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

Featured: Independence Day

Volume 3 No. 150 July 4, 2013

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Proverbs 2:20
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Important Notice

Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 7)

Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_7th_sunday-after-pentecost.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (July 7)

Sermons for Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_7th-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

Inspiration for Today: Love Is To Be Experienced

St. Thomas, the Disciple

St. Thomas, one among the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, was a Jew. He was probably from Galeele. Thomas in Armaic Syriac is known as Teoma and in Greek Didymus. The meaning of these words is twin. The name "twin" was called because of his twin brother Adai who later was the Episcopo of Edessa. Thomas was most probably a carpenter. ...

Independence... Is It Really a Good Thing?

In a day and age when independence is praised, I wonder if it's really a good thing when it comes to our relationship with God. ...

Celebrating the Priceless Gift of Freedom

Anyone who has experienced horrific persecution for their personal beliefs has a deep awareness of the unmistakable value of freedom. The men and women who founded this country were themselves victims of persecution, and fought to preserve freedom at any cost. The liberty they sought meant freedom to have faith, to lose it, to change it. ...

Let Freedom Ring

I will never think about worship the same again. I've been too casual about it, too laid-back, taken it too much for granted. These people know what it's about - really about - and because of that, they have been willing, and would be willing again, to suffer for it. To be imprisoned for it. To die for it. Because they've discovered that it holds that high of a yield for their life. It has that much meaning and payoff and significance. It matters that much. ...

America: There is Hope

God is not impressed with our outward displays of devotion without inward commitment. God is not impressed when we hand Him our crumbs with no sacrifice. God is not impressed with how high we can jump for Jesus. He wants to see how straight we walk once we land. ...

One of the Greatest Americans of All Time

Grant's early life was marked by failure, shame and disappointment. Yet he rose to become the most famous and respected man in the nation. Grant won the Civil War and saved the Union, concluding it on a note of grace. His two terms as President were marked by peace abroad and reconciliation at home. He helped heal the nation's wounds and saved his family from financial ruin by writing a brilliant, landmark memoir, one of the most successful books in American literature, while dying and wracked with pain. ...

Meditation - The Secret to Remaining at Peace

Have you ever looked at the stars at night and been utterly amazed by the infinite spaciousness of this Universe? Just as you notice the vast expansiveness of your outer world, this same spaciousness exists in your inner world. This inner spaciousness is where you can finally rest and find inner peace. ...

Recipe: Summer Cranberry Spritzer

Bring on the heat with this refreshing cranberry beverage. It's sure to cool you off.

Family: When Our Relationships Are Challenged

I listened as the hurting man wept, and I thought of Job, around whom unseen and unjust powers had swirled. Job was bewildered. So was this misunderstood husband. Neither man understood why bad things were happening. Each faced a murky future in an iffy marriage. ...

Family: The Big Result of a Little Independence

Most of us can't imagine how we would ever get to the point of entering into a sexual relationship outside our marriage. And yet adultery happens all the time, almost as often with Christians as with non-believers. And it usually begins with little acts of unfaithfulness that build gradually into bigger ones until suddenly one day we realize we're up to our necks in a full-blown affair....

About Malankara World

Important Notice
Malankara World has taken great pride in the timely publication of its Journal.

Sometimes you may have got it late; very often it is due to technical problems with Yahoo, the service we use to distribute the Journal, and not because we released it late.

Unfortunately, due to a personal emergency I have to go out of the country and a few of the future editions may be delayed as a result. Although I will strive my very best to release these in time, there may be events which are outside my control that may affect this.

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Dr. Jacob Mathew
Chief Editor, Malankara World Journal

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 7)

Sermons for This Sunday (July 7)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: Love Is To Be Experienced
There was a time, after graduating from IIT, Kharagpur, when I tried to explain everything as a scientific phenomenon, until one day when my father asked me, "Do you think your Love for your Mother is just a chemical reaction in your brain?"

He then said, "Just feel and experience the love and therein you will find the answer."

Sudhir Kadam, Alumnus of IIT Kharagpur

St. Thomas, the Disciple

by Dr. K. Mani Rajan Cor-episcopo

St. Thomas, one among the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, was a Jew. He was probably from Galeele (Aphrem, 1964; White 1991). Thomas in Armaic Syriac is known as Teoma and in Greek Didymus (John: 11:16; 20:24). The meaning of these words is twin (The encyclopedia Americana, 1988). The name "twin" was called because of his twin brother Adai who later was the Episcopo of Edessa (Aphrem Aboodi, 1966; Curien, 1982). Thomas was most probably a carpenter (Britannica, 1988).

The Bible has only a few references to Thomas, the disciple. Jesus went to Bethany after the death of Lazarus. Thomas along with other disciples went with Jesus. Thomas said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" (John 11:16). The willingness of Thomas to follow Jesus unto death was fulfilled in his life.

On another occasion Jesus said, "And where I go you know, and the way you know" (John 14:4). Thomas said unto Him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going and how can we know the way?" (John 14:5). Jesus said to him "I am the way, the truth, and the life . . ." (John 14:6). Thomas puts questions like a child for he wants to know and believe.

After the resurrection of Jesus Christ, He appeared to the disciples and Thomas was not with them (John 20:24). The other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord" so he said to them, "unless I see in His hands, the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe" (John 20:25). Doubt is the first step to belief. Jesus Christ cleared his earnest doubt. " . . . Jesus came and said to Thomas, reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing. And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and My God !" (John 20:26-28). This confession of faith is repeated in the Holy mass when the second coming of Jesus is commemorated. This proclamation is the sum total of the salvific act of Jesus Christ on earth.

Apart from the New Testament references, Mor Aphrem, the Syrian (306-373); Gregory of Nazianzen (330-395), John Chrysostom (347-407), and Jacob of Sarug (451-521) have described the work of Thomas in India (Panicker, 1989; Koodapuzha, 1984; Kolangadan, 1995-96). These accounts are based on the ‘Acts of St. Thomas'. Some stone writings, coins and Tamil writings have been triangulated to suggest the work of St. Thomas in India (D'Souza, 1952; Paul, 1997). Moreover, the prayers of Syrian Church fathers written in the 4th and 5th centuries are relied on to establish that St. Thomas preached Gospel in India.

In the memre' of Jacob of Sarug, it is said that the lot fell on Thomas to go to India. Thomas was hesitant to go to the black Indians (Panicker, 1989). Then, Thomas was sold as a slave to Haban (Aban), a merchant. It is also mentioned in prayers that he was sold as a mason for the construction of a building for a king (Abraham, 1981, p. 212). This 1st century king's name is given as Gondaphorus (Kolangadan, 1995- 96). The king is also referred as Gudnapher (Menachery, 1973). Some coins of Gondophares and Gad (brother of the king) were discovered in North India in the 19th century. It must be said, however, that it by no means certain that Gordophares of the coins is the same person as Gudnapher of the Acts of St. Thomas (Menachery, 1973, p. 3).

St. Thomas was ordered to build a palace for the King. He was entrusted with twenty pieces of silver. However, when the King was absent, he used the silver for charitable purposes. When the King returned, he imprisoned St. Thomas, intending to flay him alive (White, 1991, p. 360). At that juncture, the King's brother died, and when the brother was shown the place in heaven that Thomas' good work had prepared for the King, he was allowed to return to earth and offer to buy the spot from the King for himself. The King refused, released Thomas, and was converted by him. The incident is alluded to in the evening prayer (Bovuso) of the first Sunday after Easter.

There are other accounts regarding the life of St. Thomas in India referred to by other writers. It is said that the King's brother (Gad) was called to life by St. Thomas after his death (Menachery, 1973). It is also mentioned that St. Thomas attended the marriage of the King's daughter. He was beaten up at the banquet. That person's hand was torn off by a dog, which St. Thomas healed (Panicker, 1989, p. 61). The miracle done at the wedding feast is referred to in the morning prayer of the first Sunday after Easter (Abraham, 1981, p. 213).

The Evangelisation of St. Thomas was primarily in the Kingdom of Gudnapher and then in places under King Mazdai (Menachery, 1973, p. 3). It is believed that St. Thomas landed at Kodungaloor in A. D. 52. He preached gospel to Jews and then to Gentiles. He established houses of worship at Maliankara, Kollam, Niranam, Chayal (Nilakkal), Gokkamangalam, Paravur (Kottakkavu), and Palayoor (D'Souza, 1952; Aphrem, 1964). He appointed as priests elders from four Brahmin families, namely; Shankarapuri, Pakalomattom, Kalli and Kaliyankal and then went to Malakka.

In A. D. 72 he was pierced with a lance on December 18 and entered the heavenly abode on December 21 at Mylapore near Chennai, India. St. Thomas was buried at Mylapore, Chennai. On 3rd July A. D. 394 the holy remains were transferred to Urhoy (Edessa) and interred there on August 22 (Aphrem, 1964). The relocation of the relic of St. Thomas to Urhoy is described in the Hoothomo of the feast day. Later the holy relics were transferred to the St. Thomas Syrian Orthodox Cathedral in Mosul, Iraq. A portion of the relics was discovered by His Grace Mor Severios Zakka (later Patriarch) in the altar of the St. Thomas church, Mosul, Iraq, during renovation work in 1964.

St. Thomas is considered to be the patron of builders by the Western Church. Three dates are observed as the feast days of St. Thomas. They are:

New Sunday (a movable feast),
July 3 – transportation of the relic to Urhoy, and
December 21 – martyrdom.

References

Aphrem Paulose Ramban (1964). Sheemakkaraya Pithakkanmar (Fr. T. J. Abraham, Trans.) Manjanikkara: Mor Ignatius Dayara.

Aprem Aboodi Ramban (1966). Stuthi chowayakkapetta suriyani sabha. (Madappattu Yacoub Ramban, Trans). Pathanamthitta: Ajantha Press.

Curien Corepiscopa Kaniyamparambil (1982). Suriyani Sabha Thiruvalla: Chev. K. T. Alexander Kaniyanthra.

D'souza, H. (1952). In the steps of St.Thomas. Madras: The Diocese of Mylapore.

Kolangadan, J. (1995-96). The historicity of Apostle Thomas evangelisation in Kerala. The Harp, VIII & IX, 305-327.

Koodpuzha, S. (Ed.) (1984). Thirusabha charithram (2nd ed.). Kottayam: Oriental Institue of Religious Studies.

Menachery, G. (Ed.) (1973). The St.Thomas Chistian encyclopaedia of India ((Vol. II). Trichur.

The new encyclopaedia Britannica. (1988). Encyclopaedia Britannica Inc.

White, K. E. (1991). A guide to the saints. New York: Ivy Books.

Independence... Is It Really a Good Thing?

by Cindi McMenamin

In a day and age when independence is praised, I wonder if it's really a good thing when it comes to our relationship with God.

"God helps those who help themselves," we say, as if quoting Scripture. Oh really? I believe Scripture implies God helps those who admit they can't help themselves. The Apostle Paul, who probably considered himself quite independent before he met Christ, claimed the strength that comes through a total dependence on God when he said God's "power is perfected in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me" (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Some of us have trouble depending on anyone. Usually it stems from being burned -- having had a parent who walked out on us, a boyfriend or husband who betrayed us, someone significant who let us down and made us think twice before we depended on anyone again. We find ourselves thinking "I don't need anyone. I'm on my own. And I'm doing just fine."

But oh how that mindset must hurt the One who longs for us to depend on Him.

If you've prided yourself on not needing anyone, or have just feared trusting another person because of disappointment or betrayal, God wants to more than make up for your disappointment in someone else by showing you, in His Word, that He's the most reliable One you could ever depend on.

Scripture tells us three wonderful things about the God who wants us to depend on Him:

God can be trusted with your provision. When we think of someone to depend on, we often think in terms of financial stability. I remember having a falling out with my father when I was in college and wondering whom I could depend on, financially, to help get me through that difficult time. As I looked to the Lord, He provided all I needed, including a restored relationship with my Dad. And then, once married, I remember feeling rather insecure about the small paycheck my husband received during his first few years as a fulltime pastor, after I had quit my career job to stay home and raise our daughter. But I learned early on in our marriage that God can be trusted to provide for us and meet our every need. As we were faithful to honor Him with all that we had, including our money, He was always faithful in providing for us. We learned, first hand, the truth of Philippians 4:19, that "My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus."

Jesus, Himself, knew we would be concerned about material things like food, clothing and making ends meet, and therefore, He told His followers: "Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink or about your body, what you will wear...Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26). That sounds like a pretty clear "Don't worry about it" statement from the Son of God. In other words, "You have a God who is in control; so don't feel that you have to be." Those are reassuring words for anyone who feels they have no one to depend on.

God can be trusted with your protection. We can invest in a top-of-the-line security system for our homes and take all sorts of pre-cautionary measures to protect all that we have, but ultimately God is the one who protects us and keeps us safe. The Psalmist tells us: "I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety" (Psalms 4:8). And Psalm Psalms 121:2-3 assures us "My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip -- he who watches over you will not slumber." Our daughter recently saw this reality in her life. As she was traveling out of state with her college women's choir, several of the women in the choir had their wallets, credit cards and cash stolen from a church basement, while they were performing their concert. My daughter's possessions were not touched. And what about the other girls who lost their money? A television news reporter came to the scene and unbeknownst to the choir made an on-air pitch to viewers to help the girls with their losses. The next day, the girls were completely reimbursed for everything that was taken...another testimony to them of God's provision -- and protection -- on their ministry tour.

God can be trusted with your problems. We can plan out our lives, but ultimately God is in control of our destiny. Scripture tells us He knows the beginning, as well as the end of our days and has assigned us our "portion" and established our "delightful inheritance" (Psalms 16:5-8). That means He knows every event that occurs in our lives and every incident that takes us by surprise. God is so gracious that even when we take the reins and start trying to control things and we mess up, He steps in and gets us back on the right path. Psalm Psalms 37:23-24 tells us "If the Lord delights in a man's way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord uphold him with his hand." And we who know Christ have the wonderful assurance from Scripture that God will work every bad move, unexpected situation, mistake on our part, or tragedy on the part of someone else, and work it for good in our lives. As Romans Romans 8:28 assures us: "We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose." As with the case of the stolen cards and cash from my daughter's choir group, their concert the next night was packed. God used the news about the theft to get the word out about their next performance.

Deuteronomy 33:26 says "…no other god is like ours – he rides across the skies to come and help us. The eternal God is our hiding place; he carries us in his arms…."

Whether it's protecting you, providing for you, or working out your troubles, God can be trusted to care for His own. Won't you start looking to Him as the One you can depend on?

About The Author:

Cindi McMenamin is a national speaker and author of several books including when women walk alone, women on the edge, and when a woman overcomes life's hurts. For more on her ministry, books, and free resources to strengthen your soul and your walk with God, see www.strengthforthesoul.com.

Source: Today's Topical Bible Study

Celebrating the Priceless Gift of Freedom

by Kristin Wright

Today in the United States we are celebrating a priceless gift. It’s a gift that many of us received when we were born, that some are receiving for the first time, and a gift that tragically, some will never experience. That gift is freedom. And much like the things that are most important in life -- the air we breathe, our lives, our homes, our families -- it’s easy to take for granted.

Ironically, many of the people who appreciate most the freedom we are celebrating are those who know the least about this iconic day. But their fresh perspective on the priceless gift we share can inspire us to remain grateful every day.

I recently met a young Pakistani couple whose conversion to Christianity nearly cost them their lives. After fleeing persecution for their beliefs in Pakistan, they spent years in transition, watching, wondering, waiting for a chance at freedom. When they received refugee status and were allowed to come to the United States, they were elated to have a chance at living a life that was truly free. They only recently arrived in the U.S., and this will be their first Fourth of July. I’m not sure they quite understand the fireworks and cookouts and concerts -- but they know what freedom is, because they had to live without it.

Anyone who has experienced horrific persecution for their personal beliefs has a deep awareness of the unmistakable value of freedom. The men and women who founded this country were themselves victims of persecution, and fought to preserve freedom at any cost. The liberty they sought meant freedom to have faith, to lose it, to change it.

Today, because of their sacrifice, the priceless gift of freedom is ours. This Fourth of July, let's remember those in our world who long for the freedom we experience every day. On this day that we celebrate freedom, let's seek freedom for the oppressed. I hope that on this Independence Day, we can remember not only to be grateful for this priceless gift, but to be generous with it as well.

About The Author:

Kristin Wright is a columnist and contributing writer at ReligionToday.com, where she focuses on global human rights and religious freedom issues. Kristin has covered topics such as bride trafficking in North Korea, honor killings in Pakistan, the persecution of members of minority faiths in Iran, and the plight of Syrian refugees. She has visited with religious minorities in Pakistan, worked with children at risk in Mumbai's “Red Light” district, and interviewed individuals on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Kristin can be contacted via her website at kristinwright.net or email at kristin@kristinwright.net.

Source: Live It Devotional

Let Freedom Ring

by James Emery White

Whenever the 4th of July weekend rolls around, I'm reminded of times I've traveled in countries where freedom is severely curtailed. Or they were freshly freed from the chains of injustice, and the joy of their release was palpable.

I was in Johannesburg on the tenth anniversary of the end of apartheid.

I was in Korea when the border between North and South was electric with tension.

My most powerful memory came from Moscow, where I was teaching shortly after the fall of communism.

One night a group of us went to the famed Bolshoi Ballet. It was a long, wonderful evening, but after we took the subway back to where we were staying, the students said, "Come and let us celebrate." The other two professors with me were as tired as I was, but they were so intent on our joining them, that we went.

And then we found out what celebration meant to them.

They wanted to gather in the dining room and sing hymns and worship God. And we did, late into the night, with more passion and sincerity than I have ever experienced. It didn't matter that we didn't sing in Russian - we worshipped God together.

But I went to bed puzzled. I had never seen such passion for spontaneous and heart-filled worship. I was curious as to why they were so ready and eager to offer God love and honor. I received my answer the following Sunday when I was invited to speak at a church in North Moscow. A former underground church which met in secret (as so many churches had been), they were now meeting openly in a schoolhouse. I had been asked to bring a message that Sunday morning.

I didn't know that I was in for a bit of a wait.

The service lasted for nearly three hours. There were three sermons from three different speakers, with long periods of worship between each message.

I was to go last.

When it was over, I talked a bit with the pastor of the church. I was surprised at not only the length of the service, but the spirit and energy of the people. Throughout the entire three hours, they never let up. In spite of the length of time, they never seemed to tire. Even at the end, they didn't seem to want to go home.

"In the States," I said, "you're doing well to go a single hour before every watch in the place starts beeping." (This was before smart phones). He didn't get my weak attempt at humor, but he did say something that I will never forget.

"It was only a few years ago that we would have been put in prison for doing what we did today. We were never allowed to gather together as a community of faith and offer worship to God. And we are just so happy, and almost in a state of unbelief, that we can do this now - publicly, together - that we don't want it to end. And not knowing what the future might hold for us here, we know that every week might just be our last. So we don't ever want to stop. So we keep worshiping together, as long as we can."

As I left, his words never left my mind. And I thought to myself, "I will never think about worship the same again. I've been too casual about it, too laid-back, taken it too much for granted. These people know what it's about - really about - and because of that, they have been willing, and would be willing again, to suffer for it. To be imprisoned for it. To die for it. Because they've discovered that it holds that high of a yield for their life. It has that much meaning and payoff and significance. It matters that much."

And it should matter that much to all of us.

Happy 4th of July.

About The Author:

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity (Baker Press).

Source: Church and Culture, Vol. 9, No. 53

America: There is Hope

By Michael Youssef, Ph.D.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of our great nation, we are also dealing with threats that could bring about her demise. The threats we face today are far more dangerous than ones we have faced before because they emanate from within—accomplishing what foreign armies never could. It is true, America has faced great threats before, but her people have always known how to turn to God for help.

Our predicament is much like a magnificent home that is protected by a high fence, barking dogs, and an alarm system - but it is being destroyed by termites.

Today, we are dealing with leadership who has abandoned our spiritual foundation. These leaders even have the audacity to deny, mock, and act ashamed of the God of our Founding Fathers.

However, I am writing today to encourage you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, because those who know and love the Lord must never give in to apathy and discouragement.

Israel of old faced catastrophic circumstances, but it only took one man who refused to give up. He was willing to sacrifice, stay on his knees and trust the power of God as he stepped forward courageously to see the restoration of his nation.

Israel had a series of corrupt kings and a series of warnings from God. He appealed time and again for them to repent. They refused and so God's judgment came upon Israel and they were taken into exile by foreign invaders.

But, 70 years later, God fulfilled His promise and restored Israel through a pagan king and a faithful servant of God, Nehemiah.

During a time when very few people recognized the devastation of God's people and the shattering of Israel, Nehemiah saw the broken walls and the burnt gate and he wept. Right now, there are too few people weeping over America.

As I have sounded the warning bell repeatedly over the last few years, the response I have received is disheartening. People call, write in and respond on social media saying, "Why bother? America is already under judgment. This has all been prophesied. We are in the end times. Leave it alone!"

Yet, when Nehemiah heard of the broken walls that symbolized defenselessness, he did more than weep. He prayed. He planned.

Today, the walls of our culture are leaving our citizens defenseless. The gates of our culture are burnt and destroyed. Christians are being persecuted in our military. School curriculums are denigrating the Christian convictions of our Founders. Hollywood deliberately lies about or denies the Biblical foundation of our nation. Government policies denigrate and destroy marriage and family as the bedrock of society.

Technology was meant to be our servant, but it has become our master—robbing us of our freedom. On our money it says, "In God We Trust." Now, in truth, it is in money we trust.

You may be asking, "Michael, where is the encouragement you promised?"

Here it is. Thankfully, with all of these broken walls and burned gates, it is a great time in history to be a Bible-believing Christian because we have an amazing opportunity to see the hand of God work more powerfully than ever before. We may have the chance of seeing God manifest His power once again.

However, we must follow Nehemiah's example and pray and plan rather than giving in to anger, despair, indifference or apathy.

If Nehemiah teaches us anything, he teaches us that one person plus prayer and faith in a mighty God equals God's mighty power at work. However, this must be a sincere movement of faith, not an attempt to manipulate God.

God is not impressed with our outward displays of devotion without inward commitment. God is not impressed when we hand Him our crumbs with no sacrifice. God is not impressed with how high we can jump for Jesus. He wants to see how straight we walk once we land.

God wants to do His business with men and women who mean business.

So, how did Nehemiah go about God's business?

First, he identified the problem. Then, he took the problem to the Lord in prayer. He did not waste his time getting angry. He did not waste his time in recrimination. He did not waste his time blaming others.

He fully identified with the people's sin that brought about this disaster. He did not pray for "their" sin. Rather, he confessed his own sin.

When was the last time you prayed in agony over your sin and the sin of the nation?

When was the last time you wept over the sin of apostasy in the church?

When was the last time you felt anguish at hearing the name of Jesus mocked and ridiculed?

There are three things about Nehemiah's prayer that I want to share with you from Nehemiah 1:4-11.

1. His prayer began with praise.
2. He prayed persistently.
3. It was followed with a plan. When you pray for something, be prepared for your heart to do something. Prayer is not an excuse to do nothing. It does not absolve you from responsibility to act when God leads.

Nehemiah's prayer was a call to action . . . on his own part first.

When Isaiah was privileged to go into the presence of God and heard the question, "Whom shall we send?" he did not say, "Here I am . . . send my sister."

No. He said; "Here I am. Send me."

This should be our response, too:

Here I am. Send me . . . to my neighborhood.
Here I am. Send me . . . to my workplace.
Here I am. Send me . . . to my campus.
Here I am. Send me . . . to the harvest.

This Fourth of July and beyond, may the Lord give each of us the spirit of Isaiah and Nehemiah and may God bless America as we repent and turn to Him.

Source: Leading The Way

One of the Greatest Americans of All Time
"The friend in my adversity I shall always cherish most. I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity." - Ulysses S. Grant

Why His Final Victory Was His Greatest

By Alex Green

A few months ago, I wrote a column on "The Most Misunderstood Man in American History," Robert E. Lee. Today I'd like to tell the story of his adversary Ulysses S. Grant, a nineteenth century hero whose final victory was his greatest.

Born into meager circumstances in 1822, Grant was the eldest son of an Ohio leather tanner and shop clerk. It was not a warm and fuzzy childhood.

His mother showed a strange indifference to him, waiting six weeks after his birth to even name him. As a boy he was small, awkward, and suffered from an inferiority complex. He struggled at school and was taunted by classmates. He had no talent or appreciation for music and claimed he was tone-deaf. Later in life he said, "I know two tunes. One is 'Yankee Doodle' and the other isn't."

His father was able to arrange an appointment to West Point, but Grant was not the model cadet. His dress, deportment and appearance were slovenly. He collected demerits for tardiness and unsoldierly bearing. And while he was a fine equestrian, he showed little interest in military history or tactics.

He graduated without distinction, was passed over for promotion in the peacetime army and floundered as a civilian. He failed at every attempt to make money and settled into life as a clerk in his father's store. He married a woman, Julia Dent, whose charms - by all accounts - were lost on everyone but Grant. Indeed, "plain" may have been a generous description of his short, dumpy, slightly wall-eyed bride who in photographs appears entirely grim. Yet he remained devoted to her and their children his entire life.

Grant, however, was devoted to whiskey as well. His fondness for white lightning made him the town drunk until the Civil War came along and saved him.

Unusual for a military leader, Grant detested war and recoiled at the sight of blood, even refusing to eat any meat aside from poultry. Yet military historians hail his genius. As a strategist, he benefited from a keen knowledge of maps and topography. A former quartermaster, he knew the supreme importance of supply lines. And he had discovered a gift for soldiering and composure under fire during the Mexican War (1846 to 1848). "There is no great sport in having bullets flying about one in every direction," he wrote Julia at the time. "But I find they have less horror when among them than when in anticipation."

Lincoln admired the way Grant fought and won, claiming the general held territory "like he had inherited it." But Grant also suffered numerous setbacks. His army was surprised at Shiloh, the most furious battle ever fought on American soil. (More Americans were killed there than in all previous American wars combined.) He lost nearly 7,000 men in a fruitless assault on Lee's entrenched lines at Cold Harbor. He bungled the Battle of the Crater in the Siege of Petersburg. Yet his mistakes were never decisive and his many successes earned him a well-deserved reputation as a brilliant and aggressive commander.

The dashing Robert E. Lee is rightly remembered as one of history's greatest generals. But we shouldn't forget it was Grant who beat him - and set new standards of military honor with his gracious and generous treatment of Lee and his men at Appomattox Court House. (For the rest of his life, Lee never allowed a word against Grant to be spoken in his presence.)

After the war, Grant served two terms as President. Yet, in a world where speechmaking was popular entertainment and politicians routinely spoke for hours, Grant was largely silent. His Presidency was less than inspiring, as well. The government was saddled with an enormous war debt. Huge parts of the country remained broken, starving and mired in catastrophic defeat. The South's economy was virtually destroyed. And Grant had the misfortune of presiding over America's first economic depression, including the Panic of 1873.

However, he was trusted in the South as well as the North. That made him the perfect figure to reunify the nation. As President, he also signed legislation that created the national park system, declared that the Indians required as much protection from the whites as the whites did from the Indians, and avoided foreign wars and entanglements. In short, Grant affirmed the integrity of American institutions and demonstrated decency, good intentions and common sense.

Unfortunately, he had little understanding of money and no business sense whatsoever. In 1880, Ferdinand Ward, a 28-year-old con man - and business associate of Grant's son Buck - invited the former President to become a partner in his Wall Street brokerage house. Grant - a trusting man who seldom bothered to read documents before signing them - agreed.

Before long, Ward reported stupendous profits and doled out generous amounts of cash to partners. Grant believed he was rich. But Ward was running a multi-million-dollar Ponzi scheme and in 1884 it blew up, devastating investors and bankrupting Grant and his family. It was the most colossal swindle of the age.

In 1877 retiring Presidents did not have the benefits they do today - no generous pension, no office and staff at government expense, no lucrative speaking engagements. The former President - who had blundered in every business opportunity - had nothing to fall back on.

Worse, he had recently been diagnosed with throat and mouth cancer, an incurable disease before the advent of radiation and chemotherapy. Grant knew he was beginning a slow and painful death, one that would leave his wife Julia not just penniless but deeply in debt.

Fortunately, his friend Mark Twain, the second most famous American of the day, offered to publish Grant's memoirs with a generous royalty agreement. Grant accepted, though he realized his poor health meant he had only a few months to complete the task.

Under overwhelming pressure, he wrote an astonishing 10 thousand words a day. First he dictated them, but as he lost his ability to speak, he wrote them down by hand on a yellow legal pad. The writing was slow, laborious work. Yet he carefully figured out how much pain he could endure and how much morphine he could take before it clouded his mind and stopped his pen. Grant completed the massive work in a matter of months, finishing the last chapter three days before he died. On his deathbed, he was still struggling with the maps and proofs.

Grant did not have researchers, assistants or draft writers. Yet his prose is clear and direct and demonstrates an amazing memory. The words that make up the two-volume work are his own. And they are exceptional.

Twain was astounded when he read the manuscript, claiming that there was not one literary man in a hundred who could furnish copy as clean as Grant's. He had offered to publish the memoirs because he assumed that the book would be a financial success. Now he saw its remarkable literary quality. "There is no higher literature than these modern, simple Memoirs," he said. "Their style is flawless... no man can improve upon it." Coming from the single greatest figure in American letters, this was high praise indeed.

The book was not just an immediate sensation. It was the biggest bestseller in American history. Biographer Michael Korda notes that in the late 1800s, you could count on finding two books in every American home, the Bible and Grant's Memoirs.

The book earned more than $450,000 in royalties, a sum worth nearly $10 million today, easily - to that point - the largest payment to an author in world history. Twain noted that if he paid the royalties in silver coin at $12 per pound it would weigh over 17 tons. Yet the general never saw his book's success.

Thousands of carriages made up Grant's five-mile-long funeral procession. More than a million people - the largest crowd ever to gather on the North American continent - turned out to say good-bye. The New York Times reports that at one time his tomb in New York was a bigger tourist attraction than the Statue of Liberty.

Here was a genuine Horatio Alger story. Grant's early life was marked by failure, shame and disappointment. Yet he rose to become the most famous and respected man in the nation. Grant won the Civil War and saved the Union, concluding it on a note of grace. His two terms as President were marked by peace abroad and reconciliation at home. He helped heal the nation's wounds and saved his family from financial ruin by writing a brilliant, landmark memoir, one of the most successful books in American literature, while dying and wracked with pain.

For these reasons, he deserves to live on in our memory. As Theodore Roosevelt said, Grant - like Washington and Lincoln - takes his place "among the great men of all nations, the great men of all time."

About Alex Green

Alex Green is the author of excellent books like, 'The Secret of Shelter Island: Money and What Matters', and 'Beyond Wealth', that show you how to lead a "rich" life during trying economic times.

Copyright © 2013 Early to Rise, LLC.

Meditation - The Secret to Remaining at Peace

by Jafree Ozwald and Margot Zaher

Have you ever looked at the stars at night and been utterly amazed by the infinite spaciousness of this Universe? Just as you notice the vast expansiveness of your outer world, this same spaciousness exists in your inner world. This inner spaciousness is where you can finally rest and find inner peace. You may have noticed that your mind is always thinking, thinking, thinking. It constantly lives in a narrow contracted state, always projecting, interpreting and holding onto a random selection of thoughts and ideas. To bring the mind into harmony you need something extremely spacious and infinitely peaceful to balance it out. This balancing agent is the experience of pure consciousness. Whenever you access a state of pure consciousness you begin to shift from living up in the constant thinking machine of the head, to resting in The Source of pure awareness in your Heart. By learning how to abide in the heart of Consciousness, you'll tap into one of the most Divine, expansive, spacious, and precious experience a human being can have.

This vast spaciousness can be instantly found when you practice resting in the space between your thoughts. The more you can relax here, the easier it is to deal with everything life throws your way. When an emotional situation arises, you are able to sit back, give it some space to percolate, experience it, and then let it go! Everything you do throughout your day becomes easier when you live with a "spacious awareness". This does not mean you're becoming more of a "space cadet", you are actually being MORE present to what is happening in the here and now. You are genuinely happy and can experience just about ANYTHING that is happening without getting upset or triggered. The spaciousness also allows you to feel a sensation of timelessness, so that you can relax when facing a deadline, and find peace no matter what pressure life's agenda may have on you. With the gift of spaciousness, you'll naturally become a more centered grounded human being who is able to observe your experience, rather than be desperately driven by the reactive ego-demanding personality.

Another beautiful gift you'll find from cultivating this inner spaciousness is a healthy sense of detachment from the outer world. When the vast eternal presence that you are is found, you no longer become overly-attached with appearance of things (your car, house, body, clothes, money, etc..) of the outer world. Sure, you may intellectually know that you are much more than these things, yet when you live with this feeling of spaciousness within, you can access a happier healthier connection with your physical world. Spaciousness allows you to truly enjoy this world, because you can step back from it. It's much easier to have compassion for others and be free from their opinions, when you can effortlessly access inner peace within yourself. You can remain curious about expectations and projected outcomes. You become the Divine watcher of every little event life offers, and can see the Bigger Picture of how it all fits together. It's as if you are sitting in the backseat of the mind, watching your personality driving down the road, making left and right turns along the way, while trusting completely and truly enjoying the experience of it all.

The secret to remaining at peace in any situation is daily meditation. The simple act of watching your thoughts creates a "gap" in between your thoughts for you to rest in. As you vigilantly observe each thought fly by, something inside you eventually surrenders to the "space" in between the thoughts. The more you watch, the more grounded and spacious you become. You are naturally present to life because the great stories your mind is creating are no longer sooooo important. Meditation allows you to access the most amazingly calm and empowering place inside you where you can experience the truth of who you are; the vast boundless presence that is the God Source itself. With daily practice, you will soon discover how to live each moment of your day from a place of peace. "

Source: Ashis Dey

Recipe: Summer Cranberry Spritzer

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

Bring on the heat with this refreshing cranberry beverage. It's sure to cool you off.

Ingredients

• 40 oz. Ocean Spray® Cranberry Juice Cocktail, chilled
• 1/2 cup(s) fresh lime juice
• 2 can regular or diet lemon-lime carbonated beverage (12 ounce ea.)

Directions

1.In 2-quart nonmetal pitcher, combine juices; mix well. Stir in carbonated beverage. Serve over ice.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Servings: 8

Source: Sam's Club

Family: When Our Relationships Are Challenged

by Wayne Brouwer

Scripture: Job 19:21–29

"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth."
Job 19:25

A teenager told me she thought her parents were about to divorce. She had heard her parents' nightly arguments and watched her mom turn away her tear-stained face when asked about the situation. The parents of many of this young woman's friends had divorced, so she assumed her parents were next.

The teen did not give me permission to talk to her parents about her fears. Yet I felt obligated to open a pastoral door for either the husband or the wife if it would allow them to get help and healing.

When an opportunity came to enter that home, I lingered in order to hint at the well-being of the marriage. Neither spouse did more than smile and spout platitudes, but a week later the husband called and said he wanted to talk.

He furtively slipped into my office. Any excuse to leave would have been welcome, but none presented itself. After moments of expansive quiet and several invitations to say what was on his mind, he finally began to talk.

He had always thought marriage would be wonderful, he said. His parents had been solid in their commitments, and his dating relationship with his wife had been marvelous. They had seemed to be a perfect match, sharing interests, passions and religious commitments.

But several years into their marriage, his wife was in an accident. She experienced a closed-head injury that altered her personality. She became suspicious, forgetful, impatient and abusive. What's more, she was an emotional chameleon. In public her negative symptoms disappeared. Even her sisters and parents had no idea of the ogre she could become. The husband's pleas for help were questioned and pushed aside. He felt very alone.

I listened as the hurting man wept, and I thought of Job, around whom unseen and unjust powers had swirled. Job was bewildered. So was this misunderstood husband. Neither man understood why bad things were happening. Each faced a murky future in an iffy marriage.

Yet I was amazed by this husband's testimony. When I asked him if he had considered divorce, he said, "Never! I made a vow and my wife needs to count on that, especially now. Even if she doesn't know that she needs me." He added, "I read about a note scratched into a basement in Paris during World War II: ‘I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I can't feel it. I believe in God even when he is silent.'"

I was reminded of Job when he professed, "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth." Though Job was unable to see how, he was confident that neither loss nor pain nor death itself could stymie God's care for him.

If we are believers, there is no lament we can sing that does not have an Easter refrain. Trials and torments and troubles are part of our lives here, but they are not the whole story. Christ rose from the dead, and because he lives, we too shall live.

Let's Talk

When have we felt plagued like Job? How has trouble affected our relationship?
When life was good, Job offered daily sacrifices for himself and his family (see Job 1:5). What habits are we developing in good times that will help us through the tough times?
Whom do we look to as models of endurance and hope? What have these people taught us? How might they serve as mentors?

Source: NIV Devotions for Couples

Family: The Big Result of a Little Independence

by Annette LaPlaca

Scripture: Jeremiah 2:1–3:5

"You have lived as a prostitute with many lovers - would you now return to me?" declares the LORD. Jeremiah 3:1

A while back, a man who had attended our Bible study stepped down from his responsibilities at church and moved out of his house. He left his wife and children and moved in with a gay lover. Our church was stunned, and our close-knit Bible study group was numb with shock. We hadn't seen this coming.

Yet the clues were there. With the 20/20 vision that hindsight provides, his wife and I identified numerous tiny infidelities that had led to the ultimate big one. He had often made unilateral decisions, not taking his wife's feelings or viewpoints into consideration. He often had kept his thoughts and feelings to himself. He certainly had not made a practice of humbly confessing his weaknesses or sins to his wife. His spending of time and money reflected a determination to primarily please himself, not to lay down his life for his family (see 1 John 3:16).

The prophet Jeremiah was called the "weeping prophet" because he often openly expressed his sorrow over the spiritual and moral condition of the faithless people of Judah and their impending destruction. God was long-suffering, but the people would suffer his coming judgment.

Judah's infidelity showed up in numerous acts of disobedience. The people had fallen into idolatry, immorality and injustice. Personal and social corruption was prevalent. The Israelites fulfilled their religious obligations, but their hearts weren't in the right place. Prophets, priests, nobility and common citizens were all guilty. God viewed his people's many acts of independence (rather than God-dependence) as tantamount to adultery, an ultimate breaking of relationship with him.

Most of us can't imagine how we would ever get to the point of entering into a sexual relationship outside our marriage. And yet adultery happens all the time, almost as often with Christians as with non-believers. And it usually begins with little acts of unfaithfulness that build gradually into bigger ones until suddenly one day we realize we're up to our necks in a full-blown affair.

So if we want to safeguard the purity of our marriage, we've got to be on guard against small acts of faithlessness. We've got to ask ourselves questions, such as: Are my decisions to spend money at the mall based primarily on my own self-interests or are they made for the good of my spouse and family? Do I think more about myself than I do about my spouse in making plans for the evening or weekend? How important are the needs of my family in deciding whether or not to take on more work?

If, with God's help, I refuse to take any baby steps of independence that distance me from my spouse, then I may never take that giant step of adultery. I'm not so overconfident as to say, "Sexual infidelity could never happen to us." Instead, I humbly say, "Lord, protect my daily faithfulness in every way, both to you and to my spouse."

Let's Talk

When have we been totally surprised by someone's unfaithfulness?
If we act as our own "fidelity police," can we identify ways we've each acted independently or without consideration for each other?
How can everyday choices lead to lifelong sexual faithfulness?

Source: NIV Devotions for Couples

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