Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
St. Mary
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
(Luke 1:50)

Ettu Nombu Special - 7

Volume 3 No. 167 September 7, 2013

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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

Apostolic Bull for Day Of Prayer on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013

His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and the Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, issued a Bull announcing Saturday the 7th September 2013 as a day of fasting and prayer in the Syriac Orthodox Church all over the world, to be practiced by everyone, including Clergy and laity, for the peace in Syria and the return of kidnapped Bishops, in response to the invitation of His Holiness Pope Francis. ...

Inspiration for Today

Featured: Mary and Jesus: The Most Privileged Among Women

There are some thing you just don't want to go through alone. We don't like to go through trouble alone. If you get sick with nobody to look after you, you'll probably feel more miserable. If you lose your job, or your spouse or your child, you need somebody to help you make it through. Mary teaches us that no matter what problems you face, the Lord is with you. The angel says "Do not be afraid." (Luke 1:30) But we wouldn't blame Mary if she were afraid. ...

The Whole Bible in One Message

Suppose you had 30 minutes. Could you tell the story of the Bible in a half-hour? Most of us would have a hard time doing that. Dr. Pritchard does this amazingly. The whole story of redemption of mankind... If we imagine the Bible as a great sanctuary and every book in the Bible as a seat in the sanctuary, then we can say wherever you go in the Bible, you've got a great view because you can see Jesus everywhere. ...

Jesus Is The Future

Approximately 300 passages in Scripture allude to Christ's second coming-a return that will be swift, righteous, and unexpected for many. Jesus gave His word that He would be back, and through that promise, we can find tangible hope and clear direction for our lives today. ...

If You Seek Him, Jesus Will Find You

The first person Jesus revealed Himself to as "the Christ" was the Samaritan woman (John 4). And the first person Jesus revealed Himself to after His death was Mary Magdalene. If you, male or female, are seeking Jesus, He will reveal Himself to you. He shows no partiality or favoritism. We are all given the same Holy Spirit, and one day, we each will behold our Lord face to face. ...

Finish the Race With God at Your Side

Life is not a race we are going to win. At some point, whether because of this fallen world or our own sin nature, all of us will stumble and fall. Many people believe that these times of tragedy prove God either does not exist, or simply does not care what happens to us, but they are wrong. ...

Hidden Hardships Behind Closed Doors

Long before Susanna had an inkling of how difficult her married life would be, she made the Lord a promise. When she was young, Susanna committed that for every hour she spent in entertainment, she would give the same amount of time to Him in prayer and in the Word. ...

Prayer/Hymn - Iesu, Dulcis Memoria - Jesus, the very thought of Thee

Iesu, Dulcis Memoria is a celebrated 12th century hymn attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Doctor Mellifluus. The entire hymn has some 42 to 53 stanzas depending upon the manuscript. ...

More Resources For Study and Reflection

Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary plus other publications of interest.

About Malankara World

Foreword
This is the last Special Edition of Malankara World Journal for the Eight Day Lent. We hope that you have spiritually nurtured during this week. We encourage you to save these issues so that you can refer to them in the future for study and reflection.

Stephen Sizer's article in this issue, 'Mary and Jesus: The Most Privileged Among Women' summarizes the lessons we can learn from St. Mary. We can summarize them under:

1. No matter who you are, the Lord can use you
2. No matter what problems you face, the Lord is with you
3. No matter what the Lord promises, He can and will do it

For Orthodox Christians, bible is a big challenge. After all, the Bible is a big book.

The numbers are staggering.

66 books plus written by 40 authors in three languages over 1500 years.
Over 1100 chapters.
Over 31,000 verses.
Over 800,000 words.

We often wonder how people read the whole bible several times. How about condensing the message of the bible in a 30 minute sermon? Dr. Pritchard accomplishes this amazing feat in his article 'The Whole Bible in One Message.' He summarizes the bible under 6 acts plus.

Act 1: God Creates Everything.
Act 2: Man Rebels Against God
Act 3: God initiates redemption
Act 4: God Accomplishes Redemption
Act 5: God gives birth to the church.
Act 6: God completes redemption
The best is yet to come.

The Bible ends with these words:

"He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen."
(Revelation 22:20-21).

This is a must read article. It is really amazing how bible can be presented in a nutshell without missing the core message. Hopefully, it will inspire you to read more of bible.

Please read this and other articles. We kept the best for the last issue. If you look closely, the theme in this issue is forward looking. Jesus is there to help us. Mother Mary is there to intercede for us.

Jesus! our only hope be Thou,
As Thou our prize shalt be;
In Thee be all our glory now,
And through eternity. Amen.

What an amazing savior, who cries with us when we cry and laughs with us when we are happy. Let us learn from our Mother Mary, the first disciple, on how to obtain His grace.

Tomorrow is the Nativity of St. Mary. Issue 168 of Malankara World Journal is themed 'the Nativity of Theotokos'. You can find it here:

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_168.htm

Everywhere, the faithful is getting ready to celebrate the Nativity of St. Mary. If you were in Manarcadu, you had an opportunity to participate in the Procession (Rasa):

Rasa (Procession) at Manarcadu

Rasa (Procession) at St. Mary's Cathedral, Manarcadu

I read about the festivities in St. Mary's Basilica (Catholic) in Bangalore. Interestingly, the statue of Mary in the basilica is daily dressed in an elaborate sari, often laced with gold thread and jewelry, offered as a fulfillment of vows by the faithful. St. Mary dressed in Sari? That is interesting.

St. Mary's Basilica, Bangalore

Father J. Sandhayagu, administrator of St. Mary's Basilica, stated:

"The Virgin Mary is the Mother of God and also our heavenly mother, and thus people tend to venerate her motherly affection and dress her in local culture as their mother. During the novena, around 30,000 people participate in Mass, Adoration, Anointing of the Sick, Confession, and other events each day.

Over the years the numbers of devotees have tremendously increased their participation in the liturgies and in Confession.

During the novena, Mass is said every half hour in the basilica from 5:30 in the morning until 9:00 at night, with up to 5,000 people attending each Mass.

St. Mary's Basilica has been witnessing numerous miracles and healings. People receive grace, hence people of all faith, including Hindus, Muslims, and other religions, rush every day to seek blessings."

Sounds similar to our Manarcadu Church and other churches during the ettu nombu season. St. Mary, our spiritual mother, has universal appeal. Her intercession has tremendous value.

Please pray for peace in Syria and for the persecuted Christians there along with the kidnapped bishops and clergy.

Oh ... Morth Mariam Yoldath Aloho (Mother of God) Pray for us.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

Apostolic Bull for Day Of Prayer on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013
His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and the Supreme Head of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church, issued a Bull (E173/13) announcing Saturday the 7th September 2013 as a day of fasting and prayer in the Syriac Orthodox Church all over the world, to be practiced by everyone, including Clergy and laity, for the peace in Syria and the return of kidnapped Bishops, in response to the invitation of His Holiness Pope Francis.

You can use the prayer given here: Pray for Peace in Syria or you can use a prayer such as Psalm 46 (below)

Psalm 46

46 God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.

6 The nations rage, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.
7 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

8 Come, behold the works of the Lord,
how he has brought desolations on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
he burns the chariots with fire.

10 “Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!”
11 The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress. Selah

May God accept our fasting and prayers and supplications that lifted to Him.

Today's Features

Inspiration for Today
All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth unto such as keep His covenant and His testimonies.--PS. xxv. 10.

Speak, Lord, for Thy servant heareth,
Speak peace to my anxious soul,
And help me to feel that all my ways
Are under Thy wise control;
That He who cares for the lily,
And heeds the sparrows' fall,
Shall tenderly lead His loving child:
For He made and loveth all.
ANON.

It is not by seeking more fertile regions where toil is lighter--happier circumstances free from difficult complications and troublesome people--but by bringing the high courage of a devout soul, clear in principle and aim, to bear upon what is given to us, that we brighten our inward light, lead something of a true life, and introduce the kingdom of heaven into the midst of our earthly day. If we cannot work out the will of God where God has placed us, then why has He placed us there?
J. H. THOM.
 

Featured: Mary and Jesus: The Most Privileged Among Women

by Stephen Sizer

Some 8 year old children were once asked what love is:

"Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you left him alone all day."

"When someone loves you, the way they say your name is different. You know that your name is safe in their mouth."

"When you love somebody, your eyelashes go up and down and little stars come out of you."

"You really shouldn't say 'I love you' unless you mean it. But if you mean it, you should say it a lot because people forget."

"Love is what's in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen."

This morning I want us to stop and listen, and consider three lessons we can learn about love from Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ. Please turn with me to Luke 1:26-38. I want us to see that while Mary may have been the most privileged among women, we can be privileged too.

1. No matter who you are, the Lord can use you

"In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary." (Luke 1:26-27)

Remember the last time you filled out a job application? You listed your education, your skills, your work experience. Then you hit the final question: "What is it that makes you uniquely qualified for this position?" How do you answer without appearing arrogant? Employers assume your availability, but what they really want to know about is your liabilities. Most employers hire on the basis of competence. They look at your skill set and maybe your personality type. Only the enlightened ones care much about your character. But God doesn't operate this way. Mary teaches us God is not as interested as your abilities as He is in your availability.

No matter who you are, God can use you. (Read Luke 1:26-27) describe an ordinary girl with some serious liabilities:

1.1 Mary was Young

She was pledged to be married. At that time, it was customary for girls to be engaged at 12-13 years of age (around the time of reaching puberty). One reason was to ensure girls maintained their virginity until marriage. It's very possible that Mary could have been as young as 12-13, or as old as 16 when Gabriel visited her. You and I might think this girl is too young for God to use her, but apparently God didn't think so.

1.2 Mary was Poor

We read in Luke 2:22-24 that Mary and Joseph took baby Jesus to the temple to be circumcised. They were required to bring two offerings: a lamb for a burnt offering and a dove or pigeon for a sin offering (Leviticus 12:8). If they could not afford a lamb parents could bring a second dove or pigeon instead. Mary and Joseph brought the two doves, because they couldn't afford a lamb. You and I might have thought this family is too poor to provide for Jesus but apparently God didn't think so. Mary was young, she was poor, and

1.3 Mary was from Nazareth

Apparently, Mary was a young girl from the wrong side of the tracks. Nazareth was a town with a bad reputation. Remember what Nathanael said when He learned Jesus from Nazareth? "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (John 1:46) No telling what this girl grew up seeing and hearing and doing in a rough community like that. Apparently, God didn't take this into consideration in choosing Mary to be mother to His Son.

Mary was young, poor, and from Nazareth - enough to make her seem unusable by God. But God chose Mary for one of the most important jobs He ever asked anyone to do. Through God's choice of Mary, He teaches us: no matter who you are, the Lord can use you. You might think you are too young, that you don't earn enough money or have the talent for God to use you. You might think your background or your past mistakes might make it impossible for God to use you. Don't limit God. He can use you if you trust Him. Out of all the queens, all the princesses, all the daughters of the wealthy and influential, God chose a poor teenager from a town with a bad reputation to be the mother of the Lord Jesus. She had two vital characteristics God looks for: humility and faith.

She knew she wasn't worthy of the honour God offered her. Yet she was willing if God wished to use her. Do you believe God can use you? Or do you think you're too young, too old, too poor, too inexperienced, too weak to be used by Him? Mary teaches us no matter who you are, God can use you.

2. No matter what problems you face, the Lord is with you

The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you." 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." (Luke 1:28-33)

There are some thing you just don't want to go through alone. We don't like to go through trouble alone. If you get sick with nobody to look after you, you'll probably feel more miserable. If you lose your job, or your spouse or your child, you need somebody to help you make it through. Mary teaches us that no matter what problems you face, the Lord is with you. The angel says "Do not be afraid." (Luke 1:30) But we wouldn't blame Mary if she were afraid. Imagine her fears:

2.1 Divorce by Joseph?

Joseph at first assumes that Mary has been unfaithful to him. What else would he have thought? He decides to divorce her. According to the law, this was necessary to end the engagement. But he is told in a dream that Mary's baby is, in fact, conceived by the Holy Spirit. But right now, Mary doesn't know how all of that will work out. But she knows God will be with her, whatever Joseph does.

2.2 Rejection by her Family?

Did Mary's family believe her story that the baby growing inside her was the Son of God? Would you believe that if your daughter told you that story? We are never told anything about Mary's parents' reaction to her pregnancy. But it's very possible that they didn't believe her story. Imagine the gossip in Nazareth. They would have accused her of adultery. A sin not looked on so lightly as it is today. Mary would be shunned by her family and friends. But Mary believes God is with her, even if those closest abandon her.

2.3 Death by Stoning?

According to the law, this was the penalty for adultery. By New Testament times stoning was rare, but it was still a possibility especially in rural communities where the village elders apply the law. The message from the angel totally changed Mary's life. She was getting ready to be married and live a normal life. But now her life would be anything but normal. How could she be calm as she faced all of the problems that her pregnancy would cause? She would cling to the words the angel spoke "The Lord is with you." (Luke 1:28)

The Lord would indeed be with her. He would help her by sending her away to stay with Elizabeth for three months. Uniquely Elizabeth as we saw last week, could empathize with Mary. God gave her the strength and courage to face her fears through another human being who believed in her. Mary faced the shame of divorce from Joseph, being deserted by her family, and stoning by the elders. But the Lord was with her.

One of the titles given to Jesus is "Immanuel," which means "God with us." One of the great themes of the Old Testament is the concept of God living with His people in the Temple. Jesus is our Temple, our Immanuel. He is "God with us."

Ingrid Trobisch writes "If we can live one day with Jesus, we can live every day with Him, each one as it comes." Jesus came to make God's presence a conscious, living reality in your life. Human life was meant to be lived in the power of God's presence, God's spirit filling us, empowering us, equipping us. Whatever problems you are facing right now–whatever worries and fears are harassing your heart–don't be discouraged.

No matter what your problems, the Lord is with you. Give your problems to Him and trust Him to work them out, and He will, just as surely as He worked them all out for Mary.

Two lessons so far from Mary: First: No matter who you are, God can use you. Second: No matter what problems you face, God is with you. There's one more lesson:

3. No matter what the Lord promises, He can and will do it

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" 35 The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail." 38 "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me according to your word." Then the angel left her." (Luke 1:34-38)

The Bible records several instances of miraculous conceptions. God gave a son to Abraham and Sarah they would name Isaac, long after they thought it was possible. God gave Manoah and his barren wife a special son they would name Samson. Samuel, the first prophet, final judge, and anointer of kings was the answer to the faithful, persevering prayers of his godly mother, Hannah. John the Baptist's mother, Elizabeth, was in her sixties or seventies when she gave birth to the prophet.

But none of those special births was as amazing as the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. His birth was the result of a supernatural conception. When we talk about the virgin birth we mean that Jesus was conceived in the womb of His mother Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, without a human father.

Now that didn't sound any more normal back then than it does today. So lets address the question: Why is the virgin conception so important?

3.1 Salvation is possible because its God's Initiative

The supernatural conception is an unmistakable sign that salvation is the work of God Himself. Our salvation only comes about through the supernatural work of God, and this is his sovereign initiative. And this is evident at the very beginning of Jesus' life. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not Joseph.

3.2 Salvation is possible because Mary's Son is Divine Jesus was both fully human and fully God.

He had to be in order to be our Saviour. He had to be human because only a human being like us could be a ransom sacrifice to pay the price for our sins; He had to be divine because only God is perfect enough to pay for the sins of the world. In other words, through the miraculous conception Jesus is revealed to be both the Son of God, and the Son of Man.

3.3 Salvation is possible because Jesus is our Saviour

The virgin birth reveals that Jesus Christ is qualified to be our Saviour. He laid aside his eternal glory and majesty to be born a human being. Think about it: "To get ready for Christmas, God undressed. God stripped off his finery and appeared –naked on the day he was born." The virgin conception of Christ is therefore tied both to who He is, and what He came to do. As Man alone, Jesus could not have saved us – he would die for his own sin; as God alone he would not have been able to. Incarnate, both Son of Man and Son of God, he could and did.

The supernatural conception of Jesus shows that salvation is God's sovereign initiative, that Jesus is divine, that Jesus is our savior. Now lets look at Mary's reaction:

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me according to your word." Then the angel left her." (Luke 1:38)

Even though the angel's news was unbelievable, she believed it. Mary didn't understand it, but she also didn't doubt it. She believed that no matter what He has promised, the Lord could do it. All these centuries later, Jesus' miraculous conception hasn't got any easier to understand. God chose not to reveal the scientific details to us. The real issue is not whether a virgin can conceive; the real issue is whether anything is impossible for God. Mary knew that a virgin birth is impossible, but she also believed that "nothing is impossible with God." Whatever God promises, He delivers. No matter what He promises, He will do it. What promises of God are you tempted to doubt? The same Lord makes that same promise to you as he did to Mary. The writer to Hebrews assures,

"For He Himself has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you." (Hebrews 13:5)

Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)

The Apostle John wrote, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him." (1 John 5:14-15)

Do you ever read promises like these and say, "Not for me, not now, not after all I've done." But those promises are made by God. It doesn't matter how impossible they seem - there is nothing, nothing, absolutely nothing impossible with God. Whatever God promises, He always does, without fail. Our response must be the same as Mary's, "May it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)

4. Application Time

Mary may have been very young but she wasn't naive. She may have been quite poor but she wasn't desperate. She may have come from a rough community but she wasn't callous. You may or may not be able to identify with her in these. But there are four things we can learn from Mary.

4.1 Mary Surrendered her life to God

Mary did not take thought of the difficulties and inconveniences that would come her way as she would be with child out of wedlock and then giving birth to the Messiah. Being already engaged to Joseph, I'm sure that she already had her own dreams and wishes for the future. But, Mary was willing to lay surrender that for what God had planned for her.

"I am the Lord's servant. May it be to me according to your word." (Luke 1:38)

4.2 Mary Praised Almighty God

Her words overflow with reverence and adoration or loving worship for God. God's name was precious and sacred – "the Mighty One has done great things for me, holy is His name." (Luke 1:49)

4.3 Mary Memorized the Word of God

Now we come to a characteristic that may explain why Mary possessed faith, godly reverence and a willingness to surrender herself to the Lord – Mary knew the Scriptures. Not only did she know of the promises made to the Jewish "fathers" or Patriarchs (Luke 1:55), but she actually quotes word-for-word from Psalms 103 & 107. Mary knew the Scriptures, reverenced the Scriptures, quoted the Scriptures. She must have memorized portions of the Scriptures which, no doubt, shaped her inward life and outward behaviour.

4.4 Mary knew she needed a Saviour from God

Some churches teach that Mary was born sinless. They elevate Mary to the status of Mother of God, Queen of Heaven, co mediator, co-redemptress who remained immaculate all her life and like Jesus ascended to heaven. Mary knew otherwise. She knew her need for salvation. In her song to Elizabeth, Mary sings,

"My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour" (Luke 1:47). Mary's child was her Saviour and ours. As Jesus said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost." (Luke 19:10) and that included his mother.

The baby boy she would deliver would one day die on the cross to deliver her. Mary knew she needed a savior. Can you speak of Jesus as 'my Saviour'? You cannot unless you recognise you need a savior from God. You cannot unless you confess Jesus to be the Son of God. You cannot unless you surrender you life, your hopes and aspirations to the will of God. And there is no better time to find your Saviour than today because there may not be a tomorrow. We don't know what Jesus learned from His mother. We don't know the impact of her life on His, or how much of who He grew up to be was a reflection of the love and character of His mother. But God has left the record of what this young mother named Mary can teach you and I:

No matter who you are, the Lord can use you.
No matter what problems you face, the Lord is with you.
No matter what He has promised, the Lord can and will do it.

Lets pray.

---

With grateful thanks to T. Michael Crews, Scott Coltrain, Jonathan McLeod and Chuck Swindoll for ideas and material used in this sermon

The Whole Bible in One Message

by Dr. Ray Pritchard, Keep Believing Ministries

What can you do in 30 minutes?

How much can you read?
How much TV can you watch?
How many projects can you start and finish?
How many calls can you return?

Suppose you had 30 minutes.

Could you tell the story of the Bible in a half-hour?
Most of us would have a hard time doing that.

After all, the Bible is big book.
The numbers are staggering.
66 books written by 40 authors in three languages over 1500 years.
Over 1100 chapters.
Over 31,000 verses.
Over 800,000 words.

Would it be possible to tell the story of the Bible in one message?
That's our goal.

Buckle up because we're going to start in Genesis and end in Revelation and see if we cover the whole book in one message.

Here is the story of the Bible, told in six acts.

Act 1: God Creates Everything.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
In 6 days God made everything. On the 7th day he rested.
That's Genesis 1.

Genesis 2 tells us about Adam and Eve.
God created Adam out of the dust of the ground and placed him in the Garden.
Then he fashioned Eve from a rib taken from Adam's side.
He presented Eve to Adam who was very pleased indeed.
The two became one flesh.
They were naked and they were not ashamed.

Act 2: Man Rebels Against God

The serpent appears to Eve and deceives her.
She eats the fruit, gives it to Adam, and he eats.

Eve ate the fruit because she was deceived by the serpent.
Adam was not deceived as Eve was. He knew it was wrong but ate the fruit anyway.
Therefore God holds him accountable.

"Sin entered the world through one man" (Romans 5:12).

This was the decisive moment, the great turning point.
Nothing will ever be the same.
Suddenly they are ashamed, they try to cover their nakedness.
Innocence is gone forever.
When confronted by God, Adam makes excuses.

"Who told you that you were naked?"
"The woman you gave me."

First he blames Eve, then he blames God.
Eve blames the serpent.

Judgment comes quickly.
They are cast out of the Garden.
God clothed them with garments of skin, a sign of his grace.

Now they are on their own.
The world becomes a very unfriendly place.
Cain kills Abel.
Civilization spreads. Large cities form.
Death is everywhere. That's Genesis 4-5

Things go from bad to worse.
In Genesis 6 God intervenes.

The earth had grown corrupt and full of evil.
God calls Noah who builds an Ark.
When the flood comes covering the whole earth, only 8 people are saved.
Thus do we learn of judgment and grace.

Now the line narrows to Noah and his family.
After the flood, the three sons of Noah spread out and begin to multiply.
Generations come and go.
Eventually they build a tower to express their enormous arrogance.
God sends the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel.
People scatter across the face of the earth.

Act 3: God initiates redemption

Something hugely important happens in Genesis 12.
God calls Abraham.
He's a prosperous, middle-aged, pagan businessman in Ur of the Chaldees.
God calls, he responds and becomes the outstanding example of faith in the Bible.

We can divide the whole Old Testament this way:

Genesis 1-11 God creates the human race.
Genesis 12-Malachi 4 God creates the Hebrew race.

Abraham and Sarah have a son - Isaac.
Isaac has a son - Jacob.
Jacob has many sons, the most important being Joseph.
Joseph ends up serving Pharaoh in Egypt.
His family follows him there. They number 70 people.
God blesses them until the day comes when a Pharaoh arose who did not know Joseph.
For 400 years the people suffered in bondage until God raised up a deliverer named Moses.

He goes before Pharaoh and says, "Let my people go."
When Pharaoh says, "No!" God sends the 10 plagues.
The last one was the death of the firstborn.

So Moses leads the Jews out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and into the desert.
At Mount Sinai God gives the Law, starting with the Ten Commandments.
You can read that in Exodus 20.

At Kadesh-Barnea they sent out 12 men to spy out the land of Canaan.
It was a land filled with milk and honey.
But because there were giants in the land, 10 of the spies said, "No, we can't go."
Because the people did not believe God's promise, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

Then God raised up another leader - Joshua.
He leads the people to conquer the land of Canaan, the Promised Land.
They divided the land for the twelve tribes.

Then comes the wild period of the Judges where every man did what was right in his own eyes.
You know some of them-Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, Samson.
The story of Ruth belongs in this period.

God led his people by prophets, priests and judges.
But the people wanted a king.
So God gave them Saul who started well and ended badly.

Then came David whose victory over Goliath made the women sing his praises.
But later David's reign would be tarnished because of his sin with Bathsheba.

Then came Solomon, the king who asked God for wisdom.
He built the magnificent temple in Jerusalem.
But he married foreign women who turned his heart away from God.
That's 1 Kings 11.

Meanwhile the priests offered sacrifices day after day, year after year.
A river of blood flowed from the altar.
High priests came and went.

After Solomon's death the nation split into two parts.
The northern ten tribes were led by a long string of evil kings.
They were taken into captivity in 722 B.C.
The southern two tribes had a few good kings.
They lasted until 586 BC when the Babylonians took them into captivity.

The prophets brought God's message of warning and hope.
Isaiah spoke of a suffering servant.
Jeremiah wept for his people.
Daniel explained the handwriting on the wall.

The people of God languished in exile for 70 long years.
It was a hard, humiliating time for the Jews.

Finally God raised up two key men.
The first was Zerubbabel who led a small group back to Jerusalem at the end of the 70 years.
In 445 B.C. Nehemiah rebuilt the walls around Jerusalem.
Sometime after that Malachi the prophet gave his message from the Lord.

The Old Testament closes with a sense of longing and expectation.
Promises had been made.
The prophets had spoken.
The people were waiting.

What would God do?

Act 4: God Accomplishes Redemption

In a mostly unlikely way,
In a most unlikely place,
When the time had fully come,
God sent forth his Son.

He was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
Born of the Virgin Mary.

Not just any baby.
But the seed of the woman, the son of David, the one whose name is Immanuel, God with us.

Shepherds glorified him.
Angels announced him.
The Magi brought him gifts.

The angel told Joseph, "Call his name Jesus for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

He was baptized by John, tempted by the devil, misunderstood by the religious leaders, feared by some, hated by others, but the common people heard him gladly.

He was full of grace and truth.
He was the fullness of God in bodily form.

The Bible says he went around doing good.
He causes the blind to see, makes the deaf to hear, casts out demons, heals the sick and raises the dead.
He invites all the weary to come to him for rest.

He teaches God's law, embodies God's love, and fulfills God's promises.

He preaches to the masses.
He speaks in parables.
He is a friend of sinners everywhere.

Repeatedly he tells the 12 that he will be betrayed into the hands of sinful men who will beat him and then crucify him. He tells them that after three days he will rise from the dead.
They do not understand.

In the Garden of Gethsemane he prays in agony.
Judas betrays him.
Peter denies him.
The disciples abandon him.
Caiaphas accuses him.
Herod mocks him.
The soldiers beat him.
Pilate condemns him to death.

He is crucified between two criminals.
He cried out, "Father, forgive them for they don't know what they are doing."
And, "It is finished."
Finally, "Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit."
Then he breathed his last breath.

He was buried in a borrowed tomb.
One day he was dead.
Two days he was dead.
But on the third day . . .

Two women went to the tomb to anoint his dead body.
They found the stone rolled away and the tomb empty.
An angel said, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here. He has risen!" (Luke 24:5-6).

The word began to spread. "He's alive!"
Over 40 days Jesus appeared to his disciples many times.

His message is . . . "God is glorified. I am alive. Redemption is accomplished."
"Go and tell everyone!"

Then he ascended into heaven.

Act 5: God gives birth to the church.

For ten days the disciples waited and prayed.
That's Acts 1.
On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came in great power.
With the sound of a rushing wind.
With tongues of fire.
The disciples speak in foreign languages they did not know.
Peter preaches and 3000 are saved in one day.
The church is born in Jerusalem and grows amid much opposition.
The message spreads throughout Judea and Samaria.
Then to Galilee.

It moves across the Roman Empire as Peter, Paul and the other disciples preach the Good News.
The church faces growing opposition and rising heresy. There are troubles on every hand.

James writes.
Paul writes.
Peter writes.
John writes.
The New Testament is completed.

So the Word of the Lord spread, the disciples multiplied, and the church grew. Even in the face of intense opposition, the first Christians proclaimed this message:

Jesus is Lord!
He is risen from the dead!

They said to anyone would listen, "If you will repent and believe the gospel, Jesus will give you power over sin, over death, over hell, and over the world, the flesh and the devil."

Jesus Christ is Lord!

Act 6: God completes redemption

If you go all the way to the end of the New Testament, to the book of Revelation, there we find pictured the final act of history - the return of Jesus Christ to the earth.

It begins this way:

"The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place."

If it was soon 2000 years ago, how much longer can it be?

Jesus Christ is coming again! That's an amazing thought. Magnificent! Thrilling! Unbelievable!

Acts 1:11 says that "this same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven."

"This same Jesus."

Not someone like Jesus.
Not a group of Jesus scholars.
But Jesus himself is coming again.

Coming soon to Montreal.
Coming soon to Calcutta.
Coming soon to Beijing.
Coming soon to Edmonton.
Coming soon to Auckland.
Coming soon to a city, a town, a village, a street, a home near you.

When he comes the second time, it will not be as Savior. It will be as judge.

He came the first time as the Lamb of God.
He comes again as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah.

When Christ finally appears the second time, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.


For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

The best is yet to come.

No wonder the Bible ends with these words:

"He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen." (Revelation 22:20-21).

That is the Bible.

God creates man.
Man rebels.
God initiates redemption.
God accomplishes redemption.
God gives birth to the church.
God completes redemption.

If we imagine the Bible as a great sanctuary and every book in the Bible as a seat in the sanctuary, then we can say wherever you go in the Bible, you've got a great view because you can see Jesus everywhere.

In Genesis he's the Seed of the Woman.
In Exodus he's the Passover Lamb.
In Leviticus he's the Scapegoat.
In Numbers he's the Serpent lifted up in the Wilderness.
In Deuteronomy he's the Cities of Refuge.

In Joshua he's the Scarlet thread on Rahab's house.
In Judges he's the Perfect Judge.
In Ruth he's the Kinsman Redeemer.
In I Samuel he's the Trusted Prophet.
In 2 Samuel he's the True Son of David.
In 1 Kings he's the Promise Keeper.
In 2 Kings he's the Jealous God.
In 1 Chronicles he's our Reigning King.
In 2 Chronicles he's our Deliverer.
In Ezra he's the Faithful Scribe.
In Nehemiah he's the Rebuilder of Broken Walls.
In Esther he's Mordecai at the Gate.

In Job he's My Redeemer Who Lives Today.
In Psalms he's the Lord who is my Shepherd.
In Proverbs he's our Wisdom.
In Ecclesiastes he's our True Satisfaction.
In Song of Solomon he's the Beautiful Bridegroom.

In Isaiah he's the Suffering Servant.
In Jeremiah he's the Righteous Branch.
In Lamentations he's the Weeping Prophet.
In Ezekiel he's the Son of Man.
In Daniel he's the Fourth Man in the Furnace.

In Hosea he's the Faithful Husband.
In Joel he's the One Who Restores.
In Amos he's the Burden Bearer.
In Obadiah he's the Mighty Judge.
In Jonah he's the Foreign Missionary.
In Micah he's our Peace.
In Nahum he's the Avenger.
In Habakkuk he's the Lord in His Holy Temple.
In Zephaniah he's the Lord Mighty to Save.
In Haggai he's the Lord of Hosts.
In Zechariah he's the Fountain of Cleansing.
In Malachi he's the Sun of Righteousness.

In Matthew he's the Promised Messiah.
In Mark he's the Faithful Servant.
In Luke he's Friend of Sinners.
In John he's the Son of God.

In Acts he's the Ascended Lord.

In Romans he's the Justifier.
In 1 Corinthians he's our Righteousness.
In 2 Corinthians he's the God of All Comfort.
In Galatians he's the Redeemer from the Curse of the Law.
In Ephesians he's the Head of the Church.
In Philippians he's the All-Sufficient Christ.
In Colossians he's the Fullness of God.

In 1 Thessalonians he's the Lord Coming Down from Heaven.
In 2 Thessalonians he's the Judge coming with Blazing Fire.
In 1 Timothy he's our Mediator.
In 2 Timothy he's our Master.
In Titus he's the Blessed Hope.
In Philemon he's the One Who Paid Our Debt.

In Hebrews he's Our Great High Priest.
In James he's the Judge Standing at the Door.
In 1 Peter he's the Chief Shepherd.
In 2 Peter he's the Morning Star.
In 1 John he's the Word of Life.
In 2 John he's the Son of the Father.
In 3 John he's the Truth.
In Jude he's the Lord Coming with countless thousands of his saints.

In Revelation he's the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

He's the Theme of the Bible.
The whole book is about him.

If you know the Bible but you don't know Jesus, you've missed the whole point.

Of his kingdom there will be no end.
He shall reign forever and ever and ever.
King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Hallelujah! Amen.

Acknowledgement:

This sermon owes a great deal to a message on the same theme by my friend Ryan Whitley, pastor of Crosspoint Church in Trussville, Alabama.

© Keep Believing Ministries

Jesus Is The Future

by Stuart Briscoe

"In the face of all terror and uncertainty and illusion about the future we gladly point to Jesus and say that he is the future." -Theodore W. Jennings, Jr.

In March of 1942, Pearl Harbor was still in ruins and Japanese forces were tightening their grip on the Philippines. General Douglas MacArthur was following orders by President Roosevelt to leave the islands to "relocate." But it felt like a step in the wrong direction for the seasoned soldier. Perhaps trying to convince himself of the necessity of the move, he would later write, "We are not retreating; we are advancing in another direction." At the end of that month, he uttered the now famous words: "I came through, and I shall return."

Nearly 2000 years before that day, another Man had made a similar promise. He was leaving for good reason, and His promise to come again was even more certain. That man was Jesus Christ. Approximately 300 passages in Scripture allude to Christ's second coming-a return that will be swift, righteous, and unexpected for many. Jesus gave His word that He would be back, and through that promise, we can find tangible hope and clear direction for our lives today.

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." - John 14:1-3

Life can slip away on us quickly. As days turn to weeks and weeks to years, and years turn into decades, it's easy to lose focus on the promise of John 14. Being distracted from this future event, however, can rob us of precious perspective for today.

MacArthur made good on his promise, returning to the Philippines as the Allies pushed back through the Pacific. Jesus will return too. He is the ultimate promise keeper. When? I'm not sure, but we're at least 24 hours closer to that event than we were yesterday at this time, so…"Don't let your heart be troubled. Trust in God!"

Jesus, open the implications of Your Word to me now. Tell me the truth! In the days ahead, I want to ponder the meaning of Your return and prepare accordingly. Counsel me by Your Spirit so that I might live each remaining day with wisdom and purpose. Amen.

Source: Experiencing LIFE Today

If You Seek Him, Jesus Will Find You
Scripture: Psalms 123; 1 Corinthians 10:1-18

Whom Are You Seeking?

Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?"
John 20:15

The first person Jesus appeared to after His death was to Mary Magdalene. She had already told the disciples that Jesus' body was missing. Peter and John ran to see. Peter did see but John saw and believed. The word "believe" means that he put his trust in God for what had happened. None of them had yet understood the resurrection. He just believed that God was responsible for the missing body of Jesus.

While the disciples went home, Mary stayed at the tomb. She wept and stooped down to look into the tomb. Two angels in white were seated there and they spoke with her. She continued crying and questioning and seeking Jesus, despite the actual presence of angels. She would only be satisfied with Jesus Himself. Jesus stood behind her, but it wasn't until He called her by name that she turned and clung to Him. I can imagine Mary was thinking, "You got away from me once and I am not letting You go again." Once again, Mary went to the disciples, but this time with a different message. She had sought Jesus and He found her.

The first person Jesus revealed Himself to as "the Christ" was the Samaritan woman (John 4). And the first person Jesus revealed Himself to after His death was Mary Magdalene. If you, male or female, are seeking Jesus, He will reveal Himself to you. He shows no partiality or favoritism. We are all given the same Holy Spirit, and one day, we each will behold our Lord face to face. But as of today His promise stands that if you seek Him, you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart. Whom are you seeking?

Source: Daily Disciples Devotional

Finish the Race With God at Your Side

by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com Entertainment Editor

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
- 2 Timothy 4:7

The other day I was flipping through videos of old Olympic events when I came across one you might be familiar with. It followed the 1992 men’s 400 meter track semi-final in Barcelona. The race started out like any other Olympic event. The runners took their mark, and at the sound of the starters pistol took off at lightning speed.

Halfway around the track though, a runner named Derek Redmond suddenly stumbled and fell. For several seconds he didn’t move. Then to the audience horror, Redmond got up and began to limp his way around the track. Instantly coaches and medics ran onto the field and tried to get Redmond off his feet, but the runner only pushed them off and kept going. Suddenly a man broke through security and came running to Redmond’s side, it was his father.

Taking his son by the hand, the older man held Redmond up as the two of them half walked; half stumbled their way across the finish line. Sometimes, there are things in this world that point more strongly to God than any Bible verse we can memorize, and I believe the story of Redmond and his father is one of them. Life is not a race we are going to win. At some point, whether because of this fallen world or our own sin nature, all of us will stumble and fall. Many people believe that these times of tragedy prove God either does not exist, or simply does not care what happens to us, but they are wrong.

True Christian grace is that in those moments of pain and defeat, God takes us by the hand, holds us up, and says, “Let’s finish together.”

Intersecting Faith and Life:

Take ten minutes to pray, read scripture, or simply spend some time alone with our Heavenly Father.

Further Reading

Isaiah 40:31

Source: Crosswalk the Devotional

Hidden Hardships Behind Closed Doors

by Sharon Glasgow

"On the day I called, You answered me; You made me bold with strength in my soul." Psalm 138:3 (NASB)

Hidden behind the door of many homes is the reality of hardship. A devastated home isn't always apparent on first impressions, is it?

Take Susanna Wesley's life for instance. A quick glance reveals she was married to a preacher in the late 1600s. They had 10 children, two of which grew up to bring tens of thousands of people to Christ: John and Charles Wesley. Sounds like a sweet story, doesn't it?

But if we look behind the door of her home, hard conditions were the norm. Her husband, Sam, couldn't (or wouldn't) manage their finances well. They disagreed on everything from money to politics. This couple actually had 19 children; sadly, nine died in infancy. Sam left Susanna for long periods of time - sometimes over something as simple as an argument - leaving the duty of raising their children to her alone.

One of their children was unable to walk. Another couldn't talk until the age of six. Susanna herself was desperately sick most of her life. Their home burned to the ground twice; everything they owned crumbled to ashes. One of her daughters became pregnant out of wedlock. They had no money for food or necessities. Sam even went to debtor's prison.

Long before Susanna had an inkling of how difficult her married life would be, she made the Lord a promise. When she was young, Susanna committed that for every hour she spent in entertainment, she would give the same amount of time to Him in prayer and in the Word.

Taking care of the house and raising so many kids made this commitment nearly impossible to fulfill. She had no time for either entertainment or long hours in prayer! This wife and mother worked the gardens, milked the cow, schooled the children and managed the entire house herself.

It would have been understandable if Susanna reneged on her promise to the Lord. But she didn't. Instead, she gave the Lord two hours a day in prayer!

As you can imagine with 10 kids, she struggled to find a quiet place to get away with God. So she advised her children that when her apron was over her head, that meant she was in prayer and couldn't be disturbed.

Susanna was devoted to her walk with Christ, praying for her children, and growing in the knowledge of the Word ... no matter how hard life was.

This dedicated woman's story may have never been known to anyone but the Lord and her children, except for the fact that her example greatly inspired two of her sons. They both said that their mom influenced them more than any other person.

John and Charles Wesley became powerhouses for the glory of the Lord. John preached to nearly a million people in the 1700s. He brought revival everywhere he traveled and taught the Word of God! Charles wrote over 9000 hymns, many of which we still sing today.

In the middle of great hardships, Susanna consistently tapped into her source of strength. She connected intentionally with the Lord every day. It's amazing how her choices influenced not only her family, but also countless individuals, families and worshippers over the years.

Hidden behind the door of my home, I want my children to see a mom who prays, no matter how busy I am or how hard my circumstances. I'm going to continue letting Susanna's example influence me. How about you?

Dear Lord, I need Your wisdom, peace and strength. Help me to rely on You and not myself. In Jesus' Name, amen.

Reflect and Respond:

How much time are you spending with Jesus every day in prayer and in the Word?

Make a plan for how you can increase your time with Him. When your kids grow up, how will they describe how you handled hardships?

Power Verses:

"Her children arise up, and call her blessed ..." -  Proverbs 31:28a (KJV)

"Seek the LORD and his strength, seek his face continually." - 1 Chronicles 16:11 (KJV)

Source: Encouragement for Today. © 2013 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

Prayer/Hymn - Iesu, Dulcis Memoria
Jesus, the very thought of Thee
Iesu, Dulcis Memoria is a celebrated 12th century hymn attributed to St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153), Doctor Mellifluus. The entire hymn has some 42 to 53 stanzas depending upon the manuscript.

Jesus, the very thought of Thee
With sweetness fills the breast!
Yet sweeter far Thy face to see
And in Thy presence rest.

No voice can sing, no heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find,
A sweeter sound than Jesus' name,
The Savior of mankind.

O hope of every contrite heart!
0 joy of all the meek!
To those who fall, how kind Thou art!
How good to those who seek!

But what to those who find? Ah! this
Nor tongue nor pen can show
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.

Jesus! our only hope be Thou,
As Thou our prize shalt be;
In Thee be all our glory now,
And through eternity. Amen. 

More Resources For Study and Reflection

We celebrate the Nativity of Virgin Mary on September 8. To learn more about St. Mary, her life, and her role in the Church, please visit Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary.

This supplement includes the previous years' specials on St. Mary published by Malankara World Journal.

You can access Malankara World Supplement on St. Mary at:
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/shunoyo/StMary.htm

 Malankara World Library with devotionals, prayer, essays and sermons are available at:

Malankara World Library

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Default.htm

Please keep an eye for the Malankara World Journal Specials planned for the Ettu Nombu in 2013. This is the seventh in a series of 8 planned (Issues 161-168) for Ettu Nomb - 2013.

If you missed any of the first six special issues, you can access them here:

Volume 3 No 161: September 1, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 1

Volume 3 No 162: September 2, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 2

Volume 3 No 163: September 3, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 3

Volume 3 No 164: September 4, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 4

Volume 3 No 165: September 5, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 5

Volume 3 No 166: September 6, 2013
Ettu Nombu (8 Days Lent) Special - Day 6

See Also:

Malankara World Journal Issue 168
Theme: Nativity of St. Mary, The Theotokos

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