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

New Year Special

Volume 3 No. 186 December 31, 2013

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Happy New Year!
We wish you all a Happy New Year
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. A New Year, A New You!

2. Bible Readings for New Years Day (Jan 1)

Bible Readings For New Year - Circumcision of our Lord, Feast of St. Basil and St. Gregory

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_New_Year_Day.htm

3. Sermons for New Years Day (Jan 1)

Sermons for January 1 - Circumcision of our Lord, Feast of St. Basil and St. Gregory

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_new_years_day.htm

4. Alpha and Omega

My child, you are often confused about who I am and where you are going. When you arise in the morning, I am there with you. When you work through the day, you will find Me close by. From the time you open your eyes until I close them in sleep at night, I am always with you, ready to guide you. Do not worry about knowing how you fit into My plans. Be concerned only with knowing Me and spending time together. Your future is in My hands. ...

5. New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve preaches to us that life terminates. The year comes to an end, and you and I do not have the power to retain it. This year will go down in history and a new year will spring forth. In the same way, our lives will be laid down, and we will enter into eternity, but the Lord has given us this life to prepare for it. ...

6. Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God. ...

7. Are We Zombies?

As the New Year is around us, let's look at verses 26-30 from Luke chapter 17. It describes how people will be living during the time of Jesus' return.

What's interesting is that Christ doesn't say that people will be sinning during these last days. Instead, he focuses on people doing everyday activities such as buying, eating, and drinking. So what's Christ trying to tell us here? One interpretation is that their minds were focused on daily matters, the little stuff, such that they missed out on the more important things in life. They're like zombies, living life day-by-day like a programmed computer. Get up, eat, go to school or work, eat, sleep…get up, eat, go to school or work, eat, sleep…

8. Fear Not!

There must be a reason that the Bible tells us (in various ways and in various places) to "fear not" hundreds of times. Fear is such a basic human emotion that many of us constantly live in the grip of fear, worry and anxiety. God told us to "fear not" because he knew that we would all wrestle with fear sooner or later.

What do you do when your fears seem to be winning the day? What if you pray and God still hasn't come through for you? If you are like most people, you begin to lose hope, and you wonder why you bothered to pray in the first place. Deep in the soil of your heart, little seeds of doubt take root, growing up into a harvest of frustration and anger.

It happens to most of us eventually. Some of the best men and women of the Bible struggled with their inner doubts when their dreams didn't come true. ...

9. In 2014, listen up!

Researchers have determined that advertisers bombard us with approximately 2,000,000,007 messages a day telling us to buy, buy, buy. Then, there's the news channels telling us to worry, worry, worry. And there's all the other things we hear from teachers, bosses, spouses, kids… Wow! No wonder we have a hard time with New Year's resolutions. We have so many people telling us what to do, we barely have time to think for ourselves… let alone think about what God thinks. ...

10. A New Year Without Fear

Most of us are afraid of the unknown. And we don't know what this year is going to bring. We really do not. ...

11. Strong into the Night

When King George VI sat down to make his Christmas Day speech to the nation, he was dressed in his official uniform as Admiral of the Fleet. With so many parts of the world facing an uncertain future, his goal was to reassure the people that their nation was prepared and able and their cause right and just.

"A new year is at hand," the king said. "We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted." ...

12. Find Your Moon Next Year

Let us leave our orbit of 2013, with all its struggles and its joys and memories, and let us fully enter a new moment, setting our sights on further stars, charting the course for our highest selves and contributions. Should we wish to change, let us be bold once again.

Yes, let us be brave and find our moon, chasing a vision so big and unimaginable that the mere thought of it brings sweat to our palms, stuns our heart with anxiety, yet never fails to lift our soul with purpose. Under no circumstances shall we settle on challenges that fail to inspire; let them be so real and meaningful to us that we rise each day and pursue them with full intensity, until we have victory or we die. ...

13. Three Steps To A Great Year

Here are the three simple steps to achieving goals. Note: I said simple, I didn't say easy. If it was simple AND easy I wouldn't be writing this newsletter.

First, get very clear about what you want, and what area of your life you want the goal to apply to. ...

14. A Year Free From Regret

For most folks, January 1st was the day for both celebration and taking stock, for enjoying what we have and looking ahead to what the next year holds. But for my dear friend and mentor Howard Stevenson, that day was actually January 3rd - which he calls his second birthday. The occasion of his second birthday - a day six years ago that Howard died…and, remarkably, inexplicably, was given a second chance at life - is important for all of us. ...

15. Malankara World New Year Supplement

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Seasonal/New_Year/Default.htm

Also visit our New Year Special in 2012-3 (Issue 117):

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWJ_117.htm

16. About Malankara World

A New Year, A New You!
Finally, 2013 is history and 2014 has arrived. For many of you, 2013 probably was a challenging year. The world is still suffering from the financial meltdown and the recession. The excessive rains has caused the rubber farmers to stop tapping rubber in Kerala and that meant a major financial loss to the mid-Kerala region. Many of you might have lost your loved ones during the year. I lost my mother and an uncle in 2013.

In in spite of these set backs, I am thankful to God for keeping my family safe and for all His blessings. I met many new people through Malankara World. I am proud that in spite of my busy schedule, I was able to keep the scheduled issues published on time.

The best news we have is that God loves us in spite of our short-comings and sinful nature. He is knocking on our door waiting for us to open it and receive Him inside. Jesus has already paid for our sins by his death on the cross bearing our sins. He is there interceding for us to His Father. And Holy Spirit is with us guiding us.

We may have given and/or received gifts for Christmas. But the best gift is the promise made by Jesus:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27).

Ring Out The Old Year - Ring In Peace

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrow lust of gold:
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.
--Alfred Tennyson.

As we begin this New Year, spend some quiet time with God asking Him to reveal His heart to us and guide us on our path in 2014. No one can promise eternal peace other than God. With God there is nothing impossible.

New Year - Let Us Change The World!

May this New Year bring Peace, Health and Happiness.

Let every dawn of morning be to you as the beginning of life, and every setting sun be to you as its close.
--John Ruskin.

The night is far spent, and the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.
--Romans 13. 12.

Let us pray: My Father, as we look to the past days, we feel much of our happiness and much of our misery has come from our own choices. May we be more watchful of our standards and less wasteful of our time, and keep a poise in life that will leave a memory of well-spent days. For the year that has passed and for its blessings we thank thee. Amen.

Wishing you all a very Happy, Healthy , Blessed and Prosperous 2014!

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

New Year's Day in Church
Bible Readings for New Years Day (Jan 1)
Bible Reading For New Year (January 1) -
Circumcision of our Lord, Feast of St. Basil and St. Gregory

Sermons for New Years Day (Jan 1)
This Week's Features

Alpha and Omega

by Rebecca Barlow Jordan

"I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End."

- Revelation 21:6

FROM THE FATHER'S HEART

My child, you are often confused about who I am and where you are going. When you arise in the morning, I am there with you. When you work through the day, you will find Me close by. From the time you open your eyes until I close them in sleep at night, I am always with you, ready to guide you. Do not worry about knowing how you fit into My plans. Be concerned only with knowing Me and spending time together. Your future is in My hands.

A GRATEFUL RESPONSE

In Your time, Lord, every step is ordered and every thought recorded. You know the past, present, and future. You have planned every day of my life with purpose and love. Gently but firmly You are preparing a glorious ending for me in heaven. I give my life into Your safekeeping. How marvelous is Your wisdom!

SIMPLE TRUTH

Life is a journey that begins and ends with God.

©2002, Rebecca Barlow Jordan, Daily In Your Presence,
Used by Permission, All Rights Reserved

New Year's Eve

by Ralph Bouma

"Go to now, ye that says, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that." JAM 4:13-15.

We have come to the end of another year, which should remind us of the Day of Judgment, when every person will be called to account for every thought, word, and deed. This year has slipped by uncomfortably fast, which reminds us that our lives pass by "swifter than a weaver's shuttle," JOB 7:6. Swiftly our days go by, days that the Lord has given us to prepare for eternity. The Scriptures teach us of the brevity of this life.

We may feel that we are prepared within our hearts, but what about our fellow man? There are many souls in the Lord's vineyard, and we have yet a few hours, a few days, and maybe (if the Lord wills) a few years wherein we may harvest those souls. The harvest is so great and the laborers so few.

It is common to human nature to make big plans for the future, but today is a day of accounting. We can liken New Year's Eve to the Judgment Day when the Lord will call us to account for this past year.

New Year's Eve preaches to us that life terminates. The year comes to an end, and you and I do not have the power to retain it. This year will go down in history and a new year will spring forth. In the same way, our lives will be laid down, and we will enter into eternity, but the Lord has given us this life to prepare for it.

We read in JAM 4:1-3:

"From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."

Has this been our account of the past year? This is who we are by nature, but by God's grace, we can look over this past year and lay it all before the Lord.

Death is so final. There is something about standing beside an open coffin that cannot be described. There is a solemnity of judgment and an awesomeness of eternity. If a bird carries one grain of sand every thousand years, eventually he would move a mountain, yet eternity would have just begun. We should be reminded of the solemnity of eternity at the close of the year.

"In the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be," ECC 11:3. So the Lord calls upon us at the close of each day and especially at the close of each year to examine and account for where we are.

I read about a funeral in which the pastor said that the dead man had been delivered from the struggles of life and had entered heaven. Then when the service was over, a gentleman approached the pastor and asked, "Pastor, how do you know that man went to heaven?"

The pastor said, "What do you mean? Why do you question it?"

The man replied, "I worked for this man for thirty years. I know that he was very astute and had done extensive traveling, and I know that he always carefully planned his itinerary. Pastor, if this man was planning the journey that you say he made, then why did he never plan for it? I never once saw him reading his Bible or making any plans for eternity. What evidence do you have that he took the journey that you say he took?"

While we have breath in our nostrils, we must take time to examine our records, our hearts, and our lives; we must check our visas to make sure that when we launch out on that journey we will not be stopped at the border. Amen.

While with ceaseless course the sun
Hasted through the former year,
Many souls their race have run,
Never more to meet us here;
Fixed in an eternal state,
They have done with all below;
We a little longer wait,
But how little none can know.

As the winged arrow flies
Speedily the mark to find,
As the lightning from the skies
Darts, and leaves no trace behind,
Swiftly thus our fleeting days
Bear us down life's rapid stream;
Upward, Lord, our spirits raise,
All below is but a dream.

Thanks for mercies past receive,
Pardon of our sins renew;
Teach us hence-forth how to live
With eternity in view;
Bless thy Word to young and old;
Fill us with a Saviour's love;
And when life's short tale is told,
May we dwell with Thee above.
John Newton, 1774

Ten Questions to Ask at the Start of a New Year

by Dr. Don Whitney

Once, when the people of God had become careless in their relationship with Him, the Lord rebuked them through the prophet Haggai. "Consider your ways!" (Haggai 1:5) he declared, urging them to reflect on some of the things happening to them, and to evaluate their slipshod spirituality in light of what God had told them.

Even those most faithful to God occasionally need to pause and think about the direction of their lives. It's so easy to bump along from one busy week to another without ever stopping to ponder where we're going and where we should be going.

The beginning of a new year is an ideal time to stop, look up, and get our bearings. To that end, here are some questions to ask prayerfully in the presence of God.

1. What's one thing you could do this year to increase your enjoyment of God?

2. What's the most humanly impossible thing you will ask God to do this year?

3. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your family life this year?

4. In which spiritual discipline do you most want to make progress this year, and what will you do about it?

5. What is the single biggest time-waster in your life, and what will you do about it this year?

6. What is the most helpful new way you could strengthen your church?

7. For whose salvation will you pray most fervently this year?

8. What's the most important way you will, by God's grace, try to make this year different from last year?

9. What one thing could you do to improve your prayer life this year?

10. What single thing that you plan to do this year will matter most in 10 years? In eternity?

In addition to these 10 questions, here are 21 more to help you "Consider your ways." Think on the entire list at one sitting, or answer one question each day for a month.

11. What's the most important decision you need to make this year?

12. What area of your life most needs simplifying, and what's one way you could simplify in that area?

13. What's the most important need you feel burdened to meet this year?

14. What habit would you most like to establish this year?

15. Who is the person you most want to encourage this year?

16. What is your most important financial goal this year, and what is the most important step you can take toward achieving it?

17. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your work life this year?

18. What's one new way you could be a blessing to your pastor (or to another who ministers to you) this year?

19. What's one thing you could do this year to enrich the spiritual legacy you will leave to your children and grandchildren?

20. What book, in addition to the Bible, do you most want to read this year?

21. What one thing do you most regret about last year, and what will you do about it this year?

22. What single blessing from God do you want to seek most earnestly this year?

23. In what area of your life do you most need growth, and what will you do about it this year?

24. What's the most important trip you want to take this year?

25. What skill do you most want to learn or improve this year?

26. To what need or ministry will you try to give an unprecedented amount this year?

27. What's the single most important thing you could do to improve the quality of your commute this year?

28. What one biblical doctrine do you most want to understand better this year, and what will you do about it?

29. If those who know you best gave you one piece of advice, what would they say? Would they be right? What will you do about it?

30. What's the most important new item you want to buy this year?

31. In what area of your life do you most need change, and what will you do about it this year?

The value of many of these questions is not in their profundity, but in the simple fact that they bring an issue or commitment into focus. For example, just by articulating which person you most want to encourage this year is more likely to help you remember to encourage that person than if you hadn't considered the question.

If you've found these questions helpful, you might want to put them someplace - in a day planner, PDA, calendar, bulletin board, etc. - where you can review them more frequently than once a year.

So let's evaluate our lives, make plans and goals, and live this new year with biblical diligence, remembering that, "The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage" (Proverbs 21:5). But in all things let's also remember our dependence on our King who said, "Apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5).

About The Author:

Since 2005, Don Whitney has been Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at the southern baptist theological seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, where he also serves as Senior Associate Dean. Before that, he held a similar position (the first such position in the six Southern Baptist seminaries) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, for ten years. He is the founder and president of The Center for Biblical Spirituality. He is the author of several books.

Source: Live It Devotional

Are We Zombies?
Have you heard of zombies? They are imaginary humans in a dead-like state without consciousness. That is, zombies are undead people who cannot make decision on their own; their free-will is taken over by some other. They usually are portrayed walking slowly with hands raised and emotion-less. You may have read a book, watched a scary movie, or played a game involving zombies, such as Resident Evil. Zombies have become so popular that the United States government's Center for Disease Control prepared a zombie-themed disaster preparedness kit. There are even zombie walks organized in different parts of the world, with people dressing up in zombie costumes as they walk around city streets together. What a scary sight!

As the New Year is around us, let's look at verses 26-30 from Luke chapter 17. It describes how people will be living during the time of Jesus' return. Christ tells us:

Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying, being given in marriage up till the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying, selling, planting, building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed.

What's interesting is that Christ doesn't say that people will be sinning during these last days. Instead, he focuses on people doing everyday activities such as buying, eating, and drinking. So what's Christ trying to tell us here? One interpretation is that their minds were focused on daily matters, the little stuff, such that they missed out on the more important things in life. They're like zombies, living life day-by-day like a programmed computer. Get up, eat, go to school or work, eat, sleep…get up, eat, go to school or work, eat, sleep…

Then there are those who become even more zombie-like with addictions to TV shows, alcohol, video games, internet, etc. Something tends to take them over and push everything else aside. This attraction takes a disproportionate chunk of time and energy. It makes them act like zombies.

Of course, we may have a love for positive passions such as hobbies, sports, or even parenting. But we should still ask ourselves: “Is there something that has more of me than it should?” Christ is suggesting from these verses in Luke that the trivial can become consuming, leading us to miss out on God's presence and purpose for life. Some of these attractions might become an idol such that it dulls or ‘zombies' our excitement away from the things of God.

As the New Year is around us, it's a good time to self-reflect by answering these questions:

1) Is there anything that consumes my energy and time more than it should?

2) What steps can I take to ensure that my life does not become zombie-like?

3) How can I prioritize and plan out my time for things that matter in the long-run?

As we answer these questions, let's also recall Christ's words: “Seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).

Fear Not!

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Scripture: Genesis 15:1

What are you afraid of?

Recently Caty Medrano published an article called Top 10 Strong Human Fears. These are the top fears shared by people everywhere. The list in many ways is self-explanatory.

10. Losing Your Freedom
9. The Unknown
8. Pain
7. Disappointment
6. Misery
5. Loneliness
4. Ridicule
3. Rejection
2. Death
1. Failure

Many of these fears are tied together, such as death and the unknown, rejection and ridicule, pain and misery, and failure and loneliness. We can also observe that these are mostly existential fears that describe an inner condition of the heart. That is, these are not fears of specific things. In the latter category, I ran across a Gallup Poll answering the question, What scares Americans most? In order the answers are:

1. Snakes
2. Public Speaking
3. Heights
4. Being closed in a small space
5. Spiders
6. Needles and getting shots
7. Mice
8. Flying on an airplane
9. Dogs
10. Thunder and lightning
11. Going to the doctor
12. The dark

This is obviously a much more concrete list. I can identify with the part about snakes, heights, needles and spiders. I fly so much that airplanes don't bother me, and I speak so much that while I do get nervous sometimes, I don't "fear" public speaking. I have no clue how dogs could possibly make that list. I cannot imagine why anyone would be afraid of Dudley and Gary, our two fine basset hounds. And while I may not fear the dark, I sometimes find little noises waking me up with a start in the middle of the night.

We all have our fears, don't we?

Your list won't be same as mine, but we can all identify with some things on the second list and most of the first list. If we aren't worried about mice, we certainly fear rejection by those we love. And we all think about our own death from time to time. When will it happen and under what circumstances? If we are wise, we also wonder, what then?

I'm not surprised that fear of failure comes at the top for many people. How frustrating to feel like you've wasted your short sojourn on planet earth. It's a terrible thing to conclude that your life was a bust because it didn't turn out the way you hoped it would.

Somewhere in all our thinking God has to figure into the equation. There must be a reason that the Bible tells us (in various ways and in various places) to "fear not" hundreds of times. Fear is such a basic human emotion that many of us constantly live in the grip of fear, worry and anxiety. God told us to "fear not" because he knew that we would all wrestle with fear sooner or later.

What do you do when your fears seem to be winning the day? What if you pray and God still hasn't come through for you? If you are like most people, you begin to lose hope, and you wonder why you bothered to pray in the first place. Deep in the soil of your heart, little seeds of doubt take root, growing up into a harvest of frustration and anger.

It happens to most of us eventually. Some of the best men and women of the Bible struggled with their inner doubts when their dreams didn't come true.

Waiting for a Baby

Abraham's story illustrates that truth. In order to get the context, we have to go back forty centuries, back to a time long ago and far away, to a place called Ur of the Chaldees, a large city on the banks of the Euphrates River. That river still exists. It flows through Iraq and empties into the Persian Gulf not far from Kuwait.

Historians tell us that Ur was one of the most important cities of the ancient world. In Abraham's day perhaps 250,000 people lived there. There was an ancient university in Ur and a large library. Ur was known as a center for mathematics, astronomy, and international commerce. It was like Chicago or New York or London or Singapore.

What else do we know about Abraham (he is first called Abram, and later Abraham) as the story begins? He's about seventy-five years old when we meet him, which in those days would be considered middle-aged. He's a prosperous businessman who is no doubt well-known to many people. He and his wife Sarah (first called Sarai), and they have no children. It is against that backdrop that God speaks to Abram for the first time in Genesis 12:1-3:

The Lord had said to Abram, "Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you."

Later God promised to give him descendants "like the dust of the earth" (Genesis 13:16). Ten years quickly pass without any sign of children. Abraham is almost eighty-five and not getting any younger. Sarah is far past child-bearing age. Even though he has just won a great victory (see Genesis 14), nothing can satisfy his deep desire for a son.

Only those who have gone through this experience can fully empathize with Abraham and Sarah. There is no sadness like the sadness of wanting children of your own but being unable to have them. Even in this day of modern medicine and advanced technology, many couples wait for years and some couples wait forever.

I think Abraham's greatest fear stemmed from the fact that God did not seem in a hurry to give them a child. How much longer would he wait? Why had he delayed? Had God changed his mind? Was there some problem he didn't know about? Had they sinned? Were they doing something displeasing to God? Why was Sarah's womb still closed? If God had promised, why was it taking so long to be fulfilled? Should they go to Plan B? All those questions were running through Abram's mind. God knew exactly what his servant was thinking. He saw the doubt. He understood the fear. Now he moves to reassure Abram that all will be well. The time has not yet come for the child to be born, but it isn't far off either.

"I Am Your Shield"

"After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: 'Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your very great reward'" (Genesis 15:1).

There are at least four reasons Abram could have doubted God's promise of a son:

1. He was too old.
2. Many years had passed since the promise had been given.
3. Nothing like this had ever happened before.
4. Sarah also doubted God's promise.

When you think about it, there was no reason to believe-no reason except that God had promised to do it. The question now is simple: Will God's promise be enough for Abraham?

In answer to that question, God declares, "I am your shield." We should not think of a small shield that covers only the chest area, but rather of a shield that stretches from head to toe and completely protects every part of the soldier's body. Such a shield offers complete protection from every attack of the enemy.

To call God our shield means two specific things:

1. He protects us in times of doubt.
2. He rescues us in times of danger.

Note that God does not say, "I will give you a shield," but "I am your shield." The very God of heaven says that he will be our shield, which means we have a shield that is omnipotent, universal, eternal. That shield cannot be defeated. It is as strong as God himself.

We could not be in a better position. Who can defeat us when God himself is our shield?

The great message is certainly clear. If God is your shield, fear not!

Immortal Until

It has been said that "a Christian is immortal until his work on earth is done." That statement means that nothing can harm you without God's permission. Not cancer, not AIDS, not bankruptcy, not theft, not physical disability, not the loss of your job, not a terrible accident, not the death of a child, not any of a thousand other sorrows that afflict the children of God. Christians aren't immune to sadness. What happens to others also happens to us. The difference is this. We know that God protects us from harm so that nothing can touch us that doesn't first pass through his hands of love. That knowledge doesn't mean that we don't weep or we don't suffer. Far from it. But it is the basis for the statement that "we sorrow but not as those who have no hope" (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Our sorrow is different precisely because we hope in God.

"You Can Do Nothing to Me"

A missionary told me how she had nearly been put in jail when a hostile lawyer began harassing her and the local Christian hospital. He objected to the fact that the hospital openly did evangelism along with its compassionate medical care. Seeking a pretext for legal action, the lawyer accused the hospital of illegally selling intravenous fluid to its patients. It wasn't true, but that didn't matter. For nearly ten years the case bumped up and down the court system of that country. At one point several years ago it appeared likely that the missionary might either be thrown in jail or forced to leave the country. "I'm going to shut down this hospital," the lawyer chortled, "And you're going to jail or I'll have you deported."

To which the missionary replied, "You can do nothing to me except what my God permits you to do."

That's a perfectly biblical answer. Our God is a shield around his people. Nothing can touch us except that which God permits.

Why God Delays His Answers

That brings us back to the central issue. Why did God wait so long to give Abraham a son? Abraham was seventy-five when God first spoke to him and one hundred when Isaac was finally born. He was almost eighty-five when God came to him and said, "Fear not." After all these years God still wasn't ready to answer Abraham's prayers. Abraham was old, but he would be older yet before Isaac was finally born.

Of all the questions that plague the people of God, none is so vexing as the question of unanswered prayer. We know God loves us and has a good plan for our lives. Why then does God take so long to answer our deepest, most heartfelt prayers? From Abraham's experience we may suggest three answers:

1. To develop perseverance in us.

To put it very simply, it would be too easy if God answered all our prayers the first time we prayed them. Not only would we take God for granted, we would also develop a shallow faith.

I have a good friend who is stuck in a difficult job situation. She works with a colleague who has a reputation for being an easygoing nice guy. "But he's not like that behind the scenes," she says. Every time she has a good idea, he either steals it or complains to the boss. And since his job is more important than hers, he always wins. He also uses threats and intimidation to get his way. He thinks only of himself and how he can get ahead, and he doesn't mind being ruthless if that's what it takes to get what he wants.

Sound familiar? Every office probably has a person who answers to that description. When I asked my friend if she was planning on leaving her job, she gave a very wise answer: "I know that God put me here and gave me the talent to do my job. If he wants to move me, that's fine, but I'm not going to try to do it myself. I'm sure God can use me in this position and I want to learn everything he is trying to teach me."

Here is a woman whose faith is growing stronger through a difficult situation. Every day she is being given new opportunities to trust God and to respond graciously to an unkind coworker. Meanwhile, she prays for God to work in her and through her and, if necessary, to change her situation. My own feeling is that God will eventually answer her prayers by either moving her on to a new job or by removing the other person. But that may not happen for months or years, and until then, my friend is developing many godly qualities as she patiently waits on the Lord.

2. To ensure that God alone gets the glory.

When Paul wrote about Abraham's story, he mentioned this point prominently. Romans 4:19-21 says,

"Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead-since he was about a hundred years old-and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised."

Not only did Abraham have to wait twenty-five years for an answer to his prayers, he also had to suffer the humiliation of his own failed schemes. Immediately after God spoke to him in Genesis 15, he agreed with Sarah to sleep with their maidservant Hagar in hope of conceiving a child through her. It worked, and Ishmael was born. But this shortsighted attempt to "help God out" backfired and brought sadness and heartache to everyone involved.

God often delays his answers so that we will have plenty of opportunity to fail using our own resources. Only then does God act, but when he does, it demonstrates that he alone is responsible for answering our prayers and that he alone must get the glory.

3. To deepen our trust in God.

I think that's why Hebrews 11 gives more space to Abraham's story than to any other Old Testament hero. He is the preeminent man of faith in the Bible. When we read his story and see how long he waited (twenty-five years), we gain a new perspective on our own situation.

If Abraham had to wait, it should not surprise us that we will often have to wait a long time for the fulfillment of our dreams and the answers to our prayers. And as with Abraham, waiting is not bad if it causes us to deepen our trust in God and to learn more about his character.

The Answer is a Person

God's answer to fear is not an argument or a formula. It's a Person. That's why he said to Abraham, "Fear not. I am your shield." God himself is the final answer to every fear of the human heart.

Have you ever wondered why God called himself by the name "I AM" in the Old Testament? Above all else, it means that God is eternally existent and therefore all creation depends on him. God stands alone. No one can be compared to him. He is complete in himself. God doesn't need us but we desperately need him.

Think of it this way. To say that God is the great "I AM" means that when we come to him, he is everything we need at exactly that moment. It's as if God is saying . . .

I am your strength.
I am your courage.
I am your health.
I am your hope.
I am your supply.
I am your defender.
I am your deliverer.
I am your forgiveness.
I am your joy.
I am your future.

God is saying to you and me, "I am whatever you need whenever you need it." He is the all-sufficient God for every crisis.

From Fear to Faith

Let's wrap up this message by looking at four principles that will move us from fear to faith.

1. Faith focuses on God, not on your problems.

A woman told me that she had changed her phone number and left it unlisted because she is gripped with fear as she thinks about certain people and what they might do to her. As we talked together, I finally said, "It's time to move from fear to faith. Are you ready to move with me?" She smiled hesitantly and then said yes. We prayed, claiming God's promises of protection. When I saw her the next day she said that she had slept much better that night because she wasn't focusing on her fears.

Think of Abraham. The past argued against his ever having a child. So did the present. His only hope lay in the promises of God for the future. As long as he looked back, he would never have faith to believe God. His only hope was to step out into the future, trusting that somehow, someway God would keep his promises.

2. Faith trusts in God's timing, not your own.

So many of our struggles with fear start right here. Deep down, we fear that God has somehow made a mistake in his dealings with us. Like Abraham, we have waited and waited-sometimes for years on end. Even though we may have seen many remarkable answers to prayer, the one thing that means the most to us has not been granted.

As I write these words I am thinking of certain people I know who pray faithfully week after week for their loved ones to be saved. Some of them write notes each week asking prayer for an unsaved husband or wife. Week in and week out the requests come in and the staff prays for them faithfully. One husband has been praying for his wife for many years with no real change in sight. Another wife faithfully requests prayer for her husband. Sometimes he seems interested in spiritual things, and then his interest suddenly seems to disappear.

Where is God? Why doesn't he answer the fervent, heartfelt prayers of his people?

Of the many answers that might be given to that question, one answer must be that God's timing and ours are often quite different. Sometimes it seems like we live in one time zone and God lives in another.

3. Faith grows by believing God in spite of your circumstances.

Sometimes our circumstances make it easy to believe in God; other times we have to struggle. As I write these words I have a friend who is entering the final stages of his battle with cancer. After long and difficult treatments, there is nothing else the doctors can do. He is one of the finest men I know; a man whose gentle spirit endears him to others. No one knows how much time he has left, but it seems to be a matter of a few days. The last time I talked with him, he spoke about the goodness of God. He added that he and his wife had had a long and happy life together and they knew that God would take care of them. His wife said simply, "No matter what happens we are trusting in the Lord." That's biblical faith rising above circumstances to lay hold of the eternal promises of God.

4. Faith obeys God one step at a time.

This principle is often overlooked by those seeking to do God's will. God promised a child and Abraham desperately wanted to see the fulfillment of that promise. So what does God tell him to do? Round up the animals for a sacrifice (see Genesis 15:9-11). How do you get from there to the nursery? Abraham doesn't have a clue and God doesn't tell him a thing. But Abraham now has a choice. He can choose to obey God, round up the animals, and get ready for a sacrifice, even though it doesn't seem to connect with the son of his dreams. Or he can argue with God or decide to take matters in his own hands.

How often we stumble over this. We slight the near in favor of the far, shirking the duties of today because we are dreaming about some distant tomorrow. But until we have done what God has called us to do today, we will never be prepared for what he wants us to do tomorrow.

In the end 99 percent of life turns out to be humdrum, ordinary routine. It's the same old thing day after day. Yet out of the humdrum God is weaving an unseen pattern that will one day lead us in a new direction. Faith take the next step- whatever it is-and walking with God wherever he leads us. Sometimes it will make sense, other times it won't. But we still have to take that step if we are going to do God's will.

Can God Be Trusted?

Everything I've been trying to say comes down to one simple question: Can God be trusted to do what is right? If the answer is yes, then we can face the worst that life has to offer. If the answer is no, then we're no better off than the people who have no faith at all. In fact, if the answer is no or if we're not sure, then we really don't have any faith anyway.

When my father died 38 years ago, I came face to face with the ultimate unanswerable question of life. I didn't know then why such a good man would have to die at the age of fifty-six or why he would leave my mother and her four sons without a husband and a father. I had no clue about what God was doing. In the years since then I have learned many things about life, but I confess that I still don't understand why my father died. It doesn't make any more sense to me now than it did then. I am older and wiser, but in the one question that really matters I have no answers. But I have learned since then that faith is a choice you make. Sometimes you choose to believe because of what you see; often you believe in spite of what you can see.

As I look to the world around me, many things remain mysterious and unanswerable. But if there is no God, and if he is not good, then nothing at all makes sense. I have chosen to believe because I must believe. I truly have no other choice.

"But I Can Trust"

Pioneer missionary J. Hudson Taylor founded the China Inland Mission in 1865. During the terrible days of the Boxer Rebellion (1898-1901), when missionaries were being captured and killed, he went through such agony of soul that he could not pray. Writing in his journal, he summarized his spiritual condition this way: "I can't read. I can't think. I can't pray. But I can trust."

There will be times when we can't read the Bible. Sometimes we won't be able to focus our thoughts on God at all. Often we will not even be able to pray. But in those moments when we can't do anything else, we can still trust in the loving purposes of our heavenly Father.

Fear not, child of God. No one knows what a day may bring. Who knows if we will all make it through this week? But our God is faithful to keep every one of his promises. Nothing can happen to us except it first passes through the hands of God. If your way is dark, keep on believing. His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he cares for you.

© Keep Believing Ministries

In 2014, listen up!

by Pete Briscoe

"A New Year's resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other."
-
Anonymous

Researchers have determined that advertisers bombard us with approximately 2,000,000,007 messages a day telling us to buy, buy, buy. Then, there's the news channels telling us to worry, worry, worry. And there's all the other things we hear from teachers, bosses, spouses, kids… Wow! No wonder we have a hard time with New Year's resolutions. We have so many people telling us what to do, we barely have time to think for ourselves… let alone think about what God thinks.

So if there is one resolution that I might offer as a valid one for someone who is in Christ, it would be this:

In 2014, just listen up.

Ask Christ to create a quiet spot in your soul where just the two of you can meet, and talk, and rest as you go about your days. Sure, reach for the stars and plan for the future if you wish, but ask Him to make His presence a deeper reality as you go about life.

You can claim the same promise that the prophet Isaiah gave Israel during some very difficult and noisy days of their own:

Your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, "Be gone!"
- Isaiah 30:20-22(ESV)

Where might this lead? I have no idea. But God does. If you are aware of who He is in you, and if you reflect on the truth of His Word and listen to the Spirit, all the details will work themselves out step-by-step.

Lord Jesus, I thank You that You are with me, that You are in me. Resolutions might come in one year and go out the other. Open my ears this year, so that I can hear You and enjoy You at every junction, when You tell me to turn right or left. Amen.

Source: Experiencing LIFE Today

A New Year Without Fear

by Dr. Adrian Rogers

Scripture: Hebrews 13:5-6

Would you take God's word and turn to Hebrews Chapter 13, and in a few moments we're going to read verses 5 and 6, which will be the basis of our study today. Actually today we're talking on this subject, "A New Year Without Fear." Most of us are afraid of the unknown. And we don't know what this year is going to bring. We really do not.

I heard of some men years ago who were on a leaky old ship, in the middle of a rough and stormy sea. And they were actually fearful for their lives. They didn't know whether they were going to sink or not. So one of them went in to see the captain and said, "Captain, are we safe?" He said, "Well, I'll put it to you this way." He said, "The boilers on this ship are very weak and may explode at any moment." He said, "Also, the ship is very old, and she's taking on water." So he said, "To be very honest with you, we may have an explosion, or we may sink." He said, "We may go up, or we may go down, but at any rate, we are going on." And that's the way we are as we face this new year dear friend. Jesus may come, we may go up. We may die, and go down and then up, but at any rate we are going on. Isn't that true. We're going on. We're facing a brand new year, and we don't know what it's going to bring.

You know the old map makers, before they had the modern instruments that we have, when they would draw maps, they would draw maps as far out as they had been, as far out as they had explored, and then when they reached the netherpoint of their exploration, they had not known what would be beyond. And you can see this on old maps, they would write on there, "Beyond this, there may be dragons." Now they'd never seen a dragon, but they didn't know what was out there. And so they would always think that what was in the future, beyond this there be dragons, because they're afraid of the future, they're afraid of the uncharted. They're afraid of the unknown. Beyond this there'd be dragons.

Well actually beyond this, there were golden beaches, verdant fields, and rivers of gold, and beautiful things. But so far as they were concerned, it was uncharted and unknown and therefore fearful. And that's the way many of us feel about the future. Folks I've never seen things change like they have this past year. You know, it's just incredible.

Never in history, so far as I'm concerned, in my study of history, has there ever been a year like the year we've just come through. Incredibly remarkable. And who knows what the new year will bring.

With that in mind, look in God's word. Hebrews Chapter 13, verses 5 and 6, "Let your conversation be without covetousness." Now the word conversation there literally means behavior, "and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man shall do unto me."

Source: Excerpted from a sermon

Strong into the Night
He who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. - Proverbs 29:25

In September 1939, Great Britain allied with France and several other alarmed countries in declaring war on Hitler's Germany, which had invaded Poland in its intended march toward global domination. By the end of the year, anxieties throughout England remained on high alert; everyone was fearful of bombing and invasion.

When King George VI sat down before two large microphones to make his Christmas Day speech to the nation, he was dressed in his official uniform as Admiral of the Fleet. With so many parts of the world facing an uncertain future, his goal was to reassure the people that their nation was prepared and able and their cause right and just.

"A new year is at hand," the king said. "We cannot tell what it will bring. If it brings peace, how thankful we shall all be. If it brings us continued struggle, we shall remain undaunted."

Then, turning to some lines of poetry his wife had recently shared with him, he concluded his speech with these words, which are a fitting close to our year together. They offer a word of encouragement that - we hope - will settle your hearts amid the troubles of our own era in history. These lines are from "The Gate of the Year," a poem written in 1908 by Minnie Louise Haskins:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year "Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."

And he replied, "Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!"

DISCUSS

As you make the turn to a new year, what are you facing that needs you to sink your hand more deeply into God's hand?

PRAY

Pray for one another that as you embark upon a new year, God will grant you and your family His favor.

Source: Moments with You

Find Your Moon Next Year

by Brendon Burchard

Let us leave our orbit of 2013, with all its struggles and its joys and memories, and let us fully enter a new moment, setting our sights on further stars, charting the course for our highest selves and contributions. Should we wish to change, let us be bold once again.

Yes, let us be brave and find our moon, chasing a vision so big and unimaginable that the mere thought of it brings sweat to our palms, stuns our heart with anxiety, yet never fails to lift our soul with purpose. Under no circumstances shall we settle on challenges that fail to inspire; let them be so real and meaningful to us that we rise each day and pursue them with full intensity, until we have victory or we die.

Let us be more disciplined and true, each day taking action, testing things out, failing, getting up again, failing again, learning, rising and rising and rising ever more. This is the stuff of commitment and character, the demands of real contribution.

Let us have vision now to break the boundaries of all that we have ever known, lift above our own competencies and insecurities, take flight fueled only by courage and love, soar high in our service to the world.

Let us remember and draw inspiration from the words of a man who, in 1962, urged us to do the same:

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

To be sure, all this costs us all a good deal of money… Space expenditures will soon rise some more … for we have given this program a high national priority - even though I realize that this is in some measure an act of faith and vision, for we do not now know what benefits await us.

But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, reentering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun - almost as hot as it is here today - and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out - then we must be bold.

Many years ago the great British explorer George Mallory, who was to die on Mount Everest, was asked why did he want to climb it. He said, "Because it is there."

Well, space is there, and we're going to climb it, and the moon and the planets are there, and new hopes for knowledge and peace are there. And, therefore, as we set sail we ask God's blessing on the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked." - President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

Three Steps To A Great Year

by Wes Hopper

"Although Spirit is the very essence of your being, it will never move into form without your assistance. You must always do your part to start the creative process in motion."  Bob Proctor

As we're getting ready to begin a new year let's start by asking how we did with our goals this past year.

Well? How did you do?

OK, so you don't have to answer that. But I suspect that you, like me, have plans to do even better in 2014.

So here are the three simple steps to achieving goals. Note: I said simple, I didn't say easy. If it was simple AND easy I wouldn't be writing this newsletter.

First, get very clear about what you want, and what area of your life you want the goal to apply to.

Second, meditate on the goal until you can see it as accomplished and really feel the certainty of the fact that it's a done deal. That is, take possession of it in your mind and heart.

Third, take bold and decisive action toward bringing that goal to life.

Oh, and step 3 1/2 is important: don't quit!

As Bob says in our quote, goals do not achieve themselves. They require our assistance. Do the inner work, and then do the outer work.

Make 2014 your best year ever!

Source: Gratitude Newsletter

A Year Free From Regret

by Eric Sinoway

For most folks, January 1st was the day for both celebration and taking stock, for enjoying what we have and looking ahead to what the next year holds. But for my dear friend and mentor Howard Stevenson, that day was actually January 3rd - which he calls his second birthday. The occasion of his second birthday - a day six years ago that Howard died…and, remarkably, inexplicably, was given a second chance at life - is important for all of us.

The tale of how Howard escaped death by the slimmest possible margin - and the subsequent book that it inspired me to write, Howard's Gift: Uncommon Wisdom to Inspire Your Life's Work, - has seemingly captured the imagination of countless people around the world. From viewers of CNN to readers of Fortune Magazine and USA Today, it seems as if millions of men and women of all ages, in all lines of work, have discovered something that I have long known: like Bob Proctor himself, the wisdom from Howard Stevenson that I share in Howard's Gift has the power to change people's lives.

Howard's Gift begins with a scenario familiar to many of us: a question about health. For several weeks, Howard - the towering "father of entrepreneurship" at Harvard Business School - had sensed that something was wrong. He wasn't feeling quite himself. But the doctors he consulted - first, second, and third opinions - said he was fine. Then, as he walked across the Harvard campus on the afternoon of January 3rd, 2007, Howard's 66-year old heart … simply stopped and he crumpled to the ground. He had no heart-beat for four minutes. He'd died.

Ultimately, he returned to life through an extraordinary series of circumstances: a mobile defibrillator recently installed nearby and a colleague rushing with it to Howard's side; a friend (who'd received his CPR certification that day!) working tirelessly to resuscitate him; and an ambulance crew who happened to be carrying a special clot busting drug and were trained to inject it directly into the heart.

Nearly as extraordinary - for me, anyway - was a conversation he and I had during his recuperation. Ever the former student, I asked him if, looking back from what could have been the end of his life, he'd had any regrets.

"Nope, no regrets," he said.

With anything, I asked?

"Nope."

His simple, direct answer struck me with force. I certainly couldn't give the same response. And I challenge you to ask yourself if you could either.

That conversation led to lots of questions for me about my own life - and to many further discussions with him about how a person could live a life filled with satisfaction and no regrets.

Those talks and Howard's wisdom - really, his genius learned over decades of inspiring, coaching, and teaching scores of people of all ages - are presented in Howard's Gift so that you, too, may unlock your full potential and achieve a life of meaning, success, and inspiration. Howard and Bob share that rare ability - that "gift" - to help you unlock your full potential, take control of your life, and set yourself on a path to reach your personal and professional dreams.

Howard is just the kind of wise and experienced guide so many of us can use: someone who gently but firmly tests our assumptions, helps us navigate uncharted waters, and empowers us to make big decisions and take calculated risks. For many people, that jolt of inspiration and confidence comes at exactly the right time. January is the time for looking forward, setting objectives for the next year, and investing new energy in pursuing our career and life goals.

In fact, for a whole lot of folks, now is a hugely important time for looking forward. The time when the "hidden victims" of the long recession - people who may have kept their jobs but had to put their dreams and aspirations on hold - are now beginning to ask, "Is it finally time to go for it again?"

The answer for most of us is a clear and resounding YES. But, the answer to the appropriate next question - "Okay, how do I start?" - may not be so clear.

Howard has a very clear and practical answer: "Start at the end."

Here's what he means by this typically counter-intuitive advice: Think about what you want people to say about you at your funeral; how you'd want them to describe all the facets of your life, who you were, and what you'd accomplished.

Then turn that thinking into a concrete vision - a clear picture in your mind that draws together your most highly valued beliefs, desires, goals, and priorities into a holistic portrait of who you aspire to be.

This picture - this "Legacy Vision," as Howard calls it - will become your personal roadmap. It will be the reference point for all the myriad of personal and professional decisions you'll face as you pursue a satisfying and fulfilling life. As important, it will enable you to identify a series of concrete options for the next steps you take in pursuing your goals.

So here's my New Year's wish for you: That you resolve not to just "go for it" but to craft you own personal vision of what "it" means. That you pursue your vision with gusto - free from regret of things not done, dreams not pursued.

That resolution is the gift that Howard Stevenson has given me. A gift that comes wrapped in a renewed sense of life's opportunities - of the wonderful possibilities for creating your own inflection points in life.

It's a gift that I've tried to pass on to many other people through Howard's Gift. And I know that you will not regret seeking Howard's gift for yourself.

About The Author:

Eric Sinoway is president of Axcess Worldwide, a global partnership development firm based in New York and an author, with Merrill Meadow, of "Howard's Gift: Uncommon Wisdom to Inspire Your Life's Work", published by St. Martin's Press.

Malankara World New Year Supplement

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