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

Theme: Prayer and Worship

Volume 3 No. 159 August 22, 2013

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St. Mary's Church, Fayoum
Anba Mousa Church in Egypt in flames
Nearly 100 churches destroyed in Egypt.
Top: St. Mary's Church, Fayoum, Egypt
Bottom: Anba Moussa Church, Minya, Egypt
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

The best image of a person that is dear to our god is the tax collector who went to pray at the temple. ...

Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 25)

Bible Readings for Second Sunday after Shunoyo
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_2nd_sunday-after-shunoyo.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (August 25)

Sermons for the Second Sunday After Shunoyo
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_2nd-sunday-after-Shunoyo.htm

Inspiration for Today

Featured: Come, Let Us Bow Down In Worship

When we ponder Jesus.. and what He did on the cross.. and are moved by what we see.. and are moved by the Holy Spirit.. and come to Him by His mercy.. humble ourselves before Him.. ascribe to Him the glory due His name.. and listen to Him and do as He says.. then.. we worship! ...

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector knew he was a sinner who needed forgiveness if he was to be saved. So he humbly admitted his sinfulness and asked for mercy from God. And Jesus said that his prayer was answered. He left his place of prayer saved, whereas the Pharisee left unsaved. To be saved, a person must humble himself, admitting that he is a sinner who needs a Savior. If we think, like the Pharisee, that we don't need a Savior, then we cannot be saved....

What Are You Bragging About? Legalism vs. Grace

As a Christian, I am acutely aware that Jesus did not come to congratulate me on my good works but to confront me about my sin.

Furthermore, that confrontation is not the end! He also came to save me from it. He lived the perfect life that I couldn't (John 8.29) and died the sinners death that I deserve (Rom. 6.23) and rose from the dead for me (Rom. 4.25). Therefore, my life is intricately bound with the death of Jesus (Gal. 2.20-21). What's more, the good works that I now do are demonstrations of God's powerful grace working in my life. ...

Undeserving Rewards

Often our sins of pride, which work a self-righteous spirit of independence and self-sufficiency, come between us and our God. The Lord withdraws Himself when He sees these sins. ...

When You Don't Have a Prayer

 When his followers asked, "Teach us to pray," Jesus just flat taught them how to pray! He taught us several things about prayer. He gave us a pattern for prayer. He taught about persistence in prayer. And he taught about the purpose of prayer. ...

The Sin of Prayerlessness

We pray when we think we need to pray. When a crisis hits, when we get bad news from the doctor, when we are laid off, when we are having problems with our marriage or problems with our children, what do we do? We pray. And that is good. It's what we should do. But what about when things are going well? When there is no bad news from any front, do you pray then? Is it because you think you don't need to? ...

Your Poor Prayer

Good music, they say, is music that is written better than it can be played. The Christian life is like that: written better than any of us can hope to attain in this life. The standard of God is still the same: "Be ye perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). We will not attain it in this life, but thatís how itís written. ...

Family Special: Unhindered Prayers

Did you know that the way you treat people has an impact on the effectiveness of your prayers? The Bible says that the prayer of the righteous person is powerful, but if we arenít treating others with honor, kindness and respect, then we arenít allowing His righteousness to operate in us. When we donít treat others the way we should, it closes the door to Godís power and hinders our prayers. This is especially true in a marriage relationship. ...

A Fool for Christ? - A Touching Story

It was an unusually cold day for the month of May. Spring had arrived and everything was alive with color. But a cold front from the North had brought winter's chill back to Indiana. I sat with two friends in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town square. ...

Nearly 100 Churches Destroyed in Egypt - Coptic Pope Reportedly in The Assassination List

"Over the past weeks we have witnessed an increasing trend of anti-Christian rhetoric calling for 'the attack upon and eradication of Christians and churches' in Egypt," said Coptic Bishop Anba in the United Kingdom. "The result of such incitement, at least in part, has been the unprecedented attack on fifty two churches and numerous Christian homes and businesses across eight governorates in Egypt, within the space of twenty four hours." ...

Atrocities Against Egypt's Christians: The U.S. Must Speak Out

Many don't realize that Egypt was Christian for six centuries before the coming of Islam. We call the descendants of those Christians the Copts. For 14 centuries they and their ancestors have kept the faith even when life would have been easier if they hadn't. ...

About Malankara World

Foreword
Last Sunday, I attended the perunnal (church day feast) in St. Mary's Church, Chicago. Rev. Fr. Mathew Karuthalackal, the Vicar, and the managing committee of the church had invited me to speak during the occasion. I spoke about the greatest quality of St. Mary that made her endeared to God - the humility. As St. Francis de Sales said:

"God so loves humility, that whenever He sees it, He is immediately drawn to it" like a magnet.

I have used the example of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector to illustrate what God likes in us - a contrite heart ("njurigiya hridayam" in Malayalam) as David said in Psalm 51. This is a story where prayer and humility, two of the most important things in Christian life, comes together. I would like to share the concluding part of the message with you as it is relevant to the them for this issue of Malankara World Journal:

The best image of a person that is dear to our god is the tax collector who went to pray at the temple.

You know the story. It is described in Luke 18:9-14.

10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income."

[Doesnít this sound like us?]

13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"

14 I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

Jesus was clear in his mission. His mission was to find and save the lost. The ones in need of a savior. Before you can be saved, you must feel that you need to be saved.

Unless we have a contrite heart and stand humble before god, we cannot be saved.

  • When we enter the church and look at the holiest of holies, do you sense the  awesomeness of God?
  • Do you sense the love of the God who so loved us that he sent his only begotten son to us to save us?
  • Do you see that awesome savior who cried with Maria and others in Bethany near Lazarus' tomb? A god who cries with us!
  • Do you feel the presence of that savior who carries us when we go through troubles and tribulations in our lives?
  • Do you see the look of the loving father who is waiting for his prodigal son to return to him - we are the prodigals.

We should be standing like that tax collector when we come to church and cry to Lord:

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."

This is the famous Jesus prayer.

It's the prayer of the tax collector in the parable, the prayer of the monks in their cloisters, and the prayer of humble Christians who know that they are not perfect and who turn to God for strength.

A study at Harvard University has found that people praying Jesus prayer everyday has benefitted with better health - both physically and emotionally.

Marcus Borg says a better translation of the New Testament word for "mercy" is "compassion." Perhaps this is a better way to open our hearts and to cultivate the virtue of humility. Pray the prayer daily and expect that it will humble us and also make us know that we are loved.

"Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have compassion on me, a sinner."

It is a prayer that transforms us.

We hope that the articles in this journal and companion articles in Malankara World will help us lead a more meaningful prayerful life.

-------

As you all know, our Christian Brothers, Sisters and Clergy in Middle East are under severe persecution. Two bishops and clergy were abducted and are held against their will in Syria for more than 100 days. Churches, houses and businesses have been destroyed. Most of the Christians are now living as refugees in nearby countries.

Now Egypt is following suite. Nearly 100 churches have been torched in Egypt recently. Houses and businesses of the Christians have been destroyed. Every day we hear new atrocities against Christians.

Asianews reported on August 19, 2013:

One of the most dramatic incidents occurred at a school run by Franciscan nuns in Bani Suef (Upper Egypt), when hundreds of extremists stormed the facility where they raped two teachers. Three nuns were also paraded before an Islamist crowd as prisoners of war.

Yesterday Sister Manal, head of the school, gave an interview of over an hour to the Associated Press (AP) in which she described in detail the brutality of the Islamists.

The nun said that she and two others sisters, Abeer and Demiana, were only saved by the intervention of a young Muslim woman, who had taught at the school. With her husband, she convinced the members of the Muslim Brotherhood to let the three nuns go.

During the interview, Sister Manal also complained about the behaviour of the police, which did not show up despite numerous calls for help.

Bishop Youssef, Bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern US stated:

"The Coptic Christians have never incited any violence toward anybody. To what avail are these lethal attacks? How can such atrocious barbarian tactics be justified by any religion or any civil nation?

On behalf of the innumerable amount of Coptic Christians incessantly subjected to inhumane treatment, violence, and slaughter, and their livelihood being ripped away from them by the destruction of their churches, businesses, belongings, and their own lives, we implore God to have mercy upon Egypt, to protect our country from the escalating aggression against her Christians, to help stabilize this country for peace, and protect the Christians from their day-to-day mangling, as He promised, "Blessed is Egypt My people..." (Isaiah 19:25).

The time has come, my beloved brothers and sisters, faithful in the Lord and good citizens of the earth, to come together in humble prayer. Let us reach out to our friends, colleagues, and neighbors who have been outraged by these ungodly events. Let us continue to love and educate the world about our strong and unwavering Christian faith. Let us remain confident in the promises of our Lord to protect His children,

"For thus says the Lord of hosts: 'He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.'"
(Zechariah 2:8).

Common people are caught in the crossfire between the fight between the military and the opposition. Two days ago, the Wall Street Journal had an article about how the Tourist Industry in Egypt was decimated due to the unrest. It showed people who make their livelihood providing tours to pyramids sitting idle; they don't even have money to feed their horses. Many Egyptians lost their homes and businesses during the destruction too. So, this will have long term consequences even after the political situation is resolved.

Please pray for our suffering brethren in Middle East.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (August 25)

Second Sunday after Shunoyo/the Assumption of St. Mary

Sermons for This Sunday (August 25)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
Inspiration content
Featured: Come, Let Us Bow Down In Worship

by Linton Smith

I can imagine a conversation like this. "Did you go to church today?" "No. I met together with other believers to worship God." "What do you mean by worship?"

Take 100 people and ask them this question and I suggest you could well get 100 different answers.

One might say, 'Worship is sitting quietly and reflecting and praying.' Another might say, 'Worship is getting into it emotionally and getting as excited as the crowd does at a football match.'

The '40 Days of Community workbook' offers a description of worship [p153]:

"In corporate worship, we worship in ways we are unable to by ourselves. As we sing and celebrate together, pray and confess together, share and meditate together, give offerings and commit together, our faith is reaffirmed, our hope is reinforced, and our love is renewed."

That description is fine, but it is about things we do rather than what is in our hearts as we do them. And it is what is in our hearts that matters most!

Jesus said, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain.." [Matthew 15:8,9.]

Jesus went even further than that. One day by a well in Samaria, a Samaritan woman said to him, "Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

She was asking Him which was the correct place to worship. Jesus answered that the place is unimportant. What is important is that "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth" [John 4:24].

With these words He infused new life into worship as it had been practiced for centuries in the Temple in Israel.

This morning we will look at both the 'old' and the 'new' and remind ourselves of what we do when we worship God. The Book of Psalms could be described as the worship book of Israel.. and has much to teach us about worship. We will look at some of these Psalms and identify some key principles of worship and apply them to ourselves today. Then we will come back to these words of Jesus.. that we are to worship in spirit and in truth.

From these Psalms we learn that.. When we worship God:

WE APPROACH HIM BY HIS GREAT MERCY.

David wrote.. Psalm 5:4-7..

You are not a God who takes pleasure in evil; with you the wicked cannot dwell. The arrogant cannot stand in your presence; you hate all who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the LORD abhors. But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house; in reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.

David knew there was no other way to approach God. He knew he was a sinner.. and was not worthy to approach God.. But he also knew that God is a merciful God.. and approached Him by His mercy.

Jesus told a story about two men.

One thought he could approach God because he was good enough. He stood and prayed.. Luke 18:11,12..

God, I thank you that I am not like other menórobbers, evildoers, adulterersóor even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

The other man was a tax collector.

Jesus says.. Luke 18:13..

The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

Kenneth E. Bailey throws new light on this story. He says that when Middle Easteners read this story they assume it is about public worship. The Tax collector stands afar off.. apart from the Pharisee and the rest of the worshippers in the Temple. They were worshipping at the time of the sacrifice of lambs to make atonement for the sins of the people. Bailey writes.. "One can almost smell the pungent incense, hear the loud clash of cymbals, and see the great cloud of dense smoke rising from the burnt offering.. The tax collector is there. He stands afar off.. longs to be part of it.. In deep remorse he strikes his chest and cries out in repentance and hope, O God! Let it be for me! Make an atonement for me, a sinner!" [Through Peasant Eyes p 154].

Today we come to God like that but not with temple sacrifices in mind. We come with Jesus in mind.. Jesus crucified on the cross for our sin.. the Perfect Sacrifice. We come saying something like this, God, I am not worthy to come to you.. I am a sinner.. but Jesus died in my place. I come through Him. I come by Your mercy.

When we worship God.. we approach Him by His mercy.. and..

WE HUMBLE OURSELVES BEFORE HIM.

In Psalm 95 the Psalmist reminds us that God is great and the only way to come to Him is with humility. He writes..

Psalm 95:3,6.. The LORD is the great God, the great King above all godsÖ Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker..

God is great beyond our wildest dreams and the only way to come is with humility.

The Apostle Peter reminds us that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble and goes on to say..

1 Peter 5:6.. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

When we worship God we humble ourselves before Him.

The word, 'worship' in Hebrew.. means.. to bow down.. to fall down before God. In Psalm 95 the Psalmist says.. Let us worship.. that is, let us bow down before God.. and then for emphasis adds, Let us bow down.. Let us kneel. The effect is very powerful! He is calling us to humble ourselves before God.

In the Revelation we have some great examples of this..

In Revelation 4 John sees a vision of God seated on a throne in heaven.. Around the throne were 24 elders.. seated on 24 thrones.. John writes..

Revelation 4:10.. The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne..

Then in Revelation 7 he sees thousands upon thousands of angels around the throne.. and writes..

Revelation 7:11.. All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God..

So great is God.. that millions of angels fall on their faces and worship!

We may not fall down on our faces, but what is in our heart? Do we do the mental and emotional equivalent of that?

When we worship we approach God by His mercy, we humble ourselves before Him and..

WE ASCRIBE TO HIM THE GLORY DUE HIS NAME.

In Psalm 29:2 David says.. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

Psalm 96 expands on this..

In Psalm 96:3,8 we read.. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples. For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise.. Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name..

Our English word, 'worship', is related to the word, worth.. is an abbreviation of 'worthship'. When we worship we acknowledge His worth.. we declare His worth.

This is what we find in the Revelation..

We have already thought about the way the 24 Elders bow down before God..

Now let's read on..

Revelation 4:10,11.. They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being."

You are worthy, our Lord and God! We worship when we say that.. and say it from our very heart!

In Revelation 7 we thought about the millions of angels bowing down to God.. let's read on..

Revelation 7:11,12.. They fell down on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying: "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"

Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God. When we say that or words like that from our heart.. we worship!

When we worship God we ascribe to Him the glory due to Him.. and do so from our heart. Is that how we worship God?

When we worship.. we approach God by His mercy.. we humble ourselves before Him.. we ascribe to Him the glory due His name.. and..

WE LISTEN TO HIM AND DO AS HE SAYS.

In Psalm 95 the Psalmist calls us to bow down in worship and later says..

Psalm 95:7,8.. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts..

He has a previous generation in mind.. people who refused to listen to God.. who hardened their hearts toward Him.. and ignored what He said.. and he warns us not to be like them.. but to listen to God and do as He says.

Jeremiah had some very strong things to say about worship to the people of his time..

In Jeremiah 7:9-13 he asked them.. Will you steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury, burn incense to Baal and follow other gods you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which bears my NameÖ and then said.. While you were doing all these things, declares the LORD, I spoke to you again and again, but you did not listen; I called you, but you did not answer.

Jesus also had strong words for the people of His day..

In Matthew 15:8,9 He says.. These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.

What do these people do? They say the right words.. but their hearts are somewhere else.. and instead of doing what God says.. they write their own book of rules!

When we worship God the way He wants us to worship Him.. we listen to Him.. and then do as He says. We do as the Apostle Paul urges us to do..

In Romans 12:1,2 he writes.. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Offer your bodies as living sacrifices.. lay your lives at His feet.. offer your lives to Him!

Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.. Listen to God.. think the way He thinks.. do as He says.. do what is good and pleasing and perfect in His sight!

That is worship!

Jesus told the Samaritan woman.. God is spirit, and His worshippers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

He may have been saying simply.. worshippers must worship Him in their human spirit.. from their heart.. with complete sincerity and complete reality.

But He may have been saying more.. He may have been speaking of the Holy Spirit. He may have been speaking of Himself as the Truth.

He has revealed what God the Father is like. In Him we see God. He laid down His life.. so that we could be forgiven.. and enjoy peace with God.. He rose from the dead.. returned to heaven.. and sent the Holy Spirit.

And as a result.. we are now inspired by Jesus and what He did.. and moved by the Holy Spirit.

When we ponder Jesus.. and what He did on the cross.. and are moved by what we see.. and are moved by the Holy Spirit.. and come to Him by His mercy.. humble ourselves before Him.. ascribe to Him the glory due His name.. and listen to Him and do as He says.. then.. we worship! 

The Pharisee and the Tax Collector
Meditation on Luke 18:9-14

This story was aimed at the Pharisees, who were generally proud of themselves for their supposed obedience to God and consequently despised everyone else. They were no different than many modern religious people who are proud of their outward conformity to God's law and who look down on others who don't come up to their standards.

The good points that the Pharisee listed about himself were commendable, as all of them indicated some obedience to God. He claimed that he never cheated, sinned or committed adultery. He fasted regularly and tithed. However, he had at least one major flaw: he was very proud. He thought that his good works earned his salvation. He didn't feel like he needed a Savior because he had saved himself!

We know, however, that the Pharisee needed a Savior, if for no other sin than the sin of pride. And most likely, he was guilty of a number of other sins as well. One, to be sure, was his lack of compassion for other people like the tax collector.

Unlike the Pharisee, the tax collector knew he was a sinner who needed forgiveness if he was to be saved. So he humbly admitted his sinfulness and asked for mercy from God. And Jesus said that his prayer was answered. He left his place of prayer saved, whereas the Pharisee left unsaved. To be saved, a person must humble himself, admitting that he is a sinner who needs a Savior. If we think, like the Pharisee, that we don't need a Savior, then we cannot be saved.

Q. Jesus said that the tax collector, unlike the Pharisee, left the Temple justified before God. Do you know what it means to be "justified"?

A. The easiest-to-remember definition of the word justified is this: "just as if I'd never sinned." When a person goes to court and the judge says at the end of his trial, "You are justified," he means, "I find you not guilty for the crime of which you've been accused." A person who is justified is not a forgiven sinner, he is a person who has not sinned! The Bible teaches us that Jesus bore our sins and gives believers His right standing before God the Father. Because Jesus never sinned, He has perfect standing before God, and that is what we get when we believe in Him!

Q. Would it be possible to have a perfect standing before God apart from Jesus?

A. Only if a person never sinned could he have a perfect standing before God without Jesus. However, since every person has sinned (even so-called good religious people who might be more obedient than the average person), everyone needs Jesus to be saved.

Application:

Kids raised in Christian homes are often well taught to do what is right, and consequently they do what is right most of the time. The danger that exists for them is that they might tend to think that their good behavior is what saves them, and they might not see their great need for Jesus to save them. The cure for such a proud attitude is to ask the Lord to show us our sins, especially the ones that are hidden from others, like wrong thoughts, motives and attitudes. Why don't you ask the Lord to reveal to you how much you need Him as your Savior today in prayer?

Source: Family Style Devotions

What Are You Bragging About? Legalism vs. Grace

by Erik Raymond

I am continually struck by Jesus' teaching in Luke 18.9-14. There are so many angles by which I am instructed, convicted, refreshed, and amazed.

Jesus tells us that he told the parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous. In other words, they did not need him. They were good with their own ability to earn and maintain God's pleasure through their obedience/holiness. At the heart of the parable Jesus shows that in order to really need him you must first really that you don't need yourself. Our lack of righteousness makes Jesus appealing while our perception of righteousness makes Jesus appear, at best, to be an adornment and at worst, to be an insult.

We notice that the guy in Jesus' cross hairs is bragging on himself in the temple. Can you even begin to measure the level of self-righteousness that this guy has? Consider where he is. He is in the Temple, God's meeting place with his people, and he is going on with how good he is and how bad he isn't.

This is reproachable.

But consider also, that he is running through his self-righteous resume to God! To GOD?! I wonder how many towers of self-righteous babble are daily constructed and aimed at the heavens as people work to make a great name for themselves?

I have found that it is customary for legalists to keep these types of lists nearby. Some do so on paper, others on their phone, and still others in their minds. At any rate, the list is easy to find and often times the front line defense in the battle against a guilty conscience or questions from without. After all, who can argue with such a resume?

But the Christian on the other hand does not carry about lists of our good deeds. We don't because we can't. We are sinners. I could make a list of my good deeds, but it would amount to a post-it note on the backside of the tractor-trailer of my depravity. And the post-it note would read "all of grace." I am a sinner.

Thankfully, Jesus came to save such people. He says in Mark 2, I did not come to call the righteous but sinners! What great news!

As a Christian, I am acutely aware that Jesus did not come to congratulate me on my good works but to confront me about my sin.

Furthermore, that confrontation is not the end! He also came to save me from it. He lived the perfect life that I couldn't (John 8.29) and died the sinners death that I deserve (Rom. 6.23) and rose from the dead for me (Rom. 4.25). Therefore, my life is intricately bound with the death of Jesus (Gal. 2.20-21).

What's more, the good works that I now do are demonstrations of God's powerful grace working in my life. Therefore, even the good that is done is a footprint of grace. I should be striving after holiness and laboring for good works (Heb. 12.14) but these good works are always the fruit and never the root of my acceptance before God. The reason why anyone could stand blameless before a holy God is because of the imputed righteousness of Christ (Rom. 5.1-2; 8.1).

As a result, I have no grounds for boasting in myself (1 Cor. 1.30-31). My boasting is in and through Christ and him crucified for me (Gal. 6.14).

The gospel teaches me that I am the one who put Christ on the cross by virtue of my sinful rebellion. I walk about with the calluses on my hands from swinging the death hammer at his crucifixion, I am a player in the drama. I have a hoarse voice from yelling for his head. And I, like Martin Luther said, walk around with the nails from the cross in my pocket. I am a player in this drama.

Therefore, I don't and can't keep lists in my pocket because there are nails in my pocket and the hymn of Christ's obedience for me on my lips.

About the Author:

Erik Raymond is pastor at Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Nebraska. He and his wife, Christie, have six children. You can read his blog at OrdinaryPastor.com .

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Undeserving Rewards

by Ralph Bouma

Luke 11:13 "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?"

He sees us as we are; He knows that we don't deserve it. He sees our wretchedness, pride, and our sins. He understands, He knows us, but He will give us much more than we are able to give our children.

When the Lord sees in us, who are vile, a good thing, that good desire after the Spirit of Christ, and the hungering and thirsting after righteousness, He will give us the gift of the Holy Spirit - if we will ask Him.

Often our sins of pride, which work a self-righteous spirit of independence and self-sufficiency, come between us and our God. The Lord withdraws Himself when He sees these sins.

First, we must repent of our sins. We must come confessing our pride and self-righteousness, and that is so against our human nature. If we are truly one of God's people, we experience that frequently. Our old self wants to keep raising that ugly monster, "I." It is the fountain of all corruption. The Lord withdraws Himself until we come in our proper place.

It goes against the grain of our fallen nature to take our place in the dust while God's tender, Fatherly hand of chastening is upon us. It goes against our prideful nature to sing of His mercy as David said, "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities," PSA 103:10.

The Lord is dealing with us as sons. When the Lord is chastening us and putting us in our proper place, He is dealing with us in His tender, Fatherly love. Then we can come to Him, confessing we deserve much more chastisement, but He does not reward us according to our iniquities.

Amen.

When You Don't Have a Prayer

by Dr. Richard C. Leonard, Laudemont Ministries

Luke 11:1-13 NIV

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: "'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.' "

Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'

"Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

"So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

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"They didn't have a prayer."

The sports car that pulled out in front of a speeding semi.

The guy who flunked out of college and then applied for a teaching position.

The geeky type who tried to date the high school homecoming queen.

The Chicago Cubs hoping to make the World Series.

Why is it that in these and so many other apparently hopeless situations, people who never darken the doors of the church will use this expression, "They don't have a prayer"? Is there some latent recognition that prayer really could make a difference?

And why is it so hard for many people to pray, even people in Bible-believing churches? Why is it that in a gathering where the minister is present he's the one who is often asked to lead in prayer - because nobody else has a prayer?

It used to be hard for me to pray in public, unless I was reading from a bulletin or a worship book. I'll tell you why it was hard. It's because prayer is talking with God. And if you don't really believe there's anyone on the other end of the line, it's hard to keep up your end of the conversation. Yes, some people don't have a prayer because they don't have a God to pray to.

But that's not your problem. And it wasn't the disciples' problem in our passage from the Gospel of Luke. When they asked Jesus, "Lord, teach us to pray," it wasn't because they didn't believe. Maybe they had a poor model in some of the praying people they knew. If their example in prayer was the Pharisee who prayed, "God, I thank thee that I am not like other men" - making sure everyone would notice - then it's understandable why the disciples wanted something else. Sometimes they could be pretty dense, but Jesus had at least got it through their skulls that God is real and is on the move, and it's time to get real about prayer.

And maybe a little jealousy was at work here. John the Baptist had taught his disciples how to pray, and Jesus' disciples didn't want to be left out. They didn't want to have it said of them that "they didn't have a prayer."

So they came to Jesus with a simple request, "Teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." Interestingly, Jesus didn't use this occasion to make some cutting remark, like, "Get behind me, Satan, you only want to pray because you're jealous of John's people." No, when his followers asked, "Teach us to pray," he just flat taught them how to pray!

He taught us several things about prayer. He gave us a pattern for prayer. He taught about persistence in prayer. And he taught about the purpose of prayer.

We'll come back to that first idea, the pattern, later on. But let's take up what Jesus taught about persistence in prayer. He used the example of the friend who comes at midnight, pounding on the door of his neighbor's house to borrow bread for company that's just arrived. Picture the scene: the householder is up on the flat roof with his family - in Palestine they slept up here because of the summer heat - and the Mrs. and all the children are asleep around him. If he gets up to find the bread, he has to clamber over all the kids and they're going to wake up cranky and the baby will start crying and the wife will have a fit. But what's he going to do? The friend beating on the door will wake them up anyhow. With friends like that, who needs enemies? As Jesus said, "I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs."

We ought not to push this too far. Jesus isn't teaching that prayer is a way of wresting away from a reluctant God something he doesn't really want to give. But he is teaching us that consistent prayer gets results. He follows up the story by saying, "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."

Some interpreters try to make this mean more than it says about persistence. The Greek tense here is the perfect tense, which is taken to mean "Ask and keep on asking . . . Seek and keep on seeking . . . Knock and keep on knocking." The trouble with this is that Jesus didn't teach in Greek. The Greek New Testament is a translation of what he actually said, and the original Aramaic wouldn't have this nuance. It's really just a simple truth: The way to get something is to ask for it, the way to find something is to look for it, the way to open a door is to knock on it. We just can't bypass step number one, to pray in the first place. But that's the very step we might forget to take - when we just don't have a prayer. As Jesus' brother reminds us, in James 4:2: "You have not, because you ask not."

Jesus goes a step further, in our passage, by showing us the purpose of prayer. He does it with a couple of illustrations: "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

We learn here two things about prayer. First, prayer is about relationships - specifically, a family relationship with our heavenly Father. There's no point in praying to a tyrant, a kind of heavenly Saddam Hussein. There's no point in praying to some nebulous, fuzzy blob, or to the good side of "The Force." The only point to prayer is that we're talking with our Father, the head of our family who has our best interests at heart.

Think about this: if prayer is a family matter, those who aren't in the family really don't have a prayer. Our father ought to be willing to do good things for us, but if someone isn't our father why would we ever ask him for these things? Perhaps people who've never committed themselves to God think they're praying when they address him, but the first real prayer of the unbeliever is, "Lord, I repent. Take me into your family, through Jesus your Son."

Second, our Father is eager to give us good things - not just what we think we want, but things that fit into his plan for us. As John says, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us" (1 John 5:14). Jesus makes it plain that our Father wants to give one thing above all else - his Holy Spirit. Why? Because it's by the Spirit that you and I are enabled to be God's witnesses and servants in a world that desperately needs to hear about the benefits of being part of the family of God. "You will receive power," Jesus told us, "when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). And (if you'll pardon the expression) it's like God is just itching for us to ask him for the very thing he most wants to give us. The Holy Spirit is the key to making our lives count, as we're empowered to overcome the darkness around us and become beacons of light and love and healing.

So to undergird the purpose of prayer, to enable persistence in prayer, Jesus established a pattern for prayer. He gave the disciples a model prayer we call the Lord's Prayer, also called the "Our Father" from its opening words. It's clear, it's logical, it's short but it covers the bases of a well-rounded prayer life. We'll take a brief look at them.

1. Jesus teaches us to begin with adoration of the holy God: "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name." Prayer begins by recognizing who it is we're praying to: not a projection of our culture's values but one who is hallowed or holy - a biblical word that means set apart from the ordinary. There's a mystery about the being of God, whose thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8). He's our Father, but not the ineffective and bumbling father of a TV situation comedy. He's not the preoccupied or abusive father so many people have had to deal with today. He's a father of authority, dignity mystery - and compassion.

2. Jesus teaches us to submit to our Father's will: "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Think of this in its broad dimensions. It's not just for God's will for our personal lives that we are praying. We pray that his will may have its effect over all the earth: our community, our nation, our world. Such prayer is much needed today, and its purpose isn't to force our agenda on God but to align ourselves with what he wants to do in his world.

3. Jesus taught us to pray acknowledging our dependence on God for every need. "Give us this day our daily bread."

Three things about this.

First, it's hard to pray this prayer, because we would like God to supply our needs not just for today but for tomorrow and the day after. There's no Social Security in the Lord's Prayer, no entitlement. Instead, it expresses a daily dependence on God that forces us to maintain the family relationship. If God gave us, right now, everything we would ever need, it wouldn't be a gift from our Father. It would be like a bequest from a dead uncle, and we could easily live off the interest and forget the family ties.

Second, the bread Jesus is talking about isn't just food or material sustenance. In the Bible, bread is a symbol for all that sustains and preserves our life. It's a symbol for the life-giving Word of God; as Jesus told the devil, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." And bread is a symbol of God's healing and deliverance, for when the Syrophoenician woman asked Jesus to cast the demon out of her daughter he tested her faith by answering, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs" (Mark 7:27). When we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," we're appealing to God for healing of our lives, for insight into his purpose for us, and for ordinary physical needs.

Third, Jesus said, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).

Break thou the bread of life, dear Lord, to me,
As thou didst break the loaves beside the sea.
Beyond the sacred page, I seek thee, Lord;
My Spirit pants for thee, O living Word!

Jesus himself, in his risen presence, is the true Bread. That's why it's appropriate to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," just before sharing in Holy Communion, the emblems of Jesus' life in our midst.

4. Jesus reminds us to come to God acknowledging our sinfulness. "Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Instead of praying like the Pharisee, "God, I thank you I'm not like those sinners over there," we pray with the tax collector, "Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner." We don't make ourselves out to be worthless scum. We're anything but that in our Father's eyes. But, as Paul wrote, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and we need to acknowledge our brokenness before him. It's not only God we have sinned against, but other people, and they've sinned against us. That's just part of being human. As Alexander Pope said, "To err is human, to forgive divine." Forgiveness is God's gift. Jesus explains elsewhere that unless we forgive others we won't be forgiven our own sins. We can't clench our fist, clutch our hurts and refuse to release all those things that have been done to us by others, or we'll never grasp God's forgiveness. It takes an open hand to receive a gift.

Jesus concludes his pattern for prayer, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." He's not just talking about moral temptation here, for the word peirasmos really means "testing" or "trial." Here's where we can put the Lord's Prayer into its historical context. In the first century the Jewish homeland was under the thumb of the Roman Empire, but there was a growing nationalist movement. Eventually it would lead to revolt, which the Romans crushed in the year 70 when they burned Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple. Jesus came preaching the kingdom of God, a kingdom of mission and service that was far more important than the political issues of the time. He was seeking to redirect his people to their true purpose, to be a blessing to all nations, for he understood where this violent nationalism was headed. He wanted to spare his followers the horrible end that was sure to come if his message fell on deaf ears. So he taught them to pray that they would be spared this tribulation and testing. And they were spared, because the nationalist religious system was crushed but the church endured. "Lead us not into testing, but deliver us from evil." For us, these words are a plea that we might endure the evils of our time through the protection of God. As Paul says, "Put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13).

Jesus gave us this prayer as a model, showing us the points that need to be covered in a well-rounded prayer life. We can always pray other prayers based on the same pattern:

Acknowledge God as our Father
submit to his will
ask for his provision for life
ask forgiveness for our sins
appeal for God's protection in an evil time.

But it's also good to pray the Lord's Prayer itself. A very early Christian document, perhaps from the first century, is called the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles. It contains this passage: "Neither pray as the hypocrites, but as the Lord commanded in his gospel: "Our Father in heaven . . ."Pray this way three times a day" (Didache 8:2-3).

If you're having trouble praying, use the Lord's Prayer as your model and just make up your own words to fit the pattern. Don't worry if it doesn't sound like a religious professional. You may think you're praying poorly, but as G. K. Chesterton said, "Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly." Or, if that's hard for you to do, just pray the Lord's Prayer itself. Let it never be said of any of God's people that "they didn't have a prayer." 

The Sin of Prayerlessness

by Greg Laurie

Pray without ceasing - 1 Thessalonians 5:17

We must never forget that prayer is not only for petition, but also for protection and for preparation. Prayer not only gives us what we want; it prepares us for and protects us from what we don't want.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was in anguish as He contemplated the horrors of the cross. All He wanted the disciples to do was to be present and praying. Being God, He knew what was ahead. He knew every detail. And so He prayed, "O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will" (Matthew 26:39).

All Jesus asked for was some companionship. He didn't need a sermon; He needed some friends. But His friends were sleeping. And this was a direct result of the sin of self-confidence.

The same can be true of us. We pray when we think we need to pray. When a crisis hits, when we get bad news from the doctor, when we are laid off, when we are having problems with our marriage or problems with our children, what do we do? We pray. And that is good. It's what we should do.

But what about when things are going well? When the bills are paid, when the job is looking good, when there is no bad news from any front, do you pray then? Is it because you think you don't need to? Is it because of self-confidence?

Failure to pray actually can be a sin. Sin isn't just breaking a commandment, though it includes that. There is also the sin of omission. James 4:17 tells us, "Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

Copyright ©2012 by Harvest Ministries. All Rights Reserved.

Your Poor Prayer

by Dr. Joe McKeever

Ö.We do not know how to pray as we shouldÖ. (Romans 8:26)

I find it liberating to know that the great Apostle Paul was dissatisfied with his prayer life. At least, thatís how I read Romans 8:26. And if he could admit that "we do not know how to pray as we should," itís a dead-on cinch that you and I donít either.

One thing almost everyone in your congregation has in common on a typical Sunday morning is a dissatisfaction with their prayer life. That is not to say that all are doing poorly, only that none of us feels we have got it down right, that we are praying with the effectiveness weíd like.

In this life, we are always going to be doing things partially. "We know in part," Scripture says. "We prophecy in part" (I Corinthians 13:9,12).

Good music, they say, is music that is written better than it can be played. The Christian life is like that: written better than any of us can hope to attain in this life. The standard of God is still the same: "Be ye perfect even as your Father in Heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48). We will not attain it in this life, but thatís how itís written.

So with your prayer life. You and I mumble in our prayers, like a child still learning to talk. It frustrates us and disappoints us, butĖdo not miss thisĖis oddly pleasing to the Father in Heaven.

Here are seven statements about your (and my) poor prayingÖ.

1. Your poor praying is a fact.

You knew it and you feel it often. In fact, unless you are one in a thousand, the fact that your praying is so poor has sometimes discouraged you from even trying to speak to the Father. Oh, friend. I want you to know you are not the odd man out. We are all in the same boat.

You have lots of company, poor pray-er. The preacher with a half-century of proclamation under his belt still approaches the Throne of Grace like a beginner, still coming humbly almost as a newcomer. "Nothing in my hand I bring; simply to Thy cross I cling."

Do not let this upset you or discourage you. Go forward.

2. Your poor praying is the norm.

The Olympics are going on in London at this moment. Only the best in the world, the most accomplished, are there, going head to head. No athlete in London has been satisfied just to achieve the norm in their athletic endeavors. So, you want to forge ahead, to discipline yourself to learn and grow in your praying. But, be warned, my friend. There will never come a time in this life when you will feel you have arrived in your praying.

I cringe when someone calls me a great prayer warrior, as one did just this week. I know better than that. Iím a babbler, a mumbler, a sinner with no right to approach the Lord, one who comes deserving only judgment. I pray poorly. Furthermore, in this life, I seriously doubt there will come a time when that assessment changes.

3. Your poor praying is all of faith.

Nothing you do in this life is more about faith than your praying. When you pause to offer a prayer to God, you are talking to One whom you cannot see and cannot prove that He even exists. You cannot guarantee that He hears you or that if He does, He will answer you and grant your request. And yet you keep on praying.

I hope you do.

Most of your prayer requests in this life, you will never know whether they are answered or not. You will pray for the President of this country, for missionaries around the world, and for family members near and far. But you will have no way of knowing what God did in answer to your prayer.

You will pray by faith or you will gradually lose heart and quit. (II Corinthians 4:1 works here.)

4. Your poor praying is powerful and effective.

God does not turn away in disgust from our poor praying because we did not use the right words, take the correct posture, address Him in just the right way, or line up our doctrine in accordance with some official creed. As a loving parent thrills to hear the poor speech of the toddler, our Father in Heaven loves it when we pray.

The prayers He answers are almost always poor prayers. Had He been on a fault-finding mission, He could have failed almost every one of those prayers for a hundred reasons. But He doesnít.

Saturday, I spent the afternoon drawing people at the block party for Hammond, Louisianaís Old Zion Hill Baptist Church. All day heavy showers had been drenching the southeastern part of the state. As I drove up, I was afraid the event would be drowned out. However, it was high and dry. The pastorís wife told me why.

She showed me the weather radar on her phone. "I made pictures of it," she laughed. Earlier that morning, when she had seen that the weather picture showed rain heading their way, she commented to her daughter that they might get rained out. "Mom," she said, "God parted the waters of the Red Sea. He certainly can handle this."

"Look at this," she said to me. On her iPhone, there were the various photos of the radar from earlier in the day. As the rain approached the area around Hammond-Tickfaw, the green split and left it high and dry.

We had a sobering moment. Had God done that? The pastorís daughter thinks so. Who am I to tell her He didnít? (Psalm 115:3 says He does whatever He pleases.)

"More things are wrought by prayer," said Alfred Lord Tennyson, "than this world knows of."

5. Your poor praying is no excuse.

Itís a fact that we pray poorly, but that is no excuse to quit praying, to stop learning how to pray better, to stop growing, for not believing, and for not obeying.

In fact, knowing that the Living God will hear the flawed intercessions and faulty praise of imperfect children like us is liberating and encouraging.

So, donít stop praying, Christian, just because you donít feel like your prayers are getting anywhere. Youíre not the judge. Pray on.

6. Your poor praying is Godís opportunity.

"The Lord helps us in our weakness," Scripture says. "He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).

Youíve read II Corinthians 12 where Paul discovered this truth, that our weakness is Godís opportunity to do something special, to show Himself almighty, to get all the praise and glory for Himself. Therefore, the apostle said, "I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christís sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (I Cor. 12:10).

For reasons He alone knows, God delights in using the poor and small, the overlooked and ordinary, the despised and the discarded. Like you and me.

7. Your poor praying is temporary.

"Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully, just as I also have been fully known" (I Cor. 13:12).

The day will come when we stand in His presence and we shall be changed into His likeness. At that moment, we shall know. We shall be made perfect. "This corruption must put on incorruption; this mortal must put on immortality" (I Cor. 15:53).

At that moment, we will be able to pray well. We will know how to address the Father in the best way, using the right words, knowing His will perfectly and how to present ourselves into His presence.

Until then, we shall walk by faith. We will obey Him and offer our prayers in our faltering manner, using our poor choice of words, knowing anyone can find fault with them, doing the best we can, knowing that He is a God of mercy and kindness and loves us more than we could ever deserve.

Jesus said, "Your Father knows what things you have need of before you ask Him. Pray then like this: ĎOur Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy nameÖ." (Matthew 6:8ff.)

Family Special: Unhindered Prayers

by Joel Osteen

Today's Scripture

ďÖTreat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.Ē (1 Peter 3:7, NLT)

Today's Word

Did you know that the way you treat people has an impact on the effectiveness of your prayers? The Bible says that the prayer of the righteous person is powerful, but if we arenít treating others with honor, kindness and respect, then we arenít allowing His righteousness to operate in us. When we donít treat others the way we should, it closes the door to Godís power and hinders our prayers.

This is especially true in a marriage relationship. Marriage isnít just an agreement between two people to live life together. Marriage is a God-ordained institution that helps us understand love and unity. When two people are married, they become one physically, spiritually and emotionally. This particular passage is directed toward husbands, but it applies to all believers as well. We should always treat others ďwith understanding,Ē which means considering their needs above our own. We should always aim to treat others with kindness, dignity, and respect and quickly choose forgiveness.

Today, choose love. Choose to treat others with respect. Let righteousness flow through you and open the door for His power in every area of your life!

A Prayer for Today

Father, thank You for another day to worship You and become more like You. I submit my heart, mind, will and emotions to You. I choose to treat others with love and respect which shows that I honor You. Have Your way in me and teach me to prayer effectively for Your glory, in Jesusí name. Amen.

A Fool for Christ? - A Touching Story
It was an unusually cold day for the month of May. Spring had arrived and everything was alive with color. But a cold front from the North had brought winter's chill back to Indiana. I sat with two friends in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town square.

The food and the company were both especially good that day. As we talked my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back.

He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read, "I will work for food." My heart sank. I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief.

We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back in my car.

Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: "Don't go back to the office until you've at least driven once more around the square." And so, with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square's third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the storefront church, going through his sack.
I stopped and looked, feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from God: an invitation to park.

I pulled in, got out and approached the town's newest visitor.
"Looking for the pastor?" I asked.
"Not really," he replied". Just resting."

"Have you eaten today?"
"Oh, I ate something early this morning."

"Would you like to have lunch with me?"
"Do you have some work I could do for you?"

"No work," I replied. "I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to take you to lunch."
"Sure," he replied with a smile.

As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions.
"Where you headed?"
"St. Louis."

"Where you from?"
"Oh, all over; mostly Florida."

"How long have you been walking?"
"Fourteen years," came the reply.

I knew I had met someone unusual.

We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, "Jesus is The Never Ending Story."

Then Daniel's story began to unfold. He had seen rough times early in life. He'd made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona. He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God.

"Nothing has been the same since," he said, "I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking and so I did, some 14 years now."

"Ever think of stopping?" I asked.

"Oh once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me. But God has given me this calling. I give out Bibles. That's what's in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit leads."

I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice.

The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked:

"What is it like?"
"What?"
"To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and to show your sign?"

"Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn't make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people's concepts of other folks like me."

My concept was changing, too.

We finished our dessert and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused.

He turned to me and said,

"Come ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I've prepared for you.
For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in."

I felt as if we were on holy ground.

"Could you use another Bible?" I asked. He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well and was not too heavy. It was also his personal favorite. "I've read through it 14 times," he said. "I'm not sure we've got one of those, but let's stop by our church and see."

I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful.

"Where you headed from here?"
"Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon."

"Are you hoping to hire on there for awhile?"
"No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that's where I'm going next."

He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of his mission.

I drove him back to the town square where we'd met two hours earlier and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and unloaded his things.

"Would you sign my autograph book?" He asked. "I like to keep messages from folks I meet."

I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, "I know the plans I have for you," declared the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you a future and a hope."

"Thanks, man," he said. "I know we just met and we're really just strangers, but I love you."
"I know," I said, "I love you, too."

"The Lord is good."
"Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?" I asked.
"A long time," he replied.

And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed. He put his things on his back, smiled his winning smile and said, "See you in the New Jerusalem."

"I'll be there!" was my reply.

He began his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bed roll and pack of Bibles.

He stopped, turned and said, "When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?"

"You bet," I shouted back, "God bless."
"God bless." And that was the last I saw of him.

Late that evening as I left my office, the wind blew strong. The cold front had settled hard upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them. A pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them. I remembered his words: "If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?"

Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry. "See you in the New Jerusalem," he said. Yes, Daniel, I know I will.

"I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again."

Nearly 100 Churches Destroyed in Egypt - Coptic Pope Reportedly in The Assassination List

By Mary Abdelmassih, AINA

(AINA) -- Since ex-president Morsy's ouster on July 3, attacks on Egyptian Christians by members of the Muslim Brotherhood have taken place in most governorates across Egypt. These attacks have escalated since security forces ended the pro-Morsy protests in central Cairo on August 14th. During their 6-weeks of protests, Muslim Brotherhood leaders explicitly threatened to harm the Copts should they be forced to end their protests, which they vowed to prolong until Morsy is restored to power.

Torched Church in Upper Egypt

"Over the past weeks we have witnessed an increasing trend of anti-Christian rhetoric calling for 'the attack upon and eradication of Christians and churches' in Egypt," said Coptic Bishop Anba in the United Kingdom. "The result of such incitement, at least in part, has been the unprecedented attack on fifty two churches and numerous Christian homes and businesses across eight governorates in Egypt, within the space of twenty four hours."

Yesterday Dr. Naguib Gabriel, President of Egyptian Union of Human Rights Organization, said "82 churches, many of which were from the 5th century, were attacked by pro-Morsy supporters in just two days."

Coptic Pope Tawadros II issued a statement yesterday expressing his views on the violence which engulfed Egypt, accusing the Muslim Brotherhood of fomenting sectarian clashes.

Torched Church in Upper Egypt

The Pope said the Church is on "the side of Egyptian law, the armed forces and all the Egyptian civil institutions when it comes to confronting violent armed organizations and terrorizing forces, either within the country or from abroad." The Pope pointed out that one should look beyond the squares where the Muslim Brotherhood have been holding their protests, in order to gain a general overview of what has been happening for weeks in Egypt. "The attacks on government buildings and peaceful churches terrorize everyone, whether they be Copts or Muslims. These actions go against any religion, any moral code and any sense of humanity."

Torched Church in Minya, Egypt

The Coptic Church also criticized the way in which the crisis is reported outside of Egypt. It expressly speaks of "false broadcast by Western media," and urges for an "objective" revision to be made of the descriptions given to the actions of those "blood-thirsty radical organizations." The Coptic Orthodox Church says that "instead of legitimizing them with global support and political coverage while they are trying to wreak havoc and destruction upon our beloved land, report all events truthfully and accurately."

Pope Tawadros reaffirmed his support for "national unity" and rejected any form of "international interference in our internal affairs."

The Pope is at the top of the Islamists' assassination list.

The views of the Coptic church are also held by Copts in general, who are angry with the US and EU powers, "who almost daily issue statements threatening to take further actions against our interim government and army, portraying the Muslim Brotherhood as victims while not even mentioning the destruction of over 80 churches, as well monasteries, orphanages, businesses and Coptic schools by the Muslim Brotherhood," says Coptic activist Wagih Yacoub who believes that this western attitude emboldens them to carry out further violence. "To add insult to injury the Muslim Brotherhood this week hoisted the black Al-Qaida flag on top of St. George's church in Sohag. Three churches were turned into mosques in Minya and Friday prayers were held inside them."

Source: Assyrian International News Agency.
Copyright (C) 2013, Assyrian International News Agency. All Rights Reserved.

Atrocities Against Egypt's Christians: The U.S. Must Speak Out

by John Stonestreet

In his recent book Fleeing Herod, the Australian writer James Cowan retraces the steps of the Holy Family's flight into Egypt following Joseph's dream warning him about Herod's intentions toward the infant Jesus.

Cowan admits in the prologue that current events in Egypt made him even more conscious of Egypt's history and "the millennia of knowledge embodied in its sands."

Cowan's guide on his journey is a fourth-century text written by a Coptic Pope, Theophilus of Alexandria, entitled "The Visions of Theophilus." Along the way he meets monks, nuns, pilgrims and the then-Coptic Pope.

Whether or not we believe the fourth-century reference of Mary being under an Egyptian tree, one Coptic belief is undeniable: "Egypt [is] central to the birth of Christianity."

Thus, Christians must be concerned about what is happening to Coptic Christians today.

Since Matthew chapter 2's quoting of Hosea - "out of Egypt I called my son" - Egypt was at the heart of the Christian story. It provided sanctuary for the Holy Family. And later produced some of the Church's greatest minds: Tertullian, Origen and the great defender of orthodoxy, Athanasius.

The father of monasticism, Anthony, was Egyptian, and, for much of the Church's early history, Alexandria was the mind and soul of the faith.

Many don't realize that Egypt was Christian for six centuries before the coming of Islam. We call the descendants of those Christians the Copts. For 14 centuries they and their ancestors have kept the faith even when life would have been easier if they hadn't.

Little has changed. Today, they face what Nina Shea has called a "Jihad." The chaos in Egypt, like the chaos in Iraq and Syria, has made it "open season" on the country's Christian minority. As Shea writes in National Review, "The [Muslim] Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party has been inciting the anti-Christian pogroms on its web and Facebook pages."

For those unfamiliar with the term, "pogroms" were the anti-Jewish attacks in Tsarist Russia that killed thousands and led to the emigration of millions of Jews to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Brotherhood would love to see the Copts do likewise.

If they succeed it will be in part because Christians in the West did nothing. Right now, the mainstream narrative about Egypt depicts the Brotherhood as the victims. It is far more concerned with the impact on Egyptian "democracy" than the fate of Egyptian Christians, or that of any Egyptian that doesn't want to live in a theocracy.

They are not telling the story, so we have to. They are not urging our leaders to protect Egyptian Christians, so we have to. We cannot stand by in silence while yet another ancient Christian community is threatened with extinction.

Of course, that requires understanding that these are ancient Christian communities in the first place. Many American Christian's knowledge of church history barely goes back a century. You might say we have evangelical Alzheimer's. Because we are unfamiliar with the past, we are ignorant of our debt to those who went before and their descendants.

In Cowan's book, then-Pope Shenouda, who spent the early years of his papacy under house arrest, tells him that it "seemed that [Herod] feared the presence of a lowly peasant family in his kingdom more than he did his enemies." Today's tyrants fear the presence of Christians in their would-be kingdom.

It's time for us to repay an ancient debt.

Call or email your representative in Congress. Contact your Senators. And the White House. The U.S. must speak out and condemn the targeting and murder of Egyptian Christians.

Come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary. We'll link you to Nina Shea's article. We'll also show you how you can reach your elected leaders. We'll even provide a sample message.

And of course, we must pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt.

About The Author:

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of 'Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview'.

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