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

Theme: Magi and Epiphany

Volume 4 No. 189 January 9, 2014

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Sunitha Flowerhill presenting Issue 188 of Malankara World Journal to Theethose Thirumeni
To Theethose Thirumeni From Our World

Malankara World: Sunitha Flowerhill, a member of the Editorial Board of Malankara World, presenting to Theethose Thirumeni the Issue 188, the Souvenir Edition of Malankara World Journal exclusively produced for the occasion of the tenth anniversary celebrations of the ordination of Archbishop HE Yeldo Mor Theethose.

Cover Story: This photo was taken by Robin Roy, Secretary of St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Ohio. There is an amazing story behind this photo. Robin (son of Rev. Fr. Roy Paul, vicar of St. George Jacobite Syrian Cathedral, Karingachira (Kochi) and a member of Malankara World Board) and family were returning from Kerala to Cleveland. His flight from New York to Cleveland was cancelled due to the arctic weather in Northeast US. While stranded in NY, Robin decided to attend Theethose Thirumeni's ordination anniversary celebrations at NY and took this photo. Is this just a happenstance? I do not think so. God has plans and, like in the Joseph's story we are going through in Malankara World Journal, "God meant it good." This is another testimonial of how God intervenes mysteriously when we need Him. Let us praise God for his mercies!!

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (January 12)

Bible Reading For The First Sunday after Denho
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_1st_Sunday_after-Denho.htm

3. Sermons for This Sunday (January 12)

Sermons for the First Sunday After Denho
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_1st-sunday-after-denaha.htm

4. Featured: The Story of Joseph 8 - Are You Satisfied with God?

Joseph had been hated, envied, betrayed, sold into slavery, falsely accused and unfairly accused. Joseph sends the Egyptians away and reveals himself to his brothers who are understandably terrified to meet the brother they sold into slavery 22 years earlier. Now he has them firmly in his grasp. He can order them killed and it will be done. Or tortured. Or thrown into jail. Or anything else he desires to have done to them.

If anyone had a "right" to be bitter, it was Joseph. He has "lost" 22 years of his life. The temptation to get even must have been great. ..

5. Poem: Enlightenment

Enjoy the latest poem from Dr. Mercy Abraham who is well known for her fine poetry that clearly illustrate her yearning for the God. ...

6. Amazing Story of the Magi

Why did the Magi recognize Jesus as King of King? What drew them to Bethlehem on that epic journey? A Planetary alignment that occurs once in 5 million years. ...

7. The Journey Of The Magi

"The Journey of the Magi" is a 43-line poem written in 1927 by T. S. Eliot

8. On Magi and Journeys

As I find myself thinking of those wise men, those magi, those kings, I find myself wondering about what stirred in their hearts to compel them to risk so much. What deep yearning for something other than what they had known led them to travel so far? And as I think of them I find myself thinking of all of us and wondering at other journeys taken...

9. Three Wise Men: Fact and Lore

The Bible doesn't tell us any of the presumed facts about the wise men, other than they brought gifts to Jesus. The rest is holiday lore that accumulated over the centuries, which too many have assumed is in the Bible.

The only biblical mention of the wise men (magoi in Greek, magi in Latin) occurs in Matthew 2:1-16, where we're not told how many there were, only that they came from "the east," where they had seen a star, to find the "king of the Jews." (Some people assumed there were three because they brought three gifts.) ...

10. Question on Denho, Epiphany and Magi

I gather from the Journal that Epiphany is connected to the visit of the Magi [Syriac M'goose] and Denho is connected with the St. John the Baptist's Baptism of Our Lord which is different from the Sacrament of Baptism now in vogue in our Church.

Is it correct to say that the Church combined the two as the M'goose worshipped Him showing that He is God whereas the Baptist, as also the Father and Rooho Khadeeso, showed that he is Son incarnate to be the Saviour of the World ? ...

11. Epiphany, Theophany, Denaha and Baptism of Jesus Christ

We have three manifestations. Manifestation to the shepherds on Christmas Day; manifestation to the Magi (via star) who arrived may be a year or two later. And finally the manifestation at the time of the baptism of Jesus about 32 years later.

According to Fr. Matusz, these are three types of manifestations aimed at three different audiences. The revelation to shepherds announced the event to the Jews. The revelation to the Magi represents the announcement to the Gentiles. The revelation at the time of baptism revealed that Jesus was the promised messiah - the second person of the Trinity. Only at the time of the baptism, all three persons of the Trinity participated. Thus, Denaha and Theophany happened on the same day. Epiphany happened about 31 years earlier when Magi visited Jesus. Epiphany and Denaha are not the same, although they may fall on the same day. ....

12. The War on Christians

In recent months, we've seen Coptic Christians gunned down in Cairo and churches burned. Thousands of Syrian Christians have fled to Turkey. "Where we live," said one refugee, "10 churches have been burned down. .. When the local priest was executed, we decided to leave."

Across North Africa and the greater Middle East, anti-Christian pressure has grown during the past few decades, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt. This persecution has gained recent attention from the archbishop of Canterbury and the pope. "We won't resign ourselves," says Pope Francis, "to a Middle East without Christians." ...

13. Health: Acid Reflux: You Can Calm the Fires of Heartburn

One of the nation's leading gastroenterologists offers analysis and practical advice that can improve the lives of sufferers of an ailment impacting 40 percent of Americans monthly and 18 percent weekly. ...

14. Recipe: Just what the doc ordered: Chicken Tortilla Soup amps up the flu fighters

This Chicken Tortilla Soup really does have healing properties and is low in calories. Inspired by the Sopa Azteca I made for so many years at Topolobampo in Chicago, my Chicken Tortilla Soup amps up the flu fighters and the flavor in your kitchen. Here's how.

All chicken soup actually reduces and thins out mucus and facilitates coughing it up. Why? Researchers believe it has to do with the amino acid cysteine, which released from the chicken as it cooks. Cysteine is similar to the prescription drug acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis. ...

15. Family Special: Christians, Alcohol, and the Bible

Emotions run high on the issue of alcohol. This is understandable considering the destruction and heartbreak many have experienced because of alcohol addiction and abuse. No thoughtful person would advocate that all Christians should drink, but some believe total abstention is the only reasonable Christian position.

As with all matters of Christian living, the foremost question is, "What does the Bible teach?" ...

16. Achieve Your Goals in 2014 - Here's Research That Can Help

Research shows that successful people are those that are characterized by certain traits. Here is a list of such "success factors" from Harvard Business School. They are backed by research and articles from Harvard Business Review. ...

17. About Malankara World

Foreword
This week, we continue our study of Joseph from Old Testament, a person whose life closely mirror that of Jesus Christ. We are approaching the end of this fascinating story.

In studying the life of Joseph, we examine nine crucial questions that every person must answer. So far we have covered:

1. Do you know why you were born?
2. Do you know who you are?
3. Are you willing to wait for God?
4. How big is your God?
5. Are you willing to face your past?
6. Do you want to be set free?

and today we will look at:

7. Are you satisfied with your God?

Interesting question isn't it? "Are we satisfied with God?"

Is that the right question, or should it be, "Is God satisfied with you?"

God does not change. He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow. We can count on it. We can count on God to do what he promised to do; to keep the covenants. We see that in the Christmas Story. We see that in the story of the redemption of the fallen mankind unfolding before our eyes. God's standards do not change. His grace, and mercy do not change. We only change. We have short memory. So, "Are you satisfied with YOUR GOD?" is the correct question ask.

You do not want to miss today's article.

In the beginning of this series, we stated seven fundamental facts about God's guidance:

1. He can put you exactly where he wants you to be.
2. He can arrange all the details years in advance.
3. He can open doors that seem shut tight.
4. He can remove any obstacle in your way.
5. He can take your choices and fit them into his plan that you end up at the right place at just the right time.
6. He can even take your mistakes and bring good out of them.
7. He can take tragedy and use it for your good and his glory.

We see this happening in our lives. The question is, "do we learn or do we blame God when we face trials and tribulations in our lives."

This issue of the Malankara World Journal is themed, 'Magi and Epiphany'. I know you are saturated with reading Christmas Articles. Frankly, we planned to transition from the discussion of Christmas into the public ministry of Jesus, now that the Denho or the baptism of Jesus was over. Denho denoted the beginning of the Jesus' public ministry. However, I got an interesting letter from Mr. V. T. John asking about the magy and epiphany. I felt that this issue should be covered now rather than waiting for an year to do so. I hope that the articles in this issue will give you a better understanding of the magy and the Christmas story and what magy represents in God's plans for the redemption of mankind.

As I write this, we are in the midst of an arctic blast. Record cold weather has gripped most of the US. The temperatures with the wind chill factor has or expected to dip to -40 degree F. It is COLD. If any part of our body gets exposed to this bitter cold weather, it can result in major frostbite. This weekend, the temperature is forecasted to go over the freezing point again. After the arctic blast, 0 degrees feels warm!! Stay warm!!

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (January 12)

Bible Reading For The First Sunday after Denho (Baptism of our Lord)

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for This Sunday (January 12)
This Week's Features

Featured: The Story of Joseph 8-Are You Satisfied with God?

by Dr. Ray Pritchard

Scripture: Genesis 45

Charles Simeon published a sermon on Genesis 45 called God Viewed in Joseph's Advancement. Though the title may sound stuffy, the sermon itself is actually very contemporary in the best sense.

Simeon begins his sermon by talking about the "hidden secrets of divine providence." If that sounds familiar, it's because we've already discussed this principle several times in this series on the life of Joseph.

When we are going through the ordeal of being unfairly attacked, when we are being lied about, when our reputation is being publicly smeared, when our friends betray us, when a spouse abandons us, it may appear impossible that such things could accomplish anything good, but they do. The key is the word "appear." We see far less than what God sees. The good that may come from the treachery of others is not planned by the hand of man, is not seen in advance, and is not seen at all except by faith.

That leaves us with one very important question: How does God bring God out of evil? Simeon uses an unusual word to answer that question. He says that God "interposes" in every situation so that he is able to bring good out of the worst that happens in this world. The dictionary says that to "interpose" means to place or insert between one thing and another. Used in this sense, it means that God actively involves himself in the worst moments of life.

I freely admit that when I consider the evil and heartache in this world, I cannot fathom what it means for God to "interpose" himself in those situations. My limitation is not simply a lack of creative thinking on my part. No one on this side of the "keyhole of life" can say with certainty how this works. But we can rest assured that God in his wisdom knows what he is doing. I find it a great comfort to know that in a world marked by sudden death and every sort of cruelty that man can devise, our God is not merely a passive observer. He works behind the scenes to bring about ends that are for our good and his glory.

"God Sent Me Here"

With that background, we return to the story of Joseph. He had been hated, envied, betrayed, sold into slavery, falsely accused and unfairly accused. Joseph sends the Egyptians away and reveals himself to his brothers who are understandably terrified to meet the brother they sold into slavery 22 years earlier. Now he has them firmly in his grasp. He can order them killed and it will be done. Or tortured. Or thrown into jail. Or anything else he desires to have done to them.

I pause to comment that if anyone had a "right" to be bitter, it was Joseph. He has "lost" 22 years of his life. The temptation to get even must have been great. But this is how he summarizes the whole affair:

"I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; do not tarry.'" (Genesis 45:4-9).

His words point to an enormous irony. The very thing used against him (their betrayal) results in his exaltation so that he can now save the brothers who betrayed him. We see the central truth in verse 8: "It was not you who sent me here, but God."

Those are either the words of a madman or a man of faith. He mentions God five times in six verses so his brothers won't miss the point. "I know what you did. I haven't forgotten your treachery, but that's not the issue. You did what you did because you wanted to hurt me, but God allowed it to happen so that I would end up a ruler in Egypt so that at the exact moment when you needed me, I would be here to save you and your descendants." His vision of God was so great that it dwarfed the sin of his brothers.

I. How God Involves Himself with Evildoers

With Joseph's amazing words as the background, I want to do a bit of theological investigation into this question: How does God involve himself with evildoers? What did Joseph mean when he said to his brothers, "It wasn't you who sent me here but God?" After all, if not for their betrayal, he would never have come to Egypt in the first place. How does a holy God accomplish his plan for us through the deeds of evil people?

A. He allows them to reveal what is in their hearts.

Joseph's brothers were motivated entirely by envy and malice. They couldn't stand the thought that their little brother would one day rule over them. God simply gave them a chance to reveal the envy that was already there. As long as they were under Jacob's direct control, Joseph was safe. But when they were out gathering the flocks, and Joseph came to find them, their latent envy boiled to the surface. At first they planned to leave him to die in the pit, but God interposed and the Midianite traders came along. As the story unfolds, others enter the picture. First, Potiphar, then his wife, later the baker and the cupbearer, and still later the Pharaoh. They all acted according to their own inclinations, but all in accordance with God's plan. God didn't cause the brothers to envy or Potiphar's wife to lust. The brothers and the wife did that on their own. He simply gave them a chance to act on their evil intentions. In so doing, he allowed them to reveal the evil that was already in their hearts.

B. He permits Satan to instigate them to evil.

Satan prowls the world like a roaring lion, looking for those he can destroy (1 Peter 5:8). But though he possesses great power, he can do nothing without God's express permission. In Job 1 it is God who tells the devil to consider his servant Job. Satan cannot afflict Job beyond the limits established by God. The devil is powerful, but he is not omnipotent. He has great knowledge but he is not omniscient. A few hours before his betrayal, Jesus told Peter that Satan had requested permission to sift him like wheat, meaning that Satan could not tempt him to evil without God's permission (Luke 22:31). Satan operates within limits imposed by God. This is both a comfort and a warning. It is a comfort to know that our temptations do not happen by chance but are permitted by our Heavenly Father. The warning is that God still holds us accountable for how we respond. No one will ever be able to escape judgment by saying, "The devil made me do it." No, he may have tempted you, but you did the sinning all by yourself.

C. He withdraws his restraining grace.

Restraining grace simply means that God doesn't let things get as bad as they could be. But when God removes his hand of grace, things fall apart quickly. Romans 1 tells us that God exercises judgment on unbelieving humanity by giving men and women over to further sin. Sometimes God's harshest judgment on sinners is to do nothing at all. He simply says, "If you want to destroy your own life, go ahead. If you want to destroy your own family, go ahead. I won't stop you. You've already rejected me so I will now respect your decision. If you wish to plunge off the cliff, go ahead, but you'll find out how sharp the rocks are at the bottom of the ravine."

If men despise God's mercy, they are left with nothing but his judgment. He blinds the eyes of those who choose not to see, and he hardens the heart of those who prefer to go their own way.

D. He uses them to accomplish his own purposes.

Sometimes he uses the evil deeds of evildoers to further his own plans in the world. When Christ was born, the Father used the paranoia of Herod the Great to guide the Magi to Bethlehem. Later he used Herod's slaughter of the innocents to lead Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus to Egypt so that the Scripture could be fulfilled that says, "Out of Egypt I called my Son" (Mathew 2:13-15). We see this very clearly in the events surrounding the death of Christ. Jesus' death was not some afterthought with God, as if it happened because events suddenly spun out of control. He died according to the "definite plan and foreknowledge" of God, and he could not have died otherwise. But his death took place at the hands of "lawless men" who stand guilty before the Lord (Acts 2:23). Even though we may not fully see it, there is perfect harmony between God's predestination and the free moral choices of sinful men. In the case of Christ, God used the wicked deeds of wicked men in crucifying the Son of God to bring salvation to the world.

II. How Knowing This Helps Our Faith

The truth behind Genesis 45 needs to be tattooed on our souls. We desperately need an infusion of good theology so that when trouble comes our way (and it comes to all of us sooner or later), we won't buckle under the pressure and watch our faith suddenly disappear.

A. We know that our troubles did not happen by accident.

When we focus on immediate causes, we end up in despair, anger and bitterness. It's very easy to think only of the people who have hurt us deeply - parents or children or grandparents or friends we thought we could trust or church members who let us down or people at work who stabbed us in the back. The list goes on and on. But as long as we focus exclusively on the people who hurt us, we are doomed to dwell in the swamp of bitterness. It is far better to understand that our enemies (who often are our closest friends) are actually instruments in God's hands. They are his rod to correct us and to shape us into the image of Jesus Christ.

When God finishes with our enemies, they will face his judgment. God knows how to discipline his children, and that includes those believers who take unfair advantage of us or go out of their way to mistreat us. The day will come when they will be brought low before the Lord. Count on it. Those who misuse others will someday be called to account for it - if not in this life, then in the life to come. The scales of justice will be balanced in the end.

And in the end, we will be improved, our faith will be stronger, and our reliance on the things of this world will be lessened. The Lord will be our portion. A man told me that after going through a hard time, he finally came to the place where he had to say, "Lord, I am satisfied with you." Once he said that, he gained a new perspective on his troubles and his life began to change. When hard times come, we should say, "It is the Lord, let him do what seems best to him." After Job had lost virtually everything, he declared, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). That should be our testimony too.

B. We can see good where others can only see evil.

More than anything else, this was the secret of Joseph's life:

He saw God everywhere. He had such a profound sense of God's presence that he understood that every event in his life must somehow be ascribed to the hand of God working behind the scenes. Thus he could say to his brothers, "It was not you but God that sent me to Egypt." The same is true for his seduction by Potiphar's wife, the false rape accusation, and the years he spent in prison. All of it related back to God's purposes for his life. Joseph means to say more than simply "God was there" when all the bad things happened. That is true, of course, but it does not comprehend the full sense of his words. Joseph means to say, "God was in charge of the whole process." It's not as if the brothers sold him into slavery and then God intervened to bring about a good result. His words demand something more than that. Joseph means that everything that happened - the good and the bad - was part of God's ultimate plan for his life. He was sent to Egypt to save the lives of his own family - the very brothers who had betrayed him. This was God's plan from the beginning, and that fact alone explains all that happened to him. What a profound view of the sovereignty of God!

C. We have a reason to forgive those who hurt us.

Sometimes those "much better" moments never come. Not every story has a happy ending. Sometimes there is no reconciliation, and sometimes mistreatment continues unabated. But if we believe in the sovereignty of God, we have a reason to forgive those who hurt us deeply. I don't say that we should forget what they did to us. We can't really forget because the memories are with us forever. But we can forgive even when we can't forget. To forgive means to choose not to remember. To pardon means to clear the record so that we no longer cling to the hurts of the past. This is only possible when we come to see that our enemies are agents of the Lord, sent by him (or allowed by him to come) for reasons that we may never fully understand. If this sounds impossible to do, please recall the words of Jesus as he hung on the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

D. We have a new admiration for God's wisdom in all things.

Life is like a giant jigsaw puzzle. And we are like children trying to put the puzzle together when we don't have the box with the picture on the cover. So we're left trying to fit our little handful of pieces together and trying to figure out the big picture at the same time. No wonder we struggle to figure out what life is all about. As the years pass we pick up more pieces to the puzzle and things that once troubled us now seem to fit into place. Over time we gain a new appreciation for the wisdom of God because nothing is ever wasted. Everything "fits" somewhere.

How can we live like this in a world where tragedy is never far away? The answer is simple though not easy to put into practice. We live this way by faith. We choose to believe that God is at work in everything that happens to us. We choose to believe that even when we see nothing at all that makes sense to us. Faith like that is made strong when it is based on the Word of God. And that's why the story of Joseph is so important.

Two Final Thoughts

Charles Simeon concluded his sermon with two points of application that bear repeating:

1. How happy is the Christian in this world!

The unsaved have no hope in this world. To those who don't know Christ, bad things happen with no ultimate purpose. Not so for those who know the Lord. As the Christian navigates a tempestuous ocean, he does so knowing that an All-wise, Almighty Pilot is at the helm. Even when the waves rise around him and threaten to cast him into the deep, he has no fear. Though he does not know what will happen in the short run, he is certain that in the long run God's plan for his life will be worked out perfectly. Therefore, he is satisfied and has perfect peace in his soul.

2. How happy will he be in that future world!

The Christian firmly believes that Romans 8:28 is true in every circumstance. He believes that all things work together for his good and for God's glory because God has said it is so. Thus he walks by faith, not by sight. He firmly believes that someday he will see all the links in the chain of circumstances that led him from earth to heaven. And in that day he will bless the Lord for his sovereign wisdom displayed in every circumstance of life. With that confidence, he can rest in the Lord now, knowing all will be well later.

As I worked on this sermon, I started singing a song that I first learned 45 years ago. It was a song we would often sing during Sunday night services. The song is called We'll Understand It Better By and By. Here's the first verse:

Trials dark on every hand, and we cannot understand
All the ways that God would lead us to that blessed Promised Land.
But he'll guide us with his eye, and we'll follow till we die.
For we'll understand it better by and by.

Today we see through a glass darkly.
Soon all will be made plain.
God knows what he's doing even when we don't.
He's never clueless even when we don't have a clue.

We need a big God!

That brings us back to Joseph who said to the brothers who sold him into slavery, "It was not you who sent me here but God."

Charles Simeon ended his sermon with these words: "Let us commit ourselves entirely to God, and be satisfied with his dealings toward us." And "what we know not now, we shall know hereafter." I am struck by the phrase, "be satisfied with his dealings toward us." How many of us could say that we are satisfied with the Lord and how he has dealt with us?

And that's the big question for today:

Are you satisfied with God?

The story is not over yet. Wait for the grand finale.

Copyright © 2013 Keep Believing Ministries, All rights reserved.

Poem: Enlightenment

by Dr. Mercy Abraham

[Editor's Note: Dr. Mercy Abraham is familiar to Malankara World readers. She is a graduate of Kottayam Medical College and a classmate of Dr. Shila Mathew, MD, the Food and Entertainment Editor of Malankara World. Mercy and her family resides in UAE; she practices medicine there. Mercy has an exceptional talent for writing fine poetry. We had published several of Mercy's poems before. Enjoy Mercy's latest poem.]

Autumn Mist

I abandon myself to God
And think about the bliss in the land across
The dividing stream and foresee
The bliss Summerland which I have heard before

But I am still down here in this island
Where there is much to do
With none to relieve my shoulders

Sometimes, I wonder when it all will end
The trials, the tempests and the afflictions
And become full of despair, but
Your words bring light and cheer to me

A forlorn traveler across the caverns of time
I try to bask in the light and the
Streams and palms on the way
Do quench my thirst on my parched lips

And I sit and doze here, in this green grove
Where solitude and peace fills my heart.

I believe, soon, I will be in the turmoil
And the whirlwind but, You Lord, I’m sure
Is sure to abide with me and
Protect and guide me, wherever,
And little worries, like fireflies, leave me

I will sing of Thy mercies and the Love
That has been with me all along for
I cannot keep quiet and silent until I pen
These lines for you, for, You should not be misled

I am happy to hear the music of the Heavenly choir
And visions of glories above and
Try to meditate on your love
Which is so high and fathomless

And the streams leave me fresh, in the morning
With the grace abundant that is bestowed on me
That I want to sing with harp and lyre
About Your love and care till the end of time

Copyright © 2013-2014 by Dr. Mercy Abraham

Amazing Story of the Magi

by Neoliberalnot

Why did the Magi recognize Jesus as King of King? What drew them to Bethlehem on that epic journey? A Planetary alignment that occurs once in 5 million years.

"The Horoscope of Jesus is even more impressive than the Magi could possibly have known." says the noted astrologer and biblical scholar Jayj Jacobs (son of Reverend Jacobs). He describes it as "the most powerful horoscope the heavens have ever drawn, and perhaps ever will". The birth chart is "awesome... it is overwhelming in power, compassion and miraculous healing ability." says Hannibal Giudice, co-author of "The Message of The Magi" a play about The Magi’s discovery of the horoscope, and the motivations for their journey.

Two thousand years ago, the heavenly alignments were of such monumental implication as to compel the wisest astrologers of those times to embark on perhaps the most significant journey in the history of the world. The rarest of all celestial phenomena was unfolding in the heavens, a once in 25,000 years meeting of the two zodiacal cycles - the Tropical and Sidereal. It was an astrological encounter between the Alpha and Omega - the beginning and the end of the longest recognized astrological cycle. It was the dawning of the new age of Pisces and the beginning of a whole new grand cycle of ages.

Additionally, in 7 BCE, the planets Jupiter and Saturn were conjoining each other 3 times is the sign Pisces. That is to say, the planets that indicate the birth of kings were meeting in the sign traditionally associated with the Jews. Finally, in the first hours of March 1st, the Sun, Moon, Venus, and the undiscovered Uranus, joined the king-makers in Pisces. Dr. David H. Menke, executive director at the Copernican Space Science Center calculates that it was a "planetary lineup that happens once in five million years".

The Journey Of The Magi

by T S Eliot

'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.


© T S Eliot. All rights reserved

Editor's Note:

"The Journey of the Magi" is a 43-line poem written in 1927 by T. S. Eliot (1888–1965).

A rare recording taken from a live interview T. S. Eliot did for the BBC, broadcast during World War II, is available online at:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCVnuEWXQcg

On Magi and Journeys

by Dr. Janet H. Hunt

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

It is difficult to read this piece of the Christmas story and not picture three youngsters wearing Sunday School Pageant finery and sporting ill fitting crowns, making their way down the center aisle while the congregation sings, "We Three Kings." And yet, my imagination is taking me in a different direction this year as I consider the story before us now. Oh, yes, there is the truth that the gifts these royal travelers presented appear to point to death for this newborn baby. And yes, there is the wonder that all the world was coming to kneel at his feet. Still, I find myself wondering about these travelers themselves and what compelled them to take such a journey in the first place. And so it is that I find myself returning to the poem by T.S. Eliot, "Journey of the Magi." For what a journey it must have been for those who first followed that star. Indeed, Eliot imagines it as difficult all the way through from beginning to end and his poem asserts that the challenges did not cease for them once they returned home. And how could it have been simple after that?

  • For they had, no doubt, risked their fortunes and their reputations to travel far --- only to have their purposes nearly thwarted and their lives threatened by a paranoid ruler.
  • For they had traveled to see royalty and they were led to kneel before a baby born of poor parents in an out of the way place.
  • They must have had dreams and nightmares both about this particular journey for the rest of their lives as they wondered at its meaning for them and for all the world.

And so I find myself thinking of those wise men, those magi, those kings and I find myself wondering about what stirred in their hearts to compel them to risk so much. What deep yearning for something other than what they had known led them to travel so far? And as I think of them I find myself thinking of all of us and wondering at other journeys taken...and what it is that makes such journeys possible, necessary, preferable, even, to simply living the life that is right before us. What sign in the sky, what communication from God, would make me go that deep, that far to discover its meaning for me?

And then it strikes me that those travelers to Bethlehem were simply living their lives to their natural conclusions. For apparently their life's work was studying the stars. And when they saw a star which seemed to hold such meaning, all they could do, if they were to be true to who they were called to be, was to follow its direction. So having studied the stars and having felt the prodding of one particular star to take this incredible journey, when they came to the place to which the star led them, they were met there by God. We know this could not have been at all what they expected --- at least not God in the form and circumstance before them there. And it may well have been true, as in T.S. Eliot's estimation, that things were never quite the same again for them --- and perhaps in ways that were not all that pleasant. Still, in that baby, they met the 'Holy One,' God's Own Son. And all they were doing was what they believed they were made to do.

And yet, at the same time, this was probably more than what they bargained for when they first started out --- for packing up to travel to far flung places was probably not in the job descriptions they first accepted. Indeed, in what they set out on here and in what they experienced in and through this journey, there was a whole lot more for them now than sitting in a quiet, familiar place, taking notes on parchment and sharing their insights with others.

Perhaps this is so for all of us. As we use and develop the gifts that God has planted within
us... as we become all we were made to be, with eyes and hearts open, perhaps we, too, will encounter God there as well. And yet, there must be a point, it seems when we follow God's leading out of our most comfortable places in order that we might encounter the Holy One as well. And it could be that it might not look like we thought it would, but in the surprise itself, perhaps God resides.

And so for those who teach, and those who preach, and those who visit, and those who build, and those who nurture children, and those who clean, and those who invent and those who heal and those who....well, you fill in the blank. Maybe like those magi from so long ago, our first calling is simply to be who we were made to be. And then to keep our eyes and ears and hearts open to when we are called to step out in faith, somehow taking those gifts of God to their natural conclusions. Oh, those times will come to us all, that's guaranteed. And when they do, and when we follow God's leading within and beyond them, it is also a sure thing that we will encounter God, perhaps in unexpected ways and places, too. And it is also certain that our lives will never be the same again.

Put yourself in the place of the travelers in the story here. What must have been their thoughts, their hopes, their fears as they began this incredible journey? As they ended it?

Have you ever known yourself called on such a pilgrimage? What was its outcome? How were you changed?

About The Author:

The Rev. Dr. Janet H. Hunt has served as a Lutheran pastor in a variety of contexts in Northern Illinois. Currently she serves as pastor at First Lutheran, DeKalb, IL.

Source: 'Dances with the Word…' Blog

Three Wise Men: Fact and Lore

by David Roach

It wouldn't be Christmas without the wise men. They show up in nativity scenes, Christmas plays, carols, tree ornaments and paintings.

Everyone knows about them: There were three wise men, they rode camels and they brought their gifts to the baby Jesus as He lay in a manger.

The Bible, however, doesn't tell us any of these presumed facts about the wise men, other than they brought gifts to Jesus. The rest is holiday lore that accumulated over the centuries, which too many have assumed is in the Bible.

The only biblical mention of the wise men (magoi in Greek, which translates into Latin as magi) occurs in Matthew 2:1-16, where we're not told how many there were, only that they came from "the east," where they had seen a star, to find the "king of the Jews." (Some people assumed there were three because they brought three gifts. Later Christian tradition assigned them the names Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar.) The Bible tells us that Herod was frightened by a potential rival to his throne and tried to use the wise men as informants to learn Jesus' whereabouts and kill Him. But after finding and worshipping the Christ child, they thwarted Herod's plan by bypassing him on their way home, being warned to do so in a dream from God.

Contrary to the image portrayed in most nativity scenes, Jesus likely was between 1 and 2 years old when the magi arrived. Matthew provides at least three clues suggesting this. First, he calls Jesus a "child" (2:9, 11) rather than a "baby" in the story of the wise men. Second, Matthew says Jesus and Mary were in a house at the time of the wise men's visit (2:11) with no attendant reference to "the manger" which was so central when Jesus was first born. Third, apparently based on the date that the magi's guiding star appeared, Herod executed all boys in Bethlehem ages 2 and under (2:16), hinting that the sign of Jesus' birth appeared two years before their arrival.

And what about the wise men's country of origin? Babylonia and Persia are perhaps the two most popular speculations. Originally, "magi" was the name of the Persian priestly caste, but later the term was used more generally to describe magicians and astrologers (see Acts 13:6). Most countries in western Asia had magi in this broader sense, but Babylonia had developed a particularly sophisticated system of astrology by the first century. Another fact suggesting a Babylonian origin is the wise men's apparent knowledge of Judaism and its expectation of a coming king -- knowledge readily available in a land where the Jews were once exiles. Ultimately though, we can only guess where the wise men came from (and some have suggested lands as far away as India and China).

Another mystery is the star that guided the magi to Jesus. Many have attempted to explain it with astronomy. Origen of Alexandria and other early theorists viewed the star as a comet while later thinkers, including Johannes Kepler, explained it as a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the constellation Pisces in the year 7 B.C. More probably though, the star's appearance was a supernatural act of God.

Of course, all this speculation is intriguing and has a place in Christian scholarship. Still, we should not let it overshadow the most important realities of the wise men's visit: In the earliest days of Jesus' life, God the Father was already drawing Gentiles to come and worship Him as a foreshadowing of the Great Commission when He would call Christians to make disciples of all nations.

Source: Baptist Press

Question on Denho, Epiphany and Magi

by Vatachal Thomas John (V T John)

Dear Sirs,

I gather from the Journal that Epiphany is connected to the visit of the Magi [Syriac M'goose] and Denho is connected with the St. John the Baptist's Baptism of Our Lord which is different from the Sacrament of Baptism now in vogue in our Church.

The Dictionary meaning of "Epiphany" is an appearance or becoming manifest, manifestation of God, a church festival of January 6th. "Denho" the West Syriac word seems to be a synonym of the English (?) word Epiphany as we translate " B'yawmo d'denho raaboosok" as " Ninte mahatwamudikkumnaal"

Is it correct to say that the Church combined the two as the M'goose worshipped Him showing that He is God whereas the Baptist as also the Father and Rooho Khadeeso showed that he is Son incarnate to be the Saviour of the World ?

In this context I am astonished at the statement of the Magi that they have seen the Star of the King of the Jews in their place whereby those who have the pagan belief of Astrology can mislead the true believers. Similarly I am perplexed that the Salmooso document of our Church denies the false teachings of the M'goose. I am also grieved at the massacre of innocent children in Bethlehem which is in fact caused by the visit of M'goose.

[Editor's Note: I want to thank respected V T John, an expert on Orthodox Theology and Liturgy, and perhaps one of the most prominent laity in our church, for sharing his insight. Certainly, his question need to be answered by one of our achens or thirumenies. I have given below the extract from an article I wrote in Issue 118 of Malankara World Journal on January 3, 2013 that may answer some of the issues raised by Hon. John regarding epiphany, theophany and den'ho. The articles on magi above, hopefully, gives a clearer insight into magi. I do not know whether all people studying stars are astrologers; and being astrologer was bad. Assuming it was bad as Hon. John seems to imply, we should learn from this story that when you come in contact with God, we all get transformed. That happened to all the tax collectors [notably Zacchaeus (St. Luke 19:1-10)], prostitutes, and others. Nicodemus (John 3:1-15), a member of Sanhedrin, also was transformed after his encounter with Jesus. Elizabeth got inspired when St. Mary visited her bearing Jesus in her womb. If you look at the genealogy of Jesus, you will find several "shaded" characters in it. The story of Magi tells us that the incarnation was carefully planned and executed by God. It shows that God the Father was already drawing Gentiles to come and worship Him (Jesus) as a foreshadowing of the Great Commission when He (Jesus) would call Christians to make disciples of all nations.]

Epiphany, Theophany, Denaha and Baptism of Jesus Christ

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Editor-in-Chief, Malankara World

Many priests and others in our church seem to use these four terms synonymously. However, Catholic Church uses epiphany differently than baptism. They can fall on the same date in some years. But they are two different events theologically. According Rev. Fr. Michael Matusz of St. Peters and St. Paul Catholic Church in Cleveland, Ohio epiphany represents the arrival of Magi and is not the same as the baptism of Jesus which occurred about 31-32 years after the arrival of Magi.

I further did some research on this. Both epiphany and theophany means manifestation. Denaha (Denho) in Syriac means 'Dawn.'

Epiphany is a Christian festival held to celebrate the manifestation of the divine nature of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. Also called "Twelfth-day." from Greek epiphainein - to manifest; epiphania -the feast of manifestation.

Theophany means an appearance of God or of a god to a man; a divine manifestation. This comes from the Greek word theophaneia.

The Orthodox Christians celebrate the Great Feast of Theophany (aka denaha) the Baptism of our Lord and the Revelation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit on January 6.

After Jesus was baptized, according to scriptures, Holy Spirit descended onto him in the form of a dove and the heavens opened and God (the Father) revealed that he is the son of God - the divine manifestation.

When you look at the scriptures closely, the first manifestation of the birth of Jesus Christ came on Christmas Day when the angels announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds. The shepherds came to Bethlehem to see the child as a result.

So, we have three manifestations. Manifestation to the shepherds on Christmas Day; manifestation to the Magi (via star) who arrived may be a year or two later. And finally the manifestation at the time of the baptism of Jesus about 32 years later.

According to Fr. Matusz, these are three types of manifestations aimed at three different audiences. The revelation to shepherds announced the event to the Jews. The revelation to the Magi represents the announcement to the Gentiles. The revelation at the time of baptism revealed that Jesus was the promised messiah - the second person of the Trinity. Only at the time of the baptism, all three persons of the Trinity participated. Thus, Denaha and Theophany happened on the same day. Epiphany happened about 31 years earlier when Magi visited Jesus. Epiphany and Denaha are not the same, although they may fall on the same day. Also unlike what you see on Nativity scenes and what we sing on Christmas Carols, the Magi and Shepherds did not show up together in the manger.

The orthodox prayer on Denaha include:

When You, O Lord were baptized in the Jordan
The worship of the Trinity was made manifest
For the voice of the Father bore witness to You
And called You His beloved Son.

And the Spirit, in the form of a dove,
Confirmed the truthfulness of His word.
O Christ, our God, You have revealed Yourself
And have enlightened the world, glory to You!

While researching this, I also came across another not so well-known fact: Our church in Piravom is named after the Magi and hold their perunnal on Denaha days. According to folklore, the Magi went through Vadakara in Kerala (source: Rev. Fr. Saji Korah, San Francisco.)

We welcome any dissenting opinions on this from our clergy and learned laity. I certainly do not claim to be an expert on this.

Source: Malankara World Journal Issue 118

The War on Christians

By Michael Gerson

In some parts of the world, Herod's massacre of the innocents is a living tradition. On Christmas Day in Iraq, 37 people were killed in bomb attacks in Christian districts of Baghdad. Radical Islamists mark - and stain - the season with brutality and intolerance.

The violence, of course, is not restricted by the calendar. In recent months, we've seen Coptic Christians gunned down in Cairo and churches burned. Thousands of Syrian Christians have fled to Turkey. "Where we live," said one refugee, "10 churches have been burned down. .. When the local priest was executed, we decided to leave."

Across North Africa and the greater Middle East, anti-Christian pressure has grown during the past few decades, sometimes subtle, sometimes overt. This persecution has gained recent attention from the archbishop of Canterbury and the pope. "We won't resign ourselves," says Pope Francis, "to a Middle East without Christians."

The most passionate advocate has been Prince Charles - an often underestimated, consistently thoughtful figure. "For 20 years," he said in a recent speech, "I have tried to build bridges between Islam and Christianity and to dispel ignorance and misunderstanding. The point though, surely, is that we have now reached a crisis where the bridges are rapidly being deliberately destroyed by those with a vested interest in doing so."

The growth of this persecution is sometimes used as a club against the very idea of democracy promotion. Middle East democracy, the argument goes, often results in oppressive Sunni religious ascendancy. Majority rule will bring the harsh imposition of the majority faith.

But this is the criticism of a caricature. Democracy promotion - as embraced by the National Democratic Institute or the International Republican Institute or Freedom House - is about human liberty protected by democratic institutions. Securing institutional respect for minority rights is particularly difficult in transitioning societies, as we've recently seen. But clinging to authoritarianism further hollows out civil society, making the results even more chaotic and dangerous when a dictator falls. And even marginally more favorable dictators can't be propped up forever, as we've also recently witnessed. So it matters greatly whether America and other democracies can help pluralism survive and shape the emerging political order.

This is a priority for both humanitarian and strategic reasons. As William Inboden of the University of Texas notes, there is a robust correlation between religious persecution and national security threats. "Including World War II," argues Inboden, "every major war the United States has fought over the past 70 years has been against an enemy that also severely violated religious freedom." The reverse is equally true. "There is not a single nation in the world," he says, "that both respects religious freedom and poses a security threat to the United States."

There are a number of possible explanations for this strong correlation. The most compelling is that religious freedom involves the full and final internalization of democratic values - the right to be a heretic or infidel. It requires the state to recognize the existence of binding loyalties that reach beyond the state's official views.

It took many centuries for Christendom to achieve this thick form of pluralism. Whether the Islamic world can move toward its own, culturally distinctive version of this democratic virtue is now one of the largest geopolitical questions of the 21st century.

Some argue that Muslim theology - emphasizing fidelity to its conception of divine law - makes this unlikely (or impossible). Others point to past centuries when Muslim majorities and rulers coexisted with large Arab-Christian populations - a thin form of pluralism in which Christians were second-class citizens but not subject to violent intolerance. Every major religious faith contains elements of tribal exclusivity and teachings of respect for the other. The emergence of social pluralism depends on emphasizing the latter above the former.

Promoting democratic institutions is no easy task in the midst of revolution and civil war. But even limited levers - stronger condemnation of abuses, conditioning aid on the protection of minorities, supporting moderate forces in the region - are worth employing when the stakes are so high. America, however, seems strangely disengaged. "One of America's oddest failures in recent years," argue Economist editors John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, "is its inability to draw any global lessons from its unique success in dealing with religion at home. It is a mystery why a country so rooted in pluralism has made so little of religious freedom."

A recovery of that emphasis might begin with a simple commitment: not to resign ourselves to a Middle East without Christians.

Source: Jewish World Review

Health Tip: Acid Reflux: You Can Calm the Fires of Heartburn

By Steven A. Porter, M.D.

One of the nation's leading gastroenterologists offers analysis and practical advice that can improve the lives of sufferers of an ailment impacting 40 percent of Americans monthly and 18 percent weekly.

Pharmacy shelves are full of medications for reflux "heartburn." Most of us know the symptoms: a burning sensation in the chest with belching, sour stomach fluid coming up into the mouth--or worse yet, awakening suddenly choking on burning acid in the airway. These symptoms are very common, affecting 40 percent of Americans monthly and 18 percent of Americans weekly.

In addition to annoying symptoms, untreated reflux could eventually cause death due to esophageal cancer. One of the most deadly cancers, it currently strikes about 14,000 Americans every year. But the numbers are growing rapidly. Research shows that the increase in reflux and cancer is directly related to the nation's increase in obesity.

There is a correlation between increased weight and heartburn, and another correlation between weight loss and improvement of heartburn symptoms. In 1991, 15 percent of Americans were considered obese and 30 percent were considered overweight. Today 30 percent are obese with 60 percent overweight.

WHAT IS HEARTBURN OR REFLUX?

The stomach normally produces acid to aid in the digestive process. The problem is not the acid itself but when the acid comes up, or refluxes, into the esophagus. To understand the nature of acid reflux it's helpful to understand a little bit of human anatomy.

We are able to breathe because the rib cage and diaphragm function like a bellows. The diaphragm is a sheet of muscle separating the chest cavity from the abdominal cavity. In the middle of this muscle is a hole, or hiatus, that allows the esophagus to join with the stomach. When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and expands the chest cavity, allowing air to flow into your lungs. As your rib cage expands, it decreases chest pressure and increases abdominal pressure.

Reflux can happen because gases and fluids tend to flow from high-pressure areas, like the abdomen, to low-pressure areas, or the chest. When you inhale, the pressure can force acid up from the stomach into the esophagus and even up into the mouth or airway.

Of course, our bodies are naturally designed to keep this from happening. Acid reflux occurs only when something goes wrong. Factors that allow reflux include:

1. TLESR, or transient lower esophageal sphincter relaxation. The lower esophageal sphincter is a weak ring of muscle that closes off the bottom of the esophagus from the top of the stomach, preventing acid from rising. But sometimes the sphincter relaxes when it shouldn't.

2. Delayed acid clearance. When sleeping, we stop producing saliva, which helps clear acid from the esophagus. Saliva also contains growth factors that heal the esophagus from the damaging effects of acid.

3. Reduced resistance to injury. Once your esophagus or stomach are injured -- for instance, if you have an existing ulcer--the injured tissue loses its protective defenses and is much more susceptible to further injury.

4. Delayed stomach emptying. Food and acid can sometimes sit in the stomach longer than usual.

5. Sleep apnea. The partial blockage of your airway can cause your chest to expand harder than normal. This pulls more acid into your esophagus.

6. Hiatal hernia. This condition occurs when a portion of your stomach protrudes into your chest cavity through the hiatus. It forces the lower esophageal sphincter open and basically brings the food and acid up into your chest.

In the long term, acid reflux can lead to ulceration or stricturing (narrowing) of the esophagus, which makes it difficult to swallow. It can also lead to Barrett's esophagus, a mutation in the lower esophageal tissue that can eventually develop into esophageal cancer.

Cigarette smoke and alcohol, especially in combination, can worsen esophageal injuries. The theory is that the esophagus is protected from toxins in cigarette smoke by a mucus lining, as well as the swallowing of saliva, which washes acid out of the esophagus. Alcohol dissolves the mucus layer and also dissolves the smoke toxins so they are absorbed directly through the esophageal surface. If you have acid reflux, smoking and drinking can greatly increase your risk of complications, including the development of esophageal cancer.

If you have acid reflux, avoid the following:

1. Eating large volumes of food

2. Eating less than three hours before bedtime

3. Caffeine, including coffee and soft drinks

4. Liquor, including wine and beer

5. Citrus, tomato, and cranberry fruits and juices

6. Ice cream or milkshakes

7. Chocolate (one of the worst offenders)

8. Sour cream

9. High-fat desserts

10. Peppermint (one of the most potent esophageal sphincter relaxers of all! Avoid those after-dinner mints)

11. Wearing overly tight clothing.

HOW IS REFLUX DIAGNOSED?

Your doctor may suspect reflux based on your symptoms, and will typically confirm the diagnosis with an upper endoscopy, especially if any red-flag symptoms are present. These flags may include:

1. Difficult or uncomfortable swallowing

2. Unexpected weight loss

3. Vomiting blood or material that looks like coffee grounds

4. Black, tarry stools

An onset of symptoms after age 50

A sudden disappearance of reflux symptoms without any change in lifestyle, body weight or medication may suggest the development of Barrett's esophagus--a mutation that will protect you against reflux but can lead to cancer of the esophagus.

MEDICATION OPTIONS

The antacid aisle at the drug store can be confusing. There are dozens of options, which offer different results, and it's important to have a basic understanding of how they work and what can be expected of each type.

. Acid neutralizers, such as Tums, Rolaids, Alka-Seltzer, Maalox and milk of magnesia. These medications work by neutralizing the acid already produced in the stomach and are largely available over the counter. They can be effective for occasional symptomatic reflux. If you have other medical conditions--especially kidney disease--use caution with over-the-counter preparations containing calcium magnesium or phosphate. It's also important to know that Alka-Seltzer contains aspirin. For acid reflux, use the Alka-Seltzer Heartburn preparation, which does not contain aspirin.

. H2 blockers, or histamine blockers, such as Pepcid, Zantac, Tagamet and Axid. These medications work by blocking much of the acid produced in the stomach. They are available in both over-the-counter and prescription strength. H2 blockers are more effective for frequent heartburn treatment and for healing injury to the esophagus than the acid-neutralizing medications.

. Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as prescription-strength Prilosec, Nexium, Aciphex, Protonix, Zegerid, Prevacid and Kapidex. They block the final common pathway of acid production in the stomach and are the most effective for the healing and maintenance of symptoms. Prilosec has an over-the-counter option but it's not time-released and therefore not as effective as the prescription strength. Most of these medications should NOT be taken with Plavix, an antiplatelet agent for the prevention of heart attack or stroke. PPIs may interfere with the effect of Plavix. If you take Plavix and are on a reflux medicine, check with your doctor or pharmacist to be sure it's safe.

NON-MEDICATION TREATMENTS

If you want to avoid taking prescription medication for acid reflux--or if you've tried it and your reflux is still a problem--you might consider the following treatments:

1. Surgery can tighten the junction of the stomach and the esophagus.

2. Lifestyle modification, primarily weight loss, can have dramatic results. But even if you don't have a lot of weight to lose, eating smaller meals and going to sleep with an empty stomach can help.

3. Elevating the head of the bed a few inches with wooden blocks can make a difference. Let gravity help you.

I hope you now have a good idea of what acid reflux is, how it develops and the possible treatment and lifestyle options that can help alleviate its uncomfortable symptoms. This information may help prevent potential complications that can result from untreated, long-term exposure of the esophagus to acid. If you have frequent symptoms--especially a red-flag symptom--it might be worthwhile to see a castroenterologist near you.

About The Author:

Dr. Steven A. Porter is recognized as one of the nation's leading gastroenterologists, specializing in colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, pancreatic and biliary issues. He and his physician assistant, Phil Merrill, provide many other GI services, including treatment for reflux, irritable bowel, Crohn's, colitis and liver and bile duct disorders. Dr. Porter practices in Ogden, Utah.

Source: Jewish World Review

Recipe: Just what the doc ordered: Chicken Tortilla Soup amps up the flu fighters

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

Just what the doc ordered:
Chicken Tortilla Soup amps up the flu fighters and the flavor in your kitchen

By John La Puma, M.D.

My patient Rachel is taking a bite out of the flu.

Triumphant in her weight loss program, she survived a house full of in-laws at Thanksgiving. And she survived a house full of holiday-cheered coworkers while they glugged spiked eggnog, making the fact that they had all held on to their jobs even merrier.

Are there really foods she could load up on to help her avoid the flu and not make her gain weight?

She already knew she couldn't get flu from drinking tap water.

What she didn't know is that my Chicken Tortilla Soup really does have healing properties and is low in calories. Inspired by the Sopa Azteca I made for so many years at Chef Rick Bayless' Topolobampo in Chicago, my Chicken Tortilla Soup amps up the flu fighters and the flavor in your kitchen. Here's how.

All chicken soup actually (avert your eyes) reduces and thins out mucus and facilitates coughing it up. Why? Researchers believe it has to do with the amino acid cysteine, which released from the chicken as it cooks. Cysteine is similar to the prescription drug acetylcysteine, prescribed for bronchitis.

As a bonus, the salt in the soup helps swollen, inflamed cells to shrink, helping you breathe. Hot unsalted water doesn't have the same effect.

Red onion plays a big role because it is rich in the flavonoid quercetin, which increases stamina. In a study of cyclists, quercetin reduced the stress of their intense exercise and helped them fend off the flu. Red onions have even more quercetin than white or yellow onions and a sweeter flavor.

And while we're at it, organic tomatoes have more quercetin than conventional ones. Look for an organic tomato salsa to max out your antioxidants. Quercetin supplements, however, don't let you absorb the quercetin as well as you do with food.

Third, my Chicken Tortilla Soup has chili pepper: guajillo for depth or jalapeno for kick -- your choice.

Chilies don't just taste great and help clear your sinuses. They're rich in vitamin C, which has been tested in people with influenza A, which causes the seasonal flu. In one study, people with the flu who took vitamin C got much less bacterial pneumonia on top of the flu than people who didn't take Vitamin C. Plus, the vitamin itself has antiviral properties -- and the flu virus can be nasty.

So, the best and easiest flu prevention is washing your hands often, for 15-20 seconds, with soap and water, or with an alcohol-based hand cleanser until your hands are dry.

But the next best is my Chicken Tortilla Soup. Here's a place that food can pick up the medical slack, with flavor. Especially if you're like Rachel -- losing weight and keeping it off.

SIMPLE SOPA AZTECA, OR CHICKEN TORTILLA SOUP

Ingredients:

. 2 teaspoons extra light extra virgin olive oil

. 1 cup chopped red onion

. 3 cups low sodium chicken broth, preferably organic

. 1 (14.5 ounce) can fire roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

. 1/2 cup guajillo or jalapeno salsa, such as Frontera brand

. 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded skinless rotisserie chicken breast

. 1 cup shredded cabbage or packaged coleslaw mix

. 1/2 ripe avocado, diced

. 1/4 cup shredded pareve Monterey Jack or Cheddar

. 1 cup broken low fat unsalted tortilla chips

. 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (optional)

. Lime wedges (optional)

Directions:

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; saute 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes and salsa; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered 10 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring once.

Arrange chicken, cabbage and avocado in bottom of four shallow soup bowls. Ladle broth over chicken mixture; top with cheese, chips and, if desired, cilantro and lime wedges.

Substitutions: Leftover cooked chicken breast may replace the rotisserie chicken breast. For a lower sodium soup, use a lower sodium salsa.

Nutritional Analysis

Total fat (g): 10;
Fat calories (kc): 91;
Cholesterol (mg): 59;

Trans fatty acids (g): 0;
Saturated fat (g): 2.9;
Polyunsaturated fat (g): 1.4;
Monounsaturated fat (g): 2.9;

Fiber (g): 3.6;
Carbohydrates (g): 20;
Sugar (g): 8.0;
Protein (g): 25;
Sodium (mg): 656;
Calcium (mg) 98.

© 2013, JOHN LA PUMA
Source: Jewish World Review

Family Special: Christians, Alcohol, and the Bible

by Brian Hedges

"Don't drink, don't chew, don't go with girls that do." It may be bad poetry, but at least it has the virtue of being clear. And fifty years ago, many American Evangelicals would have agreed that alcohol consumption was a sure sign of worldliness, if not a lack of genuine faith altogether.

But times have changed, as a recent CT article shows, citing Moody Bible Institute lifting its ban on alcohol and tobacco use for full time employees. This change is part of a larger shift in how Evangelicals think about cultural activities once deemed questionable. Consider, for example Brett McCracken's recent book 'Gray Matters: Navigating the Space between Legalism and Liberty', which discusses Christian consumption of food, music, movies, and alcohol.

Emotions run high on this issue. This is understandable considering the destruction and heartbreak many have experienced because of alcohol addiction and abuse. No thoughtful person would advocate that all Christians should drink, but some believe total abstention is the only reasonable Christian position.

As with all matters of Christian living, the foremost question is, "What does the Bible teach?"

Curse or Blessing?

Is alcohol a curse or a blessing? Scripture certainly speaks negatively about alcohol.

· Drunkenness is condemned in multiple passages, such as Ephesians 5:18: "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit."

· The language of 1 Corinthians 6:10 is even stronger, warning that drunkards "will not inherit the kingdom of God."

· Jesus warned against drunkenness in Luke 21:34.

· And the book of Proverbs, full of warnings against drunkenness, especially warns against the disorienting, addictive, and destructive consequences for those who "tarry long over wine":

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. "They struck me," you will say, "but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink." (Proverbs 23:29-35)

To top it off, the Old Testament prophets frequently use drunkenness as a metaphor for God's judgment and curse on sinful human societies. (See Jeremiah 13:13-14 and Ezekiel 23:38-33.)

But alongside these negative passages, Scripture also says that wine is a gift from God. For example, the Psalmist praised God for the gifts of wine, oil, and bread in Psalm 104:14-15:

You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man's heart.

And this is not the only positive reference to alcohol -- there are many others. In fact, the number of positive references to wine in Scripture is almost surprising.

· Wine is viewed as the blessing of God (Genesis 27:28; Deuteronomy 7:13).

· The benefits or promises of wisdom are favorably compared to wine (Proverbs 9:2-5).

· The blessings of romantic love in marriage are compared with wine (Song of Solomon 5:1).

· The gracious promises of the gospel are compared to wine (Isaiah 55:1-2).

· Many passages anticipate a great eschatological feast at the end of time when the nations will gather to enjoy "a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine" prepared for God's people by the Lord himself (Isaiah 25:6-9; Amos 9:13-15).

· And then there is the practice of Jesus, who not only began his ministry by miraculously transforming water into wine (John 2:1-11), but also drank it himself (Luke 7:33-35).

Use or Abuse?

A close look at the relevant passages show that Scripture condemns not the use but the abuse of alcohol.

This is the same perspective we're given regarding food and sex. Eating food is not a sin, but its abuse through gluttony is. Sex is a good gift from the Lord when enjoyed in the context of the loving covenant relationship of marriage. But Scripture condemns the misuse of sex in extramarital relationships.

The same can be said of alcohol: alcohol itself is not a sinful substance, but the abuse or misuse of alcohol is both sinful and destructive.

Liberty or Love?

It seems clear that the moderate consumption of alcohol is a matter of Christian liberty. So, should a Christian be willing to forego the exercise of this freedom for the sake of others? Absolutely. Paul makes this clear in Romans 14.

Paul doesn't say a believer can enjoy liberty only if everyone else agrees with him. Nor does he advocate laying down all liberties on all occasions. But when a believer with a "strong" conscience is in the presence of a believer with a "weak" conscience, he or she should not participate in anything that tempts the weaker believer to sin. There must be love for and sensitivity to others in this issue.

Love always trumps liberty.

About The Author:

Brian G. Hedges is the author of 'Christ Formed in You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change' and 'Licensed to Kill: A Field Manual for Mortifying Sin'. .

Notes

This book is helpful in many ways, not least of which is his survey of the history on each of these issues. See, for example, Christians and Alcohol: A Timeline, excerpted from his book.

Some would argue that the different words for wine in the original languages prove that the positive references are to new, unfermented wine, with the negative passages targeting all intoxicating beverages.

With the Old Testament, contrasts are made between the Hebrew words tirosh (often translated "new wine"), yayin ("wine"), and shekar ("strong drink"), while a similar contrast is made between the words oinos ("wine") and gluekos ("new wine") in the New Testament.

But these distinctions don't hold up under attentive exegesis. Gluekos only appears once in the New Testament (Acts 2:13) and even then the context shows that it could intoxicate. Tirosh ("new wine")clearly has intoxicating effects in Hosea 4:11, though considered a blessing from God in Deuteronomy 7:13and many other passages.

Even shekar ("strong drink," translated "beer" in the HCSB) is allowed in Deuteronomy 14:24-26: "And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, then you shall turn it into money . . . and spend the money for whatever you desire--oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household."

For more on the issues of both alcohol and Christian liberty, see Kenneth Gentry's helpful book 'God Gave Wine: What the Bible Says about Alcohol'.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

Achieve Your Goals in 2014 - Here's Research That Can Help

by Gretchen Gavett and Sarah Green, Harvard Business Review

1. Successful people do nine things differently than everyone else.

2. The rest of us hold ourselves back in five major ways.

3. But don't stress! Just change the way you think about stress.

4. To spot new opportunities, imagine yourself in the future.

5. And act like a leader before you are one.

6. Decide what not to do in order to make time for the work that matters.

7. Keep meetings on track. Please.

8. Try not to make decisions when you're nervous.

9. Money can actually buy happiness (if you give it away).

10. Give away your time while you're at it.

11. Basically, be generous.

12. And say "thank you."

13. Be quiet (sometimes).

14. Ask for feedback.

15. Pick the right battles to fight at work.

16. Don't be too confident.

17. Challenge yourself with a growth mindset.

18. Go to sleep.

19. Seriously, go to sleep.

20. And go for a walk, too.

21. Remember: It's really hard to change.

22. But it can be done.

Source: Harvard Business School
Copyright © 2014 Harvard Business School Publishing. All rights reserved.

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