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

Theme: Christian Life

Volume 3 No. 151 July 11, 2013

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Psalm 111-2 Malankara World Journal
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 14)

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_8th_sunday-after-pentecost.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (July 14)

Sermons for Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_8th-sunday-after-Pentecost.htm

Inspiration for Today: Keep Your Eyes on Jesus

If you feel overwhelmed with life, take a moment and set your eyes on Jesus. Ask Him to help you believe His promise to never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Ask Him to help you believe that He has a future and a hope for you. (Jeremiah 29:11) Ask Jesus to fill you with His peace that He promised to leave with you (John 14:27). ...

Pope Francis: Commandments Aren't Fashionable, But Are Hymn to Love

"True liberty," said pope Francis, "is not to follow our egoism, our blind passions, but to love, to choose what is good in every situation. The Ten Commandments are not a hymn to 'no,' but to 'yes.' A 'yes' to God, a 'yes' to Love, and because I say 'yes' to Love, I say 'no' to non-Love, but the 'no' is a consequence of that 'yes' that comes from God and makes us love." ...

How to Use the Psalms to Deepen Your Relationship with God

When you want to deepen your relationship with God, you need to move beyond simply knowing about Him and seek personal encounters with Him. The Bible’s Psalms can help you do that. The Psalms are full of honest expressions of what it means to relate to God. They describe faith in action while dealing with the tension between this fallen world’s realities and the hope God offers you....

The Danger of Character Studies

The individual characters in the Bible don't show up because anything about them was particularly significant. In fact, most were chosen because they were insignificant. Significance is reserved for Jesus...

'I am the change': Being Salt and Light

Does God care about what we do from Monday to Saturday? Or is he interested only on what we do on Sunday mornings? We can be like Dr. Jekyll on Sunday mornings and Mr. Hyde on the weekdays and make no bones about it. How is this possible? How is it that our spiritual faith cannot influence our behavior outside the four walls of the church? ...

Seek and You Will Find

Are you thirsty, or complacent and indifferent - so satisfied with your own experience that you want nothing more of God? Experience is a doorway, not a final goal. Beware of building your faith on experience, or your life will not ring true and will only sound the note of a critical spirit. Remember that you can never give another person what you have found, but you can cause him to have a desire for it. ...

When Fear Paralyzes Your Faith

Let's ask God to show us fears that paralyze our faith and keep us from living confidently in His peace and freedom. And then let's give God a chance to come though for us as we courageously walk through our fears, holding God's hand and trusting His heart to lead, protect, and preserve us each step of the way. ..

Health: When Fear Pushes You, Push Back!

"Most people have no idea of what they're capable of; I think they're almost trained by fear to not attempt the amazing things they dream of. But I'm living proof – if you can overcome fear, you can overcome almost anything," says Jay Platt. ...

Recipe: Fish Tacos

This is fast and easy to make and delicious on your tastebuds.

Family Special: Help for a Shaky Marriage

The psalmist tells us that through all of the turbulence, God is with us. God is our refuge and strength when problems shake our world. He has such awesome power that the world actually melts at the sound of his voice. God is in control and will be exalted. ...

Family Special: Unconventional Things to Save Your Marriage

Talking about the problems in a marriage doesn't resolve them; it makes them worse. It leads to arguments and bad will. Besides, you'll never talk yourself out of a problem that you behaved yourself into. Marriages change because people change. Say little; do much. Speak in the vocabulary of your actions. New choices resolve marital problems; discussion don't. ...

About Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (July 14)

Sermons for This Sunday (July 14)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
Scripture: Genesis 10-12; Matthew 4

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. John 1:12

The "He" and the "Him" in these verses is Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He came to earth to save His people, but many of His own people rejected Him. For those who "received Him," Jesus gave them inheritance into the kingdom of God. All they had to do was "believe in His name." There was nothing else to do, not even their best religious works would be good enough to earn salvation. The same is true for us today as we have the Word of God to teach us about Jesus. The Gospel of John was written so that we would believe in Him, a simple message that requires simple faith. But is it really that simple?

The short answer is "yes." It is just that simple. All anyone has to do to be saved and inherit eternal life with God in heaven is to believe in His Son Jesus and the work He did on the cross. If it is that easy, then why doesn't everyone believe? Jesus would compare the faith required of us to the faith of a child. He desires for all of us to have childlike faith. Why? Because children just believe. They trust without proof of purchase. They do not carry baggage from years of pain, mistrust and betrayal. They do not know what it means to be skeptical, cynical or illogical. But we do. We get hardened by the world and its imprints on our lives. And, unfortunately, some have been hurt by Christians themselves. Even those of us who are Christians, who believe in Jesus, walk around without any power to change. Where is the victory that overcomes the world? In everyday life, it is not so easy to believe in a God we cannot see or hear or touch. When the world takes our time and attention, we have an even harder time believing beyond what we are dealing with at the moment.

If you feel overwhelmed with life, take a moment and set your eyes on Jesus. Ask Him to help you believe His promise to never leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Ask Him to help you believe that He has a future and a hope for you. (Jeremiah 29:11) Ask Jesus to fill you with His peace that He promised to leave with you (John 14:27). Stop trying to work it all out for yourself. And if you are having trouble believing, ask the Lord to help you even to believe (Mark 9:23-24). We spend so much time on other things; why not spend some of it with the Lord today?

Source: Daily Disciples Ministries, Inc.

Pope Francis: Commandments Aren't Fashionable, But Are Hymn to Love

by Kathleen Naab

Pope Francis admits that the very idea of a commandment is not fashionable today, but that the Ten Commandments come from a God who wants what is best for us. They are "not a hymn to 'no,' but to 'yes,'" he says, "a 'yes' to God, a 'yes' to Love, and because I say 'yes' to Love, I say 'no' to non-Love."

The Pope offered this reflection in a video message prepared for one of the events within the "10 Squares for 10 Commandments" initiative, organized by the Charismatic Renewal movement in Italy. The movement is marking its 40th anniversary in Italy.

"The Ten Commandments are a gift of God," the Pope said. "The word 'commandment' is not fashionable; it reminds the man of today of something negative, the will of someone who imposes limits, who puts obstacles to life. [...] But the Ten Commandments come from a God who has created us for love, from a God who has forged a close alliance with humanity, a God who only wills the good for man."

Francis exhorted, "Let us trust God! Let us trust in Him! The Ten Commandments point out a path to follow" in a world of injustice.

He added that the Commandments "indicate a path of liberty."

"We must not see the Ten Commandments as limitations to liberty. No, they are not this, but we must see them as indications for liberty. They are not limitations but indications for liberty! They teach us to avoid the slavery to which the many idols reduce us that we build ourselves – we have experienced this so many times in history and we are experiencing it also today," Francis said. "They teach us to open ourselves to a dimension that is larger than the material, to live respect for persons, overcoming the avidity for power, for possession, for money and to be honest and sincere in our relations, to protect the whole of creation and to nourish in our planet lofty, noble and spiritual ideals. To follow the Ten Commandments means to be faithful to ourselves, to our more authentic nature, and to walk towards the genuine liberty that Christ taught in the Beatitudes."

The Pontiff spoke of Jesus' fulfillment of the Commandments with the Beatitudes, noting that the heart of the Decalogue is "the Love that comes from God and that gives meaning to life, love that makes us live not as slaves but as true sons, love that animates all our relations: with God, with ourselves – we often forget this – and with others."

"True liberty," he said, "is not to follow our egoism, our blind passions, but to love, to choose what is good in every situation. The Ten Commandments are not a hymn to 'no,' but to 'yes.' A 'yes' to God, a 'yes' to Love, and because I say 'yes' to Love, I say 'no' to non-Love, but the 'no' is a consequence of that 'yes' that comes from God and makes us love."

Source: Zenith

How to Use the Psalms to Deepen Your Relationship with God

by Whitney Hopler

When you want to deepen your relationship with God, you need to move beyond simply knowing about Him and seek personal encounters with Him. The Bible’s Psalms can help you do that. The Psalms are full of honest expressions of what it means to relate to God. They describe faith in action while dealing with the tension between this fallen world’s realities and the hope God offers you.

Here’s how you can deepen your relationship with God by reading and responding to the Psalms:

Express all the complexities inherent in a relationship with God.

The Psalms show that sharing life with God involves communicating with Him in all types of circumstances, such as lamenting hardship, expressing joy and gratitude, raging against injustice, asking for needs to be met, complaining, celebrating, and more. Regularly and honestly express your thoughts and feelings to God, confident that He is listening and He cares.

Reorient your focus toward God.

In the Psalms, people are stripped of worldly things that give them a false sense of security and fleeting fulfillment, and then discover that they can gain ultimate security and fulfillment through relationships with God. When worldly things fail to satisfy you, look beyond them toward God. Orient your life around your relationship with God, investing most of your time and energy into growing closer to Him, and then everything else in your life will fall into place in a healthy way.

Grieve over what makes God sad.

The Psalms describe people whose hearts become broken over what breaks God’s heart, such as these factors that affect our lives today: our propensity to stray from God, our defensiveness against God’s claim on us, our disregard of God’s kindness, and the lack of trust in God’s love that we show in the ways we disobey Him. Let the Psalms help you sense how sin can alienate you from God and make your Creator sad, and let the grief you feel about that fuel penitence in your life.

Let yourself be broken so you can begin to discover the joy of freedom.

Invite God to break through the shell that shields you from the harsh realities of this fallen world so you can then discover through that brokenness how much you need God – the same process that the Psalms describe. Expect that freedom and joy will flow into your soul through the cracks left by brokenness as you place your trust in God.

Be optimistic.

While the Psalms honestly acknowledge the problems of our fallen world, they also express an optimistic faith that God can solve the problems through redemption and salvation. Never lose hope when challenges and suffering enter your life; know that God is always willing to help you.

Discover the key to happiness.

The Psalms show that happiness is ultimately found not in external circumstances, but in God, and the key to finding happiness is reorienting your life so that pursuing a closer relationship with God becomes your top priority. So whenever you feel stagnant, dissatisfied, or empty, renew your relationship with God, and you’ll experience the happiness of true fulfillment.

Grow your faith through prayer.

In the Psalms, people develop stronger faith by seeking God through prayer, asking God to meet their needs as they claim His promises and entrust their lives to Him. So pray about each of your needs and persevere in prayer until God answers you.

Wait well. The Psalms describe how agonizing it can feel to be facing an urgent need yet not see God acting to meet it right away. But, as the Psalms reveal, the process of waiting is valuable in itself, because it encourages you to stretch your faith by seeking God. When you exercise your faith while you wait, you emerge from the waiting period with stronger faith.

Liberate your desires.

As the Psalms show, when people make worldly things (such as wealth, power, or sex) the focus of their desires, they set themselves up for eventual disappointment, fueling a cycle of discontent in their lives. But when people make a relationship with God their ultimate desire, they can find real and lasting satisfaction. So liberate yourself from a vicious cycle of longing by focusing on God before anyone or anything else. The more you seek God, the greater your desire for Him will become, which will then motivate you to seek Him more – in a wonderful cycle of fulfillment.

Find rest through worshipping God.

People in the Psalms worship God by seeking His purposes and doing their best to fulfill them. Rather than pursuing their own agendas for their lives, they offered themselves to God to do His will. Entrust yourself and your life to God as your own act of worship. When you let God overpower you, His authority will overshadow you, placing you in the protection of God’s will – which is the safest place for you to be.

Discover the power of being in God’s debt.

In the Psalms, people acknowledge how dependent they really are on God, and how indebted they are to Him for everything He has done for them. Reflect on what God has done, and continues to do, for you. Then express your gratitude to God, and tell other people some stories of how God has blessed you.

Enjoy God.

The Psalms show that human relationships with God are meant to be much more than just distant and abstract. Incredibly, our Creator wants us to enjoy relating to Him. The more you enjoy God, the more you can become a vessel of His glory in this world.

Praise God.

When people in the Psalms express praise to God for who He is and what He does, they do so together, using both words and physical actions (such as dancing, kneeling, bowing, clapping, and lifting hands). Follow their lead by regularly praising God yourself in ways that best convey your love for Him.

Adapted from Deeper Places: Experiencing God in the Psalms, copyright 2013 by Matthew Jacoby. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., http://bakerpublishinggroup.com/bakerbooks.

Matthew Jacoby is the teaching pastor at Barrabool Hills Baptist Church in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, and the leading member of the Psalms project band Sons of Korah. He has a doctorate in philosophical theology from the University of Melbourne.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

The Danger of Character Studies

by Byron Yawn

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.
(1 Corinthians 10:6).

We do the weirdest things to the Bible in the absence of the cohesive theme of redemption. No other book is treated so recklessly by people who honor that same book so greatly. Among our favorite rewrites are character sketches. Character studies are a staple of popular Christianity. We use the above exhortation of Paul to the Corinthians to justify such a translation. Almost universally we believe that Paul's point is to encourage our pursuit of the moral character of fallen human beings. We seem to forget the fact that the example he offers was one to be avoided.

Despite this 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. (Hebrews 3:1-4).

The individual characters in the Bible don't show up because anything about them was particularly significant. In fact, most were chosen because they were insignificant. Significance is reserved for Jesus.

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but because the Lord loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the Lord brought you out by a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deuteronomy 7:7-8).

More importantly, each one of these people points to the universal need for the person of Jesus. Abraham proves that all of us need someone to save us because Abraham himself needed Jesus as much as Bill does. Regardless of how faithful Abraham was (and he was not especially faithful), faith in Abraham will not save anyone. Regardless of how great David's victories were (his failures were greater), he could not gain the victory over your sin. Regardless of how committed Joseph was (he did not set out to save Egypt and Israel from famine), he could not deliver us from the plague of our depravity. Daniel's devotion could not save us from our lack of it.

None of these people could save themselves. They were all losers like the rest of us. Sinful, broken, train wrecks whose bright spots were the rare exceptions of their lives. If you don't see it this way, you will never get the Bible. You will always think the point is to pattern your life after other sinful people. This creates a desperate loop of existence. You will always read the potential of your own life into the story.

God chose these people not because they were special, but because they weren't. They are just like the rest of us. Broken.

Abraham is you. Accept it.

Excerpted from Suburbianity (Harvest House Publishers, 2013)

About The Author:

Byron Yawn is the senior pastor of Community Bible Church in Nashville, Tennesse. 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)

'I am the change': Being Salt and Light

by Sao Tunyi Kohima, Nagaland, India

Introduction

When we look at our Naga society today, what do you first see? What catches your attention the most? What is the thing that concerns you the most? Some may say it is the confusing and long winding Naga political issue. Some may say it is corruption in the government offices and illegal taxation by various underground groups. Others will say it is the degradation of moral and spiritual standards which is not only pervasive in the civil society but has also crept into our churches. Some may say it is the growing unemployment problem and lack of opportunities to earn to sustain the livelihood of self and family. Still others may say it is the lack of basic amenities like basic medical care, adequate and clean water supply, regular electricity supply, quality education, good roads and internet connectivity, etc. Some may say it is plain laziness. Nagas simply don't want to work hard. There is truth in all of these and they are all interlinked and interlocked. That is exactly the reason why piecemeal efforts don't work. You cannot run a good school with a corrupt administrator in a factional clash-prone village where there is no road and electricity connection. From such a school, you cannot get good education and therefore you will not be able to compete with others for employment exams and interviews and out of frustration, you may think of joining the underground groups to extort money or enter through backdoor appointment and in so doing lose your soul. These are extreme examples, but you see, everything is connected. Therefore, even as we work and engage ourselves in different areas or career paths, our lives are all connected. We are all parts of one body, so to say.

Today, I want to flag some issues that we see in our society to stimulate us to think through. Most of these issues are from the articles that I have written in my blog and Eastern Mirror when I was a columnist. The issues are:

1. The growing rich and poor divide
2. The disconnect between private spiritual faith and public social life/ between church worship and office work/between Sunday mornings and other weekdays
3. The invasion of celebrity culture and lack of thoughtful reflection
4. The spreading biblical illiteracy

1. The growing rich and poor divide

Some time not long ago, I heard an officer say in a church service that Nagas are all progressing that it is difficult to make out who is officer and who is a peon or chowkidar, because we all wear similar clothes, drive similar cars and use similar mobile phone handsets. He thinks we are all going along fine. As a counter to that view, I wrote an article called 'The other Nagas in our midst'. I wrote, 'Many Nagas do not know that there is another Nagaland which exists right under our nose. The bottom half (the poor). They are simply numbers in our census. We do not know their names. We do not discuss them, and we do not hear their voices or meet them face to face… Many Nagas today, who are born, brought up, or lived long in towns (like Dimapur) and cities are so ignorant of our own fellow Nagas who live in the villages. We think we are all basically from villages and we are more or less the same. But it is not. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. The rich-poor gap is widening at an alarming rate.

There are many Nagas today who struggle to provide two decent meals a day for themselves and for their families. There are many children who have swollen abdomen not because of overeating, but because of malnutrition and worm infestation. Many of them do not go to school or if they do, they do so just in name with no hope of a bright educational career or job opportunity. Many families live at the edge of a cliff and a slight push is enough to have them fall over. I met a Chakhesang guy in Phek district hospital who sold his paddy field to pay for the medical bills of his son. You don't have to search hard or far to meet the destitute poor in our midst. If you go to your own native village, I bet you'll find them. But the only reason why we don't hear of them or discuss them is because the subject is not popular or interesting.

I talked to some commercial vegetable cultivators of Pfutsero town last year. The price of their vegetables has increased only marginally over the years, whereas the price of essential commodities in the market like sugar and milk powder has increased so much. So, when we take the current money value into consideration, many of these vegetable cultivators have become poorer despite the rise of the price of their produce.

The poor do not only suffer from lack of material wealth, they suffer discriminations and dehumanizing treatments that rob them of their dignity and respect. Not only are funds and resources meant for them snatched, the poor villagers are considered stupid, ignorant, dirty, uncivilized or backward. So many times, they are being blamed for being poor. We think it is their fault that they are poor.

On the other hand, we have a class of Nagas for who the sky is the limit. Overnight, crorepatis have emerged in our midst. A consumerist middle class has also mushroomed who look nowhere but up and up. Money is the ultimate good and by what means wealth is gained is irrelevant. When a billionaire was asked if how much is enough, the answer was, 'a little more'. A little more. There is no end to human want. The 500 billion dollar advertisement industry has confused our needs with our wants and we are always in need of that next product. If you've got the latest Nokia Lumia phone, Samsung Galaxy notebook, Microsoft Windows 8, or an innova car, you'll be in need of the next higher end product very soon. We had Hyundai i10. We now have i20. i30 is coming soon. We have Nagas today who can keep up with whatever product the market throws up.

If you want to see the huge rich poor divide, another place to look for is your church annual tithe report. This is the year end and the annual tithe report will be out soon. Sit with the report and study for yourself.

2. The disconnect between private spiritual faith and public social life

Does God care about what we do from Monday to Saturday? Or is he interested only on what we do on Sunday mornings? We can be like Dr. Jekyll on Sunday mornings and Mr. Hyde on the weekdays and make no bones about it. How is this possible? How is it that our spiritual faith cannot influence our behavior outside the four walls of the church? This is a true example: A government officer makes fake bills to sponsor his trip to Jerusalem. He repeats the act to raise money to attend a mission conference abroad. How have we come to this stage where spiritual faith is divorced from obedience? Why do we cry Lord, Lord but do not do what he says? The fault I think to a large extent lies with the teachings of our churches. Our churches preach a faith that is too personal and privatized that it doesn't have much meaning in the society and the world. The gospel we preach is too inward looking and self centered that we can't see beyond the interest of ourselves, our own families, or our own people group. Personal salvation is personal and inward looking, but faith without work is as good as death. Such faith is dead. Where is our work to show our faith?

What does it mean to be a Christian? Is it enough that we go to Church on Sundays, and don't smoke, drink alcohol, or indulge in immoral activities? Jacque Ellul says that 'In a society where everyone is a Christian, no one knows what it means to be a Christian'. We call Naga society a Christian society. But we have failed to live as Christians.

What does it mean to be a Christian student? Does it only mean not cheating in exams? Many of us, Bible believing Christians, fail to connect our spiritual faith with our discipline of study, profession or work. So, we have many workers who draw their salaries month after month, year after year, without doing any work. If you are a student of Science, how do you relate your text books with the Bible? If you are an economics student, in what ways can you use your knowledge for the glory of God? Wherever we may be placed in whatever department or discipline or nature of work; we must try to find WWJD if he were in my place.

3. The invasion of celebrity culture and lack of thoughtful reflection

Everybody wants to be noticed. Everyone wants to be loved. In facebook language, everybody wants to be Liked (click here). We want to be poked and we click Like when people Comment on our status updates and link posts. But what if we are a little too fond of ourselves? Now, nobody wants to be normal. Everyone wants to be stars. Everyone wants to rise above the crowd and be celebrated. Popularity is idolized as an object of worship. It doesn't matter if you have to sell your dignity, self respect, your very own soul for it.

Online social media like facebook provides a platform for every ordinary person; a kind of podium or a world audience. The stage is all yours. We live as if our lives are reality TV shows and we are the main stars of our own shows. We manage how we present our image to the world with our facebook profile information and status updates. And from such flimsy grounds we derive our self worth, self esteem, our dignity. We are made to believe that we can be the next slumdog millionaire. Our big break is just round the corner and with a little luck; we think we have the charm and what it takes to sweep the world off its feet.

Facebook can play with our sense of worth, meaning of life, and reduce time for genuine human interaction. Is facebook also making us more stupid? How many hours have we spent in facebook since January this year? How many of us know how to balance the time between facebook and studies and work? If we spend too much time in facebook, we are not going to get too much time to read, sit quietly and think, or go out and see what is real.

Many of the stuffs in facebook are superficial. Fun is good. But even in serious discussions in such online forums, we get to see so many comments which are emotional outbursts rather than carefully thought-out comments. That way, are we becoming more superficial? Many students don't read books anymore. Even for assignments, they only go to Google. Google can provide good information, but it cannot do the thinking for us. We lack people who have time for thoughtful reflections. I don't mean that we all become philosophers with Ph.Ds. But it is only a call to examine how we live our lives. It is said, 'an unexamined life is not worth living'.

4. The spreading biblical illiteracy

As students, we go on from school to college to university, and with each rise in academic class, our knowledge increases and our thoughts mature. But when it comes to reading the Bible, even after being Christians for several years, our understanding of the Bible still remains at Sunday School level. And it is shocking that many of our kids today do not know the Bible stories that we grew up with. A young relative of mine got confused if it was Daniel, Joseph or David who was thrown into the Lion's den.

Some church leaders seem to think that with the coming of Jesus, Old Testament is of no more use. The angry God of the Old Testament was replaced by the gracious and mild Jesus who died for our sins. It seems some people believe that it is written in the Bible, 'God helps those who helps themselves'. They think that is in the Bible!

We treat the Bible as if it is a magic book. We close our eyes, point to a random verse, and think that God has given us that verse for the moment. I'm not limiting the ways in which God should work. God can work in such a way to speak to people. But as with any other book, when we read a sentence, we need to know what came before it and what came after it. When we are reading a story, we may have to go to the beginning to understand certain things. Sometimes, things may not be clear for a long time until you keep on reading towards the end.

Also we know that there are different types of writings. When reading poetry, we don't interpret it as we would interpret a chemistry equation. But we become too simplistic and fail to use such logic when it comes to reading the Bible.

Suggestions:

I would like to present some suggestions in the light of the above four points:

1. On wealth and greed

The best medicine for greed is giving. When Jesus told the rich young men to go, sell off whatever he has and follow him; Jesus wasn't meaning, 'you can keep the money, simply have a change of heart'. Greed binds us and when we give, we are liberated. That rich young man needed to take his trust away from money but he went away. He said he has been religious but Jesus knew that religiosity cannot cure greed.

Giving is not for a time in the future when I have this, or when I get there. It is for the imperfect here and now. We must realize that when we give, something is taken away from us; or it is not truly giving. We need to give sacrificially. Even if you are a student, you can still give to support another poorer student in your village, Tizu area, or a Burmese student in Kiphire.

For those of you who are working or will be working soon, we must realize that giving Rs. 10 for church offering is too less. At this time and age, what can we do with Rs. 10 when we go to the bazaar? And our churches also need to be more careful and accountable with the money they receive. A non-Naga church in Kohima is said to have refused to accept a tithe of Rs. 25 lakhs from one person because it isn't clean money. Our churches have something to learn from that.

Another way to show our solidarity with the poor is to practice moderation as a habit. God does not patronize poverty. Poverty is not his design. He wants his people to prosper. But God has a preferential love for the poor. God has compassion for them. He stands for them, by them and with them. As Christians, it is not enough that we feel pity for the poor, but we should look for ways in which we can help reduce poverty and stand in solidarity with the poor. One of the many ways to do that is by inculcating moderation as a habit: having a limit, an 'Enough' in life. Even if we can live lavishly, we need to be mindful of the people we live in this earth with and the limited resources we all share. Let us learn to love our neighbor. Somewhere we need to draw the line and say, as for me and my house, this will be enough.

2. On disconnect between private spiritual faith and public social life

We need to learn to integrate our faith with our social life and our subject matters in college. Let us do away with the idea of separating the sacred and the secular, and let us make Jesus the Lord of all areas of our lives. If you are a student of history, what is it about history that can enrich your faith and help others in our society? If you are in fine arts, how does your work reflect a creative God that we worship? If you are in medicine, how do you exemplify the compassion of Jesus through your profession?

Work is not a curse which resulted from the fall of man. It is a gift given by God to Adam and Eve before they sinned. The Lord's work doesn't only mean church ministry. Paul Stevens says, "work that is the 'Lord's work' and has intrinsic value is not determined by its religious character or even the fact that God's name is being used openly". Whatever is done in faith, hope, and love will be redeemed and will find its place in the new heaven and new earth. Our work is our ministry.

3. On celebrity culture and reflective thinking

When the Bible says, 'look at the birds of the air'; the Bible scholars tell us that it doesn't only mean, 'turn your eyes towards the birds of the air'. It also means, 'think deeply about it and learn from it'. We need to make time to sit quietly and think. Fast food, fast money, T20 Cricket, twitter, SMS, facebook update, etc. mean that we either have no time or have too short attention span. We have a book called 'Quick sermon notes for busy pastors'. But everybody in this world has 24 hours a day; it is how you make use of it. We need to make time to read, sit quietly, meditate, and plan how we live our lives. Education is not simply swallowing of information to be vomited in the exam hall. We need to chew well so that what we eat nourishes our body.

To overcome the influence of celebrity culture, I'd recommend the quest for a quiet ordinary life. It's not a sin to become popular/a star. But the mass pursuit for instant stardom calls for a more sober life to enjoy and find fulfillment in the everyday ordinaries of life. For it is said that in the rat race of one-upmanship, there is no reward at the finish line. In stepping over other people to reach the top, there's nothing when you get there. Let us learn to be content with what the Lord has given. Let us count our blessings, name them one by one. And it will surprise us what the Lord has done.

4. On biblical illiteracy

I, for one, have not read the Bible completely from Genesis to Revelations. It is time that we do so. Instead of reading piece-meal, let us strive to understand the Bible as a complete whole so that we get the big picture of God's story and his plan for man and for the world. When we study the Bible piecemeal picking a Bible verse here and there, we have the danger of misinterpreting the Word of God according to our own convenience.

We need to listen to the Word, and we also need to listen to the world in which we live. This concept of Double Listening is stated by John Stott as:

'We listen to the Word with humble reverence, anxious to understand it, and resolved to believe and obey what we come to understand. We listen to the world with critical alertness, anxious to understand it too, and resolved not necessarily to believe and obey it, but to sympathize with it and to seek grace to discover how the gospel relates to it'.
If we do this: Listen to the Word of God and also listen to the voices of our society; and see how we can apply the Word to the world; we will speak relevantly and meaningfully. That way, we become salt and light to the world.

*'I am the change' is the slogan adopted by United Chakhesangs Forum.

Source: Talk delivered at Annual Youth Day, Chakhesang Baptist Church Dimapur, 8th December, 2012

Seek and You Will Find

by Oswald Chambers

". . . seek, and you will find . . ." - Luke 11:9

Seek if you have not found. "You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss . . ." (James 4:3). If you ask for things from life instead of from God, "you ask amiss"; that is, you ask out of your desire for self-fulfillment. The more you fulfill yourself the less you will seek God. ". . . seek, and you will find . . . ." Get to work - narrow your focus and interests to this one thing. Have you ever sought God with your whole heart, or have you simply given Him a feeble cry after some emotionally painful experience? ". . . seek, [focus,] and you will find . . . ."

"Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. . ." (Isaiah 55:1). Are you thirsty, or complacent and indifferent - so satisfied with your own experience that you want nothing more of God? Experience is a doorway, not a final goal. Beware of building your faith on experience, or your life will not ring true and will only sound the note of a critical spirit. Remember that you can never give another person what you have found, but you can cause him to have a desire for it.

". . . knock, and it will be opened to you" (Luke 11:9). "Draw near to God . . ." (James 4:8). Knock - the door is closed, and your heartbeat races as you knock. "Cleanse your hands . . ." (James 4:8). Knock a bit louder - you begin to find that you are dirty. ". . . purify your hearts . . ." (James 4:8). It is becoming even more personal - you are desperate and serious now - you will do anything. "Lament . . . " (James 4:9). Have you ever lamented, expressing your sorrow before God for the condition of your inner life? There is no thread of self-pity left, only the heart-rending difficulty and amazement which comes from seeing what kind of person you really are. "Humble yourselves . . . " (James 4:10). It is a humbling experience to knock at God’s door - you have to knock with the crucified thief. ". . . to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11:10).

Source: Daily Reflections with Oswald Chambers

When Fear Paralyzes Your Faith

by Renee Swope

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze."
Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)

As I crawled in bed, fear came over me. My husband was out of town for work and I was afraid to go to sleep. Fear had become a constant companion during his nights away.

I needed to trust God, but I didn't. I went through the motions of what I knew I should do: pray, read scriptures, and tape verses to my bedside table and bathroom mirror. But there was also a phone on my pillow, and a neighborhood directory and Bible next to the bed.

One night I took it a step further. I put toys on the stairs to trip possible burglars, brought my children into my room to sleep with me, and moved the dresser in front of the bedroom door.

Still fear kept me awake. I thought I was controlling my circumstances, but instead fear had taken control of me. Frustrated I still couldn't sleep, I opened the Bible and read these familiar words:

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:1-2).

That night God showed me something I'd never seen: my fears were like flames and my efforts to protect myself were like gasoline. Every feeble attempt to ease my fears was like pouring fuel on the fire, and now fear was consuming me. Gently, the Holy Spirit reminded me that God had not given me a spirit of fear but a spirit of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

The only way I would overcome fear was by walking through it.

I had to put away the props in which I'd placed my faith and go to bed trusting God, realizing that even if my fears came true He would be with me. Crawling out of bed, I started putting everything away. The dresser went back in place. My kids went back to their rooms and I went to sleep without my phone on the pillow.

For me, it was like walking through the flames of fear, doing what God was calling me to do–to fear not. And you know what? I slept better than I had in weeks.

Fear lost its power when I actively put trust in God's promises.

To be free from fear so we can walk in faith, we have to hold on to God's truths, replacing our natural ways with the steps He offers to guide us.

Let's ask God to show us fears that paralyze our faith and keep us from living confidently in His peace and freedom. And then let's give God a chance to come though for us as we courageously walk through our fears, holding God's hand and trusting His heart to lead, protect, and preserve us each step of the way.

Dear Jesus, help me walk through my fears by facing them instead of being paralyzed by them. I want to take Your hand and trust Your heart with all that is within me. Give me courage today to take the first step. In Jesus' Name, amen.

Reflect and Respond:

Are there fears that paralyze your faith or hinder your everyday life? Ask God to show you one step to take today to walk through a fear that keeps you from trusting God completely.

Power Verse:

Psalm 34:4, "I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears." (NIV)

© 2013 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

Source: Encouragement for Today Devotional

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Health Tip: When Fear Pushes You, Push Back!

4 Tips for Gaining Perspective on Life's Greatest Hindrance from Cancer-Surviving Marine

What if you could overcome your fears? What would you do, and how different would you be?

"Most people have no idea of what they're capable of; I think they're almost trained by fear to not attempt the amazing things they dream of. But I'm living proof – if you can overcome fear, you can overcome almost anything," says Jay Platt, whose feats include swimming across the Mississippi River while handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded. He's subject of the new documentary, "Living Unstoppable," (www.LivingUnstoppable.com).

Platt was living his dream as a U.S. Marine when a cancer syndrome called von Hippel Lindau (VHL) exploded like a bomb on his life. It caused tumors in his brain and on his spine, as well as kidney cancer and the loss of his left eye.

"I was mad at the world, and maybe part of me was afraid of the fact that I would be considered a handicapped person," says Platt, who was retired from the Marines due to his health.

After a personal journey of acceptance, however, Platt went on accomplish feats many world-class athletes wouldn't consider. Along with his record-breaking Mississippi swim, he swam from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco with his hands and feet tied, and he was one of fewer than 300 people to have hiked the 2,100-mile southbound Appalachian Trail.

He talks about five areas that helped him overcome fear and anxiety in order to rebuild his body, mind and spirit.

Focus on the joys in life:

When you realize it's not all about you, the annoying voice that tells you to be afraid begins to shrivel and loses its poison. While still reeling from his diagnosis and its effects on his life, Platt heard the carefree laughter of a severely handicapped girl being pushed in her wheelchair by her mother. " 'Listen to the birds, Momma,' I heard her say – she was just so happy to experience that simple pleasure," he says. "That, more than anything, sent me on a positive path." His family, friends and those to whom he donates money through various charities gives Platt strength.

Spiritual preparation:

Just as Platt trains physically for his feats, he finds it essential to work out spiritually in order to stand up to the fear and anxieties that life's trials bring. To that end, he surrounds himself with positive messages and positive people, including his friend Les Brown, the influential author of the self-help book, "Live Your Dreams."

Use setbacks as a motivator:

When something bad happens, one of the most common responses is fear – fear that it will happen again; fear that you're less than you used to be; or irrational fear. Platt always knew he'd be a Marine; when he was forced to retire early, he had to recalibrate his entire life. "One of my favorite quotes is 'What are you doing now?' – It doesn't matter what you used to be," he says. Platt is always looking forward to achieving his next goal.

Remember a greater good:

When he started experiencing complications from VHL, which first manifested in his left eye, Platt promised God that he'd devote his life to others if he got through the scare. He has kept that promise – his Appalachian Trail hike alone raised $109,000 for charity. "Staying true to a promise might be the most emotionally solid aid to overcoming fear," Platt says.

About Jay Platt

Jay Platt was medically retired from the Marine Corps in 1998 after suffering complications from the cancer syndrome von Hippel Lindau (VHL), a genetic disease that resulted in brain and spinal tumors, kidney cancer, and the loss of his left eye. When told his future would be considerably dimmer than his past, Platt set out to rebuild himself physically, mentally and spiritually, and to challenge himself by setting demanding physical goals. He was one of fewer than 300 people to have hiked the 2,100-mile southbound Appalachian Trail; one of three to swim from Alcatraz Island to San Francisco with hands and feet tied; and the only person to swim across the Mississippi River while blindfolded, handcuffed and shackled. The proceeds from his adventures and sales of his documentary benefit non-profits, including the VHL Family Alliance.

Recipe: Fish Tacos

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

Vacation Version of Fish Tacos found in Food Network

Ingredients

Tacos

1 pound white flaky fish, such as mahi mahi
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 jalapeno, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
8 flour tortillas


Garnish:

Shredded white cabbage
Hot sauce
Crema or sour cream
Thinly sliced red onion
Thinly sliced green onion
Chopped cilantro leaves
Pureed Tomato Salsa

Directions

Place fish in a medium size dish. Whisk together the oil, lime juice, chili powder, jalapeno, and cilantro and pour over the fish. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes. Preheat burner to medium-high heat. Put about 2 Tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a 12 inch skillet.

Remove the fish from the marinade place into the heated skillet, flesh side down. Cook the fish for 4 minutes on the first side and then flip for 30 seconds and remove. Let rest for 5 minutes then flake the fish with a fork.

Place the tortillas in the skillet for 20 seconds (you can also heat in the microwave). Divide the fish among the tortillas and garnish with any or all of the garnishes.

Source: Sherman Provision Blog

Family Special: Help for a Shaky Marriage

by Jennifer Schuchmann

Scripture: Psalm 46:1–11

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1

What could shake the very foundation of your marriage?

For Rick and Amanda, it started with Rick's working too much. With each promotion, Rick spent more time on the road and less time with Amanda. But success at work left him empty. He bought things he couldn't afford to reward himself for his long hours away. Soon he and Amanda were arguing over money.

To pay the mounting bills, Amanda found a job. She also found a sympathetic friend at work and tried to heal her hurts with an affair. When Rick found out about the affair, he quietly made plans to divorce Amanda. Before the papers could be filed, however, Amanda got sick with a minor illness. But complications set in, and she was put into the hospital. More than once, the doctors told Rick that she wouldn't make it through the night.

That night Rick began to see things differently. He wanted to save the marriage, but he didn't know how. As Amanda's illness became progressively worse, she went into a coma. Rick feared for her life and spent every waking moment by her side.

In Psalm 46, we see the world being torn apart by cataclysmic disasters - mountains collapsing into the sea, earthquakes, floods and military conquests. But the author of this psalm tells us that we shouldn't fear. How could we not be afraid when faced with such terrifying events?

The psalmist tells us that through all of the turbulence, God is with us. God is our refuge and strength when problems shake our world. He has such awesome power that the world actually melts at the sound of his voice. God is in control and will be exalted.

As Amanda lay in the hospital, fighting to live, Rick was fired from his job. He had to sell their house and their car. But when everything he thought was important was stripped away, Rick found God was there through it all. When he heard God's voice, it was as if his earthly troubles melted away. Rick believed God was in control and that Amanda would live.

And she did.

Today Amanda is permanently disabled. She requires full-time care. Life will never be the same for this couple. But their marriage has withstood the worst threats possible. They now trust God daily for healing, forgiveness and the restoration of their marriage. They endured past trials and found that God was their refuge. They will face future trials knowing he is their strength. Their marriage has never been stronger.

Whatever long, dark nights you face as a couple, let this passage remind you that God is ever-present, the morning will come, and the battle has already been won.

Let's Talk

This psalm inspired the hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God." What spiritual fortresses can we build to protect our marriage in times of trials?
Recognizing that God is our refuge and our strength during trials means understanding his character before trials occur. What is God really like? How does knowing who he is provide us with strength and refuge?
When our world is shaken, how hard is it for us to believe that God is really in control?

Source: NIV Devotions for Couples

Family Special: Unconventional Things to Save Your Marriage

6 Unconventional Things You Should Do to Save Your Marriage

Many Tips about Marriage are Wrong, Says World-Renowned Expert

The lifelong probability of a marriage ending in divorce is between 40 and 50 percent, according to PolitiFact.com's estimates. Couples in trouble often seek advice from friends, family and counselors. But global marriage expert Mort Fertel, creator of the Marriage Fitness Tele-Boot Camp and author of "Marriage Fitness," (www.MarriageMax.com), says much of the advice couples get is bad.

"Much of the advice people get about their marriage problems is wrong. It sounds good. It makes sense. The problem is: it usually doesn't work," Fertel says. "Reconciling a broken marriage is tricky. The process is not intuitive. You really have to be careful that the advice you're following has proved to achieve the outcome you're looking for."

Fertel says his tips often run counter to many ideas existing within our culture's zeitgeist.

"A lot of the advice people get is logical, but it's not psychological," he says. "It's ineffective because it doesn't take into account the unique dynamics that occur between a husband and wife who are emotionally disconnected."

• Go at it ALONE.

Most people think, "I need my spouse to work with me to fix our marriage." But it does not take two to tango. One person's effort can change the momentum of a marriage, and very often, it's that effort that motivates the obstinate spouse to join in the process of saving the relationship.

• The wrong question.

Many people wonder, "Did I marry the right person?" But that's the wrong question. The key to succeeding in marriage is not finding the right person; it's learning to love the person you found. Love is not a mystery. Just as there are physical laws of the universe - like gravity, which governs flight - there are also relationship laws that, depending on your behavior, dictate the outcome of your marriage. You don't have to be "lucky in love." It's not luck; it's choice.

• Absence does not make the heart grow fonder.

That might have been true in junior high school when you went away for the summer. But in marriage, particularly in a broken marriage, absence separates people. It creates distance, and that's the opposite of what we're trying to achieve, which is closeness.

• Don't talk about your problems.

Talking about the problems in a marriage doesn't resolve them; it makes them worse. It leads to arguments and bad will. Besides, you'll never talk yourself out of a problem that you behaved yourself into. Marriages change because people change. Say little; do much. Speak in the vocabulary of your actions. New choices resolve marital problems; discussion don't.

• Don't think marriage counseling is the answer.

Marriage counseling does not work in most situations. The success rate is dismal. Most couples report being worse off after marriage counseling. One of the reasons relates to point 4 above.

• Don't talk to family or friends about your situation.

One of the most important values in a marriage is privacy; therefore, it's a mistake to talk about your marriage or your spouse to family or friends. It's a violation of your spouse's privacy and it's wrong.

About Mort Fertel

Mort Fertel is a world authority on the psychology of relationships. He has been featured as an expert on ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS and Fox television networks, as well as dozens of publications including Glamour Magazine and Family Circle, to discuss his Marriage Fitness System. His program is endorsed by a wide variety of mental-health professionals, and he has helped save thousands of marriages. Fertel graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, was the CEO of an international nonprofit organization, and is a former marathon runner. He lives with his wife and five children (including triplets!) in Baltimore, MD.

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