if it's on the shelf, dust if off and get it into your heart.

Why? Other books may come and go. The Bible is here to stay. Thousands of years have passed since the Bible was written. Empires have risen and fallen. Civilizations have changed and changed again. Science has pushed back the frontiers of knowledge. Yet the Bible stands: timeless, ultimate, indestructible.

Emperors like Diocletian have decreed its extermination, atheists like Voltaire have railed against it, agnostics through the years have cynically sneered at it, and liberals strive to remove the miracles from the Bible. Materialists have simply ignored it. How is it that the Bible still stands after centuries of attempts to destroy it? Because the Bible is eternal, settled in heaven.

The Bible is a Truthful Book

"Thy righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Thy law is the truth...Thou art near, O LORD; and all Thy commandments are truth...Thy Word is true from the beginning ... " Psalm 119:142, 151, 160.

In the Gospel of John, Pilate asked Jesus, "What is truth?" (John 18:38). Jesus had already answered that question in John 17:17 when, speaking to the Father, He said, "Thy Word is truth." In a world that has lost its appreciation for truth, you can say without apology that the Bible is truth.

Today there are many attacks on the truth of the Bible. There's the frontal attack of liberals who deny it is true. There's the attack from the rear by those who want to substitute their own experience over the Word of God, saying, "Well, I know what I feel or think." Sometimes they'll even argue, "I don't care what the Bible says. Let me tell you what I experienced." And there's an attack from the flank by people who don't necessarily deny the Bible but want to replace it or prop it up with psychology, philosophy, or other things - as if the Bible itself were not good enough.

But if you're looking for truth, you can find it in the Bible. Why? 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." That word inspiration is used only once in the Bible - here in this verse. What a magnificent word it is. In Greek it literally means "God-breathed." Jesus said in Matthew 4:4, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God."

Every word comes from God. He did not simply breathe upon the writings of men such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Matthew, Mark, and Paul, making their words His own. They held the pen of God. They were His instruments as He spoke, breathing the Scriptures out. Therefore, the Bible is true, because the God of truth cannot speak error.

In Part 2 (below), you'll discover how the Word of God pulsates with Life

Source: Today's Topical Bible Study

Your Bible: A Living Treasure, Part 2

by Dr. Adrian Rogers

In Part 1, you saw two qualities of the Word of God which set it apart from all other books:

Timelessness - it has stood the test of time and the assaults of cynics and skeptics.

Truthfulness - it is "God-breathed" and comes from a God who cannot lie.

When you read the Bible, you find phrases like "the Word of the Lord," "the Word of God," or "the Lord said" used 3,808 times. If the Bible is not the Word of God, it's the biggest bundle of lies ever unleashed on planet Earth. The Bible is truth, absolutely.

Let's look at other virtues of the Bible which set it apart, for if you don't appreciate the virtues of the Word of God, you won't have any desire to understand it.

The Bible is a Treasured Book

Because it is timeless and truthful, it is a treasured book. Psalm 119 expresses it well:

"The law of Thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver." (verse 72)

"How sweet are Thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (verse 103)

"Therefore I love Thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold." (verse 127)

Saints and heroes of the faith have pillowed their heads on the Word of God as they walked through the chilly waters of death. Martyrs died for the witness of Jesus Christ, holding the Word of God as flames came around their feet.

The early Church loved the Word of God. They never questioned it, and they argued very little about it. They preached and proclaimed it. They loved, lived, practiced, trusted, and obeyed it. They claimed it constantly.

Is that true of you? You will never have a victorious Christian life if you do not love this book.

The Bible is a Living Book

Unlike great works of poetry, prose, or history, the Bible is a living book.

"For the Word of God is quick [alive], and powerful." Hebrews 4:12

Jesus said, "... The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life." John 6:63

The Bible pulsates with life, for its Author is the Creator of the universe, in Whom all things consist and in Whom we live and move and have our being.

The Bible Must Be Assimilated

For the Bible to become a living, breathing, life-giving reality for you, you must assimilate it. You don't just read a cookbook, you eat the meal. If you don't assimilate it, no matter how much you appreciate it, what good is it? And with the Bible, it means that you are to take it into your mind, to thoroughly comprehend it, to use it as nourishment for your mind and heart. How do you do that?

Ask God To Be Your Teacher

The Psalmist said, "Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me Thy statutes" (Psalm 119:12). Have you ever prayed, "Lord God, be my Teacher"? Pray over the Word and ask God to teach you. When you ask God to do this, several things will happen:

Your Eyes Will Be Opened

"Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law." (verse 18) You may have 20/20 vision, but God has to open your eyes for you to behold the wondrous things in His Word.

Your Understanding Will Be Increased

After His Resurrection, Jesus walked with two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The Bible says He began to talk to them about the Old Testament, the Law, and the Prophets. "Then opened He their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures." (Luke 24:45) When you ask Him, God will do that for you.

Your Heart Will Be Stirred

When you pray over the Word, your heart will be stirred. "Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness." (Psalm 119:36) If you don't have a desire for the Word of God, ask, "Oh God, please incline my heart. Move my heart, open my eyes, stir my heart."

Your Mind Will Be Enlightened

When your eyes are opened and your heart is stirred, your mind is going to be enlightened. "Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn Thy commandments." (verse 73)

Oftentimes in my sermon preparation, I have put my pencil down and bowed my head to say, "Oh my God, help me to understand this. God, give me understanding."

Next time, I want to share some steps that I find helpful in making the Word of God come alive in my hands and heart.

Source: Today's Topical Bible Study

Your Bible: A Living Treasure, Part 3

by Dr. Adrian Rogers

In the first two parts of this study, we saw the Bible as a timeless, truthful, treasured book, a living book because the Creator of the universe literally breathed out the Word of God.

We saw that it must be assimilated - taken into your mind, understood, and provided as nourishment for your soul and spirit. How do you do that? First by praying, asking God to be your teacher, then by meditating.

Meditate Upon It

"I will meditate in Thy precepts ...." (Psalm 119:15) "I prevented (got up before) the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in Thy Word." In other words, the Psalmist had a quiet time. "Mine eyes are awake through the night watches, that I might meditate in Thy Word." (Psalm 119:148)

It takes time to ponder the Word of God. If you have to rise an hour early or stay up an hour late, do whatever it takes so that you might meditate upon the Word of God.

Keep a pad and pencil handy. I always read the Bible with something to write with, because I'm expecting to receive something from God. If you're expecting to hear from God, you should be ready to write it down. Don't just say you'll "remember it." The weakest ink is better than the best memory. Pray over it, ponder it, then be ready for God to speak to you.

As you mediate, use your sanctified common sense. Don't jump into the middle of a chapter or a book with no rhyme or reason. Follow a plan. You might start by reading Psalm 119 that this study is based on and mark all the references to law, statues, precepts, and other related words.

Remember, too, that the Bible contains different forms of literature. Read poetry as poetry, prophecy as prophecy. See precept as precept, promise as promise, and proverb as proverb.

For example, a proverb is a general principle that when generally applied brings a general result. In the book of Proverbs there are ways to be healthy, wealthy, and wise. But you could do all those things and be hit by a truck! The proverbs are wonderful guidelines, laying down principles for living, but don't try to turn the proverbs into promises. They are principles, not promises

Ask, "Is this precept? Prophecy? Poetry? Prose? Promise?" God gave you a mind. He doesn't zap you with knowledge. He expects you to do your part by studying and meditating upon His word.

Ask these six questions as you study the Word of God, and God will show you what He wants you to learn.

Is there a promise to claim?
Is there a lesson to learn?
Is there a blessing to enjoy?
Is there a command to obey?
Is there a sin to avoid?
Is there a new thought to carry with me?

Memorize It

"Thy Word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee....I will delight myself in Thy statutes: I will not forget Thy Word." (Psalm 119:11, 16)

Hide the Word of God in your heart. Don't say, "I just can't memorize!" Memory comes with concentration, motivation, and use. Your mind is a marvel, and you can remember far more than you think you can. Fill your mind with the Word so what is inside will flow forth blessing and honor to God.

Obey It

Thou hast commanded us to keep Thy precepts diligently. Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Thy statutes! (Psalm 119:4-5)

It's not enough to recite the promises without obeying the commandments. If you want to learn more about the Word of God, obey what you already know. The more you obey, the more you will learn. If you will begin to keep the things that you do understand, the Word of God will become real to you.

Proclaim It

"...so shall I talk of Thy wondrous works." "I will speak of Thy testimonies also before kings..." "My tongue shall speak of Thy Word..." (Psalm 119:27, 46, 172)

Let the Word of God be constantly in your mouth. The more of the Word you give away, the more will be woven into the fabric of your soul and spirit.

About The Author:

Dr. Adrian Rogers, preacher/teacher of Love Worth Finding Ministries, had a zeal and love for Jesus that resonated in every message. His legacy continues to reach around this world, sharing the good news that Jesus Christ is the greatest Love worth finding.

Source: Today's Topical Bible Study

One of the Most Important Principles in Reading the Bible

by John Piper

Sometimes readers of the Bible see the conditions that God lays down for his blessing and they conclude from these conditions that our action is first and decisive, then God responds to bless us.

That is not right.

There are indeed real conditions that God often commands. We must meet them for the promised blessing to come. But that does not mean that we are left to ourselves to meet the conditions or that our action is first and decisive.

Here is one example to show what I mean.

In Jeremiah 29:13 God says to the exiles in Babylon, "You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart." So there is a condition: When you seek me with all your heart, then you will find me. So we must seek the Lord. That is the condition of finding him.

True.

But does that mean that we are left to ourselves to seek the Lord? Does it mean that our action of seeking him is first and decisive? Does it mean that God only acts after our seeking?

No.

Listen to what God says in Jeremiah 24:7 to those same exiles in Babylon: "I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart."

So the people will meet the condition of returning to God with their whole heart. God will respond by being their God in the fullest blessing. But the reason they returned with their whole heart is that God gave them a heart to know him. His action was first and decisive.

So now connect that with Jeremiah 29:13. The condition there was that they seek the Lord with their whole heart. Then God will be found by them. But now we see that the promise in Jeremiah 24:7 is that God himself will give them such a heart so that they will return to him with their whole heart.

This is one of the most basic things people need to see about the Bible. It is full of conditions we must meet for God's blessings. But God does not leave us to meet them on our own. The first and decisive work before and in our willing is God's prior grace. Without this insight, hundreds of conditional statements in the Bible will lead us astray.

Let this be the key to all Biblical conditions and commands: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." (Philippians 2:12-13). Yes, we work. But our work is not first or decisive. God's is. "I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me" (1 Corinthians 15:10).

© Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org.

7 Ways to Make Bible Reading Fun

by Ron Edmondson

A young college-aged girl told me recently that she didn't enjoy reading her Bible and asked if there was an alternative book. Well…no! This is THE BOOK! There is no substitute. There are plenty of great Christian books, but none compare to this one.

I've heard similar concerns many times. The Bible intimidates many people; even those who are avid readers of other books.

I told this girl she could listen to the Bible on a CD or mp3, but I don't think that's the complete solution. I think we need to figure out how to enjoy reading God's Word. Part of maturing as a believer is to fall in love with the Bible.

Here are 7 suggestions which may help:

Pray

The Bible is not like any other book. You need God's Spirit to help you. You should always pray before and as you read it. Ask God to help you understand what you're reading. Good news here! This appears, in my experience, to be one of God's favorite prayers to answer.

Version

Pick a version easiest for you to understand. I would suggest you read a more literal translation primarily, but the paraphrase versions are good for casual reading. I suggest NIV or NLT for a literal but readable version; ESV or NKJV if you want a most literal translation; or for a paraphrase version, that's extremely readable, try The Message version. I read some of each of these for my studies and fun reading.

Sharing

It brings Scripture to life when we can share it with others. Sharing your reading with your small group, a group of guys or girls at a coffee shop or a couple of people from work helps energize you for the passage. The key here is that when you talk about what you're reading, it helps you value it more. (Read Philemon 6 for an example of this.)

Journaling

Writing about your time in God's Word will help you process your thoughts and keep a record of them. It's exciting to go back over time and remember what you read before. It fuels your enthusiasm for more.

Taking your time

I love the idea of reading the Bible through in a year. I've done this many times. I think it's more important, however, that you benefit from what you're reading. I sometimes meditate on a few verses or a story for a day. I also recommend people start with an easier book to understand and move to more difficult passages from there. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John are good places to start, because they are filled with great stories of Jesus.

Clarify

It's best to have a study Bible for this part, but there are plenty of free online tools also. Look up words you don't understand. Learn to use Bible dictionaries and commentaries. Look up passages, which aren't clear, cross-referencing verses with other similar verses using footnotes. For some people, having a Bible study to work through along with reading the Bible is helpful.

Relationship

The best way to fall in love with God's Word is to get to better know it's author. It's cliche now, but read it as a love letter written to you. If someone writes you a love letter, you'll read it continually until you figure out what it means, and maybe even memorize parts of it along the way. If you can't figure out something, you'll consult the author. Fall more in love with God and you'll find reading the Bible much easier. You may even someday say it's "fun"!

What would you add to my list?

About The Author:

Ron Edmondson serves as the senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky, and has an impressive history of church planting and church growth. After twenty years in business, including time owning an insurance agency and a small manufacturing company, Ron heard God's call to ministry. A lifelong student of the Bible, Ron's strong theological background guides him to teach faithfully from Scripture. Ron identifies himself as a wisdom seeker and a teacher. more at: http://www.ronedmondson.com/about

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

The Nourishing Bread of Scripture

by Servais Pinckaers

Patristic Exegesis

It will be helpful to consider the manner in which the Fathers read the Scriptures, drawing from it their moral doctrine. They did not have at their disposal the resources of modern historical exegesis, but they did possess a method of interpretation that enabled them to discover the rich spiritual substance their works contain and that still nourishes us today.

Patristic exegesis might be described as a "real" reading of Scripture, as contrasted with a literary or positivist approach. The main object of the Fathers was to penetrate beyond the signs, the words, to the reality signified, even to the mystery of Christ and God. They were aware they could reach this mystery only through faith in Christ and obedience to his word. Their reading was therefore directly related to their lives and was enlightened by a gradual formed experience of the reality and truth of what they believed. Their exegetical works expressed the penetration of their minds into the mysteries contained in Scripture, a penetration due to their active experience of the mysteries. They are properly speaking words of wisdom.

Patristic exegesis was essentially linked to faith and practice. It included nonetheless some very fine literary analyses and carefully wrought intellectual reflections such as we find, for example, in St. Augustine's 'De doctina christiana'. Still, the main thing for them was an intellectual savoring of the divine realities communicated by the Holy Spirit, the principal Author of Scripture.

The Nourishing Bread of Scripture

The following image may be helpful in demonstrating the patristic method. The Church Fathers possessed the art of forming nourishing bread from the wheat of Scripture. The comparison of scriptural texts to wheat is apt, for they are often made up of short sentences that enclose in a few words a theme or a rich doctrine containing a seed of life. Let us consider the stages of this spiritual work.

The first task was to strip off the husk covering the grain, to free the Word from its human coverings: language, literary genre, the particularities of the author, the setting, period and so forth. To get at the living grain in this way, faith was needed as much as dexterity, for faith alone opens our minds to the Word and allows it to penetrate to the depths of our hearts. By the same token, it is faith that enables us to penetrate this Word and so grasp and understand it.

Next, the grain was ground to produce flour; they needed to meditate on the Word and crush it, so to speak, through reflection and life, with the aid of memory and experience. Meditation led to practice, comparable to kneading, for the demands of action, with all its ardors, resistance, and delays, truly knead and mold us. This task could not succeed without the water of regular prayer.

Finally the bread that had been shaped must be put in the oven; it passed through the fire of trial, like the gold of the Word, seven times purified, purified slowly. Only now was the bread ready to be offered as nourishment. The reader of the Scriptures could offer to others a substantial explanation of the Word of God: this the Fathers did in their commentaries.

Excerpted from 'The Sources of Christian Ethics,' Chapter 8, by Servais Pinckaers,
© 1985, University Press Fribourg

Family Special: Keep Going Strong
These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer.
ACTS 1:14

I know how hard it can be to stay consistent with your devotions. I'm sure that in the course of reading this book together, life has served up numerous excuses not to take this so seriously. But I hope the following testimony will be as encouraging to you as it is to us - a reminder of how important your time together in prayer and God's Word really is:

Last year was kind of rough on our marriage. We've been trying to have children, but to no avail, and as a result of that frustration and a combination of being apathetic about our marriage, we both began to wonder if it was even right for us to be together. (This became quite evident at the end of a seven-day cruise we took.)

On our way home from the cruise, I found a couple's devotional book in an airport shop and showed it to my wife. She just rolled her eyes, like I was trying to make a smart remark. But when we got back home, I bought Moments Together for Couples and put it under the Christmas tree, labeled "To Us."

My wife opened it on Christmas morning, and we made a pact that we would read it this year. It has done wonders for us! We have communicated more in the last seven weeks than we have in our entire marriage. We have learned things about each other that we had never known.

We both want our marriage to work, and now it shows. Nowadays, I can't wait to get home from work and see my wife. It reminds me of when we first started dating. I love her more each day.

For a couple that was putting the "pathetic" in apathetic, this book has helped us get out of that awful rut.

DISCUSS

Talk about some of the best benefits of being in God's presence together - things you never want to live without again.

PRAY

Pray for a steadily growing desire to be with God and each other.

Source: Moments with You

Health Tip: The Greatest Cancer Fighter

by Al Sears, MD

There's sound evidence that the holy grail of cancer fighting is not a drug. The most powerful cancer fighter ever discovered is naturally occurring vitamin D.

I've been writing about this for years. The proof is in black and white:

  • A new study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found that low vitamin D significantly increases overall cancer risk. 1
  • A study by the journal Anticancer Research says very clearly that the more vitamin D you make from sunshine, the lower your chances are of dying from 15 kinds of cancer. 2
  • Another study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vitamin D can lower the chance you'll get cancer by 77 percent. 3
  • The European Journal of Cancer looked at cancer rates all over the world. Their study says plainly that vitamin D production in the skin decreases the likelihood you'll get any of these cancers: stomach, colorectal, liver and gallbladder, pancreas, lung, breast, prostate, bladder and kidney cancers. 4

In fact, the Canadian Cancer Society contends that a simple supplement of 1,000 international units of vitamin D per day can reduce the risk of various cancers by as much as 60 per cent.

This is one of most important findings in modern medical history: Vitamin D is the best current hope for preventing cancer. Period.

So why didn't you hear more about this stunningly important news?

Modern medicine seems to have no interest in natural treatments and preventions for cancer. Our FDA is more intent on prosecuting doctors that stray from drug treatments than disseminating the truth about natural cures. Even when a simple, and sometimes free substance like vitamin D could reduce national cancer rates by 75 percent.

This is a shame, but doesn't surprise me… Our leaders in medicine have sought to make us a nation dependent on drugs and sought to suppress natural solutions even if proven to actually work. (Looks like I need to keep beating this drum.)

Aside from cancer prevention; vitamin D cools the fire of inflammation throughout your body. Less inflammation means stronger, pain-free joints and a healthier heart.

Vitamin D also:

  • Enhances mood
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Prevents bone and muscle weakness
  • Dramatically lowers risk of heart disease
  • Prevents diabetes
  • Fights arthritis, pain and inflammation
  • Helps prevent Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis

What's astonishing is that the power of this simple nutrient has been in plain sight for years. Study after study has proven just how vital vitamin D is in combating a host of ailments. Yet the good news still hasn't spread.

Until now. It's past time to boost your vitamin D.

The easiest, safest and cheapest way (it's free) is to increase the amount of vitamin D your body produces through regular exposure to sunlight.

During the winter months, it's not uncommon – even if you live in a warm, sunny climate like I do in South Florida – to get less sunshine just because the days are shorter. In that case, you can also take vitamin D as a supplement. I recommend 5,000 IU every day.

The D3 form is the bioactive kind of vitamin D. But don't rely on your multivitamin to give you all the vitamin D you need, even if it does have D3. It's a good start, but most still only have around 400 IU.

References:

1. Ordóñez-Mena J, Schöttker B, Haug U, Müller H, Köhrle J, Schomburg L, Holleczek B, Brenner H. "Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin d and cancer risk in older adults: results from a large german prospective cohort study." Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2013 May;22(5):905-16.

2. Grant, W.B. et al, "The association of solar ultraviolet B (UVB) with reducing risk of cancer: multifactorial ecologic analysis of geographic variation in age-adjusted cancer mortality rates," Anticancer Research 2006; 26:2687-2700

3. Lappe, J.M., et al, "Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial," Am. J. Clin. Nutr. June 2007;85(6):1586-91

4. Tuohimaa, P., et al, "Does solar exposure, as indicated by the non-melanoma skin cancers, protect from solid cancers: vitamin D as a possible explanation," Eur. J. Cancer July 2007;43(11):1701-12

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Recipe: Double Orange Carrots

by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World

Ingredients:

4 cups water
10 medium carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup orange juice
4 tablespoons butter (1/2 cube)

Directions:

In a saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add carrots and cook until just tender. Drain, set aside and cover to keep warm.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar, cornstarch, salt, ginger and orange juice. Stir constantly until mixture thickens. Raise heat and boil 1 minute longer. Stir in butter, pour over hot carrots, toss thoroughly and serve.

Yield: 4 servings

Teachers and Tornadoes

by Michael Josephson, www.whatwillmatter.com

Once I got past the awe of witnessing Mother Nature's astonishing power to wreak devastation in Oklahoma, I was awed by something more positive and uplifting: the instinctive capacity of our species to care about, come to the aid of, and - for those caught in the middle of the calamity - to even sacrifice their own lives for others.

Every day we are surrounded by examples of the dark side of human nature - selfishness, greed, dishonesty and cruelty - which make it hard to resist cynicism. It's a pity that it often takes a disaster and the heroic actions it evokes to provide compelling contrary evidence, to remind us of the best in human nature.

How can one resist tears hearing of the teachers in Oklahoma who put themselves at risk by shielding children with their own bodies? I suspect lots of other adults would have reacted in a similar fashion, but I think teachers really are special.

With the current focus on competence and accountability in education, we tend to undervalue one of the most important qualities of most teachers: their genuine sense of responsibility and affection for the children they teach.

Over and over we've seen the powerful instinct of teachers to protect children in school shootings and, more recently, in the horrific tornadoes.

Teachers willingly and without hesitation treated children as their own and put themselves at risk to protect them.

It should be a comfort to parents to know how much teachers really care.

Henry Adams once said, "Teachers affect all eternity. You never know where their influence stops." He was referring to the way they shape lives by transmitting information and learning skills, but teachers often do so much more. Though only rarely called upon to risk their lives, they regularly touch the lives of students with their commitment and love.

It's been said that kids don't care what you know unless they know that you care. Let's do all we can to commend, congratulate and celebrate teachers who show how much they care.

Remember, character counts.

The Truth About Positive Thinking: When to Use it - and When to Ignore It

By Mark Morgan Ford

When my sons were growing up, I dreaded meeting with their teachers. I was always a tiny bit afraid that somewhere in the middle of the conversation the teacher would lean forward, grab my ear, and chastise me. This may be an irrational fear, but it is deeply seeded. It was planted many years ago at St. Agnes elementary school, and it was nurtured in middle school and high school by just about every teacher who had the misfortune of having me in his or her class.

Despite my less-than-stellar early education, I went on to graduate college magna cum laude. I earned a master's degree, and stopped just short of my dissertation for a Ph.D. I've written and published more than a dozen books - including three best-sellers - won awards for writing, and have used the skills I learned in school to help build several multimillion-dollar businesses.

All that said, because of my deeply seeded irrational fear, I had a negative idea of what I could accomplish early in my business career.

But that didn't stop me.

In "The Power of Positive Thinking," Norman Vincent Peale says that unless you have a positive attitude about yourself and your abilities, "you cannot be successful or happy."

I believe he is half right.

Yes, you need a positive attitude to be happy. But you can be quite successful by most conventional measurements simply by applying my success formula with persistence:

Decide exactly what it is you want.
Make it a primary goal.
Establish a series of yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily objectives to achieve that goal.
Resist the urge to give up along the way

My own experience proves that, by doing this, you can achieve almost anything you want in life - even if you don't have much faith in your own abilities. And it has been proven to me dozens of times over by others - people I've known personally, people I've heard about from friends and colleagues, and even people I've read about.

But what if you want happiness? Or what if, in fact, happiness and equanimity are integral to your definition of success? Well, then you need to follow Peale's advice and start thinking positive thoughts about yourself.

Lack of self-confidence, Peale said, "is one of the great problems besetting people today." He makes reference to a survey of college students indicating that for 75 percent of them, confidence was the thing most lacking in their life.

Who could argue with that? If you've ever choked up in an interview, forgotten your lines in a play, blown a free throw, or been verbally stifled by a rude comment, you know too well the effect that a lack of self-confidence has on performance.

"The blows of life, the accumulation of difficulties, the multiplication of problems tend to sap energy and leave you spent and discouraged," Peale says. In such situations, "it is easy to lose track of your abilities and powers" - but by re-appraising your personal assets, you can convince yourself that "you are less defeated than you think you are."

As an example, Peale tells how he counseled a 52-year-old man who came to him "in great despondency." Everything in his life, the man said, had been "swept away" by a recent business setback. "Everything I built up over a lifetime is gone."

Peale recognized that although the man had indeed experienced a serious setback, his chief problem was the way he viewed it.

"Suppose we take a piece of paper and write down the values you have left," he suggested. And so they did. Among other things, the list included these personal assets:

a wonderful wife - and a 30-year marriage
three devoted children
admiring friends, happy to help
good physical health
integrity

That's not a bad list. And, if you're feeling down, I would hope that focusing on positive personal assets like these could help you overcome the worst feelings you could possibly have about yourself.

Let me tell you a story...

About 20 years ago, I became friendly with a man, about my own age, who had all of the above-mentioned assets - plus a very successful printing business, plus a significant personal fortune. He was a very charismatic guy - always good-natured, upbeat, full of good fun, and easy to like. Then, one day, his business collapsed. I don't remember the details but, suddenly, he was bankrupt.

I heard about it soon after it happened. When I called to console him, it was too late. Sobbing, his wife told me that he had killed himself.

I couldn't understand why he did it. He had had so many other things going for him that, in my eyes, his business and the wealth it produced was just gravy. Apparently, he didn't see it that way.

If my friend had read Peale's advice - and had taken it to heart - he'd be alive today and enjoying all the wonderful things he had, including the love of his wife, children, and friends. He'd also, I'm quite sure, have made back all the money he lost, plus plenty more.

About The Author:

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today.

Source: Early to Rise; Copyright © 2013 Early to Rise, LLC. 

Humor: The Lungi, The Legend

By Unknown (US Citizen, born in Kerala)

Just as the national bird of Kerala is Mosquito (?!), the national dress is 'Lungi'. Pronounced as 'Lu' as in loo and 'ngi ' as in 'mongey', a lungi can be identified by its floral or window-curtain pattern. 'Mundu' is the white variation of lungi and is worn on special occasions like hartal or bandh days, weddings and Onam.

A Lungi is simple and 'down to earth' like the mallu wearing it. Lungi is the beginning and the end of evolution in its category. Wearing something on the top half of your body is optional when you are wearing a lungi. Lungi is a strategic dress. It's like a one-size-fits-all-bottoms for Keralites.

The technique of wearing a lungi/mundu is passed on from generation to generation through word of mouth like the British Constitution. If you think it is an easy task wearing it, just try it once! It requires techniques like breath control and yoga that is a notch higher than sudarshan kriya of AOL ( Art Of Living - a breathing technique ). A lungi/mundu when perfectly worn won't come off even in a quake of 17 on the richter scale.

A lungi is not attached to the waist using duct tape, staple, rope or velcro. It's a bit of mallu magic whose formula is a closely guarded secret like the Coca Cola chemicals.

A lungi can be worn 'Full Mast' or 'Half Mast' like a national flag. A 'Full Mast' lungi is when you are showing respect to an elderly or the dead. Wearing it at full mast has a lot of disadvantages. A major handicap is when a dog runs after you. When you are wearing a lungi/mundu at full mast, the advantage is mainly for the female onlookers who are spared the ordeal of swooning at the sight of hairy legs.

Wearing a lungi 'Half Mast' is when you wear it exposing yourself like those C-grade movie starlets. A mallu can play cricket, football or simbly run when the lungi is worn at half mast. A mallu can even climb a coconut tree wearing lungi at half mast. "It's not good manners, especially for ladies from decent families, to look up at a mallu climbing a coconut tree"- Confucius say !!

Most mallus do the traditional dance kudiyattam. Kudi means drinking alcohol and yattam, pronounced aattam, means random movement of the male body. Note that 'y' is silent. When you are drinking, you drink, there is no 'y'. Any alcohol related "festival" can be enjoyed to the maximum when you are topless with lungi at half-mast and a towel tied around the head.

"Half mast lungi makes it easy to dance and shake legs" says Candelaria Amaranto, a Salsa teacher from Spain after watching 'kudiyaattam' .

The 'Lungi Wearing Mallu Union' [LUWMU, pronounced LOVE MU], an NGO which works towards the 'upliftment' of the lungi, strongly disapproves of the GenNext tendency of wearing Bermuda shorts under the lungi. Bermudas under the lungi is a conspiracy by the CIA. It's a disgrace to see a person wearing Bermudas with corporate logos under his lungi.

What they don't know is how much these corporates are limiting their freedom of movement and expression.

A mallu wears his lungi round the year. It's all weather, all season versatility has no match. A mallu celebrates winter by wearing a colourful lungi with a floral pattern. Yet in summer, a lungi provides good ventilation and brings down the heat between the legs. A mallu is scared of global warming more than anyone else in the world.

If despite wearing a lungi you feel the heat, you can use the ends of the lungi to fan your heated parts.

Jai Lungi !!

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