Malankara World Journal
Malankara World Journal

Volume 2 No. 46 January 5, 2012

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Baptism of Jesus
Baptism of Jesus
Table of Contents
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Editor's Note
Those who follow the church calendar will find that this is a very busy theological period for the church. After the incarnation of the savior on Christmas Day, and the circumcision/presentation at the temple, this week, we have the baptism of Jesus. Jesus is already an adult; went through the temptation after his 40-day lent and emerged successfully against Satan. Soon, John the Baptist will move away from the scene with his beheading on Saturday. Next week we will read about Jesus assembling his team of disciples. So, things are on a fast track. As an Ohio Newspaper says, miss a week, and we will miss a lot.

"The baptism of Jesus – Christ's theophany – has played a central role in the spiritual tradition of the church from its very beginning. It officially ends the Church Christmas Season.

"In Jesus' baptism, the miracle of creation "in the beginning" becomes incarnate with the descent of the spirit onto the Word standing amidst the watery chaos, thus affirming what we are so prone to forget, or deny: that this world in which we live is good. This singular ritual is, in fact, a very concrete announcement of a new creation in which the Word become flesh has already begun to draw the "astonishing emptiness" of a world broken by sin into his own fullness of being."
- Daniel G. Deffenbaugh Hastings, Associate Professor of Religion at Hastings College, Nebraska

Since Jesus was sinless, the question is often asked why He underwent baptism. There are several possible explanations.

Jesus was very particular that all Mosaic laws/commandments must be observed. So, before he started his public ministry, Jesus wanted to complete the Jewish rituals.

Jewish religious tradition dictated that every Jew must go through some ritual actions in order to be right with God. Jesus has undergone Circumcision (Lk 2:21); Presentation to the Temple (Luke 2:22-23) and Baptism (Mt 3:13-17) - all required under Jewish tradition.

For Jews, baptism had a different meaning than we associate it with. For example, baptism might be administered for the purposes of cleansing or to be right with God or to show belief in God or as a sign of repentance or as a requirement for membership into Judaism, etc. Jesus may have received baptism to identify with Judaism so as to be accepted when he begins to minister to the Jews as one who professes the same Religion with them.

John who baptized Jesus, baptized people for repentance (Matt 3:11), but Jesus was like us in all things except sin (Phil 2:7; Heb 4:15; Rom 8:3). Thus Jesus did not need baptism for repentance but accepted it to fulfill all righteousness involved in becoming right with God (Matt 3:14-15).

In a broader sense, we undergo baptism today, to become right with God, to be born into the family of God, we receive Christian Baptism and the grace of son-ship.

Bishop Stephen Blaire, Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Stockton describes the Church's view of Jesus' baptism thus:

"The Baptism of Jesus is of great significance to the Church and to the manifestation of Christ to the world. Jesus, of his own free choice, goes down into the waters to be baptized by a most reluctant baptizer.

'I need to be baptized by you, and yet you are coming to me?' John said to Jesus.

'Allow it,' Jesus responded.

The Church interprets the baptism of Jesus as God through Jesus entering into the sinful condition of humanity. In Christ, God has become one of us. When Jesus came out of the waters He saw the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descending upon Him like a dove. A voice proclaimed: 'This is my beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased.' We have here a theophany or revelation of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Jesus by entering the waters of the Jordan consecrated all the waters that would flow over the heads of those who would be baptized into Christ. As Jesus emerged from the waters as the 'Beloved Son of God,' so would all those who would be baptized into Christ in the Church emerge from the waters by the grace of adoption as the 'beloved sons and daughters of God.'"
Bishop Stephen Blaire, Homily, Baptism of the Lord, 2011

Fr. Andrew, perhaps, explains it best:

"Today's Feast proves to the world that Christ is both God and man, that He has two natures. On the one hand, the Father calls Him 'My beloved Son' and the Spirit bears witness. On the other hand, as St John the Baptist shows in his humility that he is unworthy even to undo Christ's shoelaces, the sinless human nature of Christ did not need baptism. Christ underwent baptism in his human nature only because He needed to set us an example, to undergo all that we must undergo in order to be worthy of the Kingdom of God. Christ was indeed human flesh and blood - you cannot baptize a spirit or a ghost - Christ truly took on Himself our human nature." - Fr. Andrew

Obviously, this is an extremely complex theological question that we cannot cover in a short introduction. Malankara World has several sermons, Gospel analyses and commentaries that go over different aspects of this complex subject. You can find them here:

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_denaha.htm

I would like to provide an excerpt below from an article by Sharron R. Blezard. It will give an appreciation for the union of water, word and Spirit in Christianity:

"One of the wonderful things about Mark's gospel is that the evangelist gets right to what is important, omitting all fluff and extraneous detail. In less than a chapter we're at the Jordan for a holy collision of water, Word, and Spirit. In just a few short verses Jesus will submit to the baptism of the cousin/evangelist "unfit to tie the thong of his sandals" and will receive the heavenly stamp of approval in a dramatic scene involving heavens rent asunder and a dive bombing bird (aka Holy Spirit). Forget the delicate hovering dove and placid savior; this is intense drama that's going to move along faster than a Clint Eastwood blockbuster. Have you ever had a gull swoop down on you at the beach? Do you know what it is like to feel the rush of wings at your ear?

Today, we celebrate this holy collision of water, Word, and Spirit. In celebrating the baptism of our Lord, we also remember our own baptism, our incorporation into the family of God, and into this wonderful, countercultural, dangerous discipleship journey. By water and Word, God named and claimed us and gave us the gift of the Spirit. Nothing should ever be the same again; if it is, if the world is too much with you and you are distracted by worries and concerns then trouble those waters, my friend. Stir it up and remember whose you truly are. Let the grace and the wonder and the expectation wash over you again and again.

From the waters of creation to the waters of the flood, from the Red Sea to the Jordan River, and from the water of Baptism that quenches sin for all eternity to the water that slakes human thirst each day, this elemental substance is both mighty and merciful—the power to destroy and to ensure life. Water, Word, and Spirit are powerful images for this day. See, feel, and taste that the Lord Jesus Christ is near. Yes, Jesus is wherever we gather as a worshiping community, whenever we call on his name, and in, under, and through simple gifts of bread and wine."
Sharron R. Blezard: 'Holy Collision! Baptism of our Lord'

This Week in Church
Bible Readings for This Week

Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ (6th Jan) Beheading of St. John the Baptist (7th Jan)
This festival is called Danaho or Eedo D' denho in Syriac meaning 'Dawn'. Also called  Theophany.

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Blessing of the Water

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Feast of St. Stephen (8th Jan) 1st Sunday after Baptism of our Lord (8th Jan)
Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_Koodosh-eetho-to-Kothne.htm

Sermons for This Week
We have greatly expanded our Sermon Resources. The sermon collection now includes general and classical sermons. This will give a broader appeal to the Gospel Reading for the week. We also added bible commentaries for the bible reading to facilitate study and meditation. Please check it out.

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for Denaha (the Baptism of Jesus Christ)
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_denaha.htm

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for the 1st Sunday after Denaha (Baptism of our Lord)
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_1st-sunday-after-denaha.htm

More Sermons

This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
"It is not always easy to recognize Christ. He comes in unexpected ways, ways you and I are not prepared for. If you were living in Palestine at Christ’s first coming, and some prophet told you the Messiah would be coming soon, would you have looked for a baby wrapped in straw? Would you have looked for him on a cross? Would you have expected him to come to you looking like bread, tasting like bread?" - Walter J. Burghart, SJ

"The call to repent challenges us to grow in our faith so we will not be so self absorbed that we fail to see Christ in our lives or the lives of others. Much of the transforming power of our faith is lost when we have grown too comfortable with it. We must hear again and again the call to be faithful, to correct our course through life to go the way that God would have us to go. A religion void of moral and ethical living is just that--void. Our faith must be connected by our manner of living in the every day world." - Rev. Dr. Wiley Stephens

A Relationship Changed by Baptism

by Edward F. Markquart, Baptism? What Do We Teach?

Let us pretend that you are a young lieutenant, part of the military, part of a presidential honor guard. Every day the President walks into his office, and you snap to attention, click your heals and salute the President. The President nods. Every day, this same procedure occurs. The President walks in; you snap to attention, click your heals and salute. The relationship is stiff, formal, technical, with eyes never looking the President in the eye but eyes always straight ahead, frozen like a stiff wooden soldier. But…in this story…one day, the President stops in front of you, the young lieutenant, and says to you. "Please follow me into my office." You do so and the door is closed. The President orders you to be seated and then looks you in the eye and says, "I want you to become one of my children. I want you to become part of our family. I want you to come to our family outings, our family picnics, the family birthday parties, the family Christmases. I want you to become part of our family." What a moment. What a miracle. And in that moment, the relationship between the President and the young lieutenant is totally transformed. The relationship is no longer formal, stiff, distant and legal but is now close and loving.

That is precisely what happens to us in our baptism. It is God who takes the initiative. The relationship is totally transformed. Baptism is the fantastic invitation from God to know us intimately and closely, so closely that we are called son or daughter, that we become family.

Featured This Week: The Day God Became a Baby

by David O. Dykes, Tyler, Texas

Scripture: Luke 2:1-20

The 6-year-old kids in their Sunday School class were re-enacting the story of the birth of Jesus. The teacher wanted them to stage it themselves based on their own made-up script, so it was certainly interesting. They had three Marys, two Josephs, six shepherds, two wise guys and one boy who played the cow. Another boy decided he would be the doctor who would deliver the baby. The teacher consented, so the little doctor went back behind the manger, picked up the doll and carefully wrapped it in a blanket. Then with a big smile on his face, he turned to the Marys and the Josephs and said, "Congratulations, it's a God!"

That little boy had a better grasp of the incarnation than many people much older. The birth of Jesus was an amazing experience of God taking on human form.

You've heard Christmas sermons all your life, and there is so much we could find in this text; but today we will look at only two topics. First, the miracles Mary pondered; second, the message God proclaimed.

I. The Miracles Mary Pondered

It is obvious Luke conducted a personal interview with Mary many years later. How else would he have been able to write what he did in verse 19? It says, "Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Mary experienced so many miracles that night that she had to store them in her heart as precious treasures.

The word pondered is a Greek word that Aristotle used frequently; it is a word which meant "to throw together; to constantly rethink and evaluate even the tiniest details" of an experience. What were these things she pondered? When we look at what took place that night, there were actually three miraculous journeys. Each of these three journeys came to a conclusion that night, and they all arrived at the same place in Bethlehem. First, there was:

1. The Difficult Arrival in Bethlehem

The first journey that came to a conclusion that night was the difficult journey Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem. It was a difficult trek of more than 80 miles. The chapter begins with Luke having set this event in a literal historical and political context. Luke was careful to ensure the readers comprehended the birth of Jesus as being firmly rooted in history. It was not a once-upon-a-time story. There was a real Jesus just as there was a Caesar Augustus and a governor named Quirinius.

Can you imagine the fear and anxiety Joseph and Mary experienced when they heard that because of this census they had no choice but to travel to Bethlehem? They knew Mary was going to give birth any day, and it would be a long and difficult trip; but they had no choice. After all, Emperor Augustus was in control.

Really? Actually, the heart of this king was in the hand of the Lord, and God was behind this decree. This massive registration plan was simply God's way to get Mary in the correct place for Jesus to be born. Scripture prophesied 700 years earlier the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

Micah 5:2 says, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times." That last phrase literally reads, "whose beginning is from the days of eternity." Caesar Augustus, the adopted son of Julius Caesar, was the first Caesar to be called Augustus. His real name was Octavanius. The Roman Senate voted to give him that title, Augustus, which means "holy or revered." It was a title reserved for gods. They wanted to make the Roman emperor like God.

So here was this Augustus making his political decree, thinking he was a god; but he was simply a pawn in the hand of the true God. Man proposes, but God disposes. Augustus was a man who wanted to become a god, and what we see in this text is God who is becoming a man—what a contrast!

So Joseph and Mary finally arrived in Bethlehem, only to find every hotel had a "No Vacancy" sign out front. Actually, Bethlehem was such a tiny town that when it says there was no room in the inn, it means there was only one and it was full. So Jesus was born…where exactly? The Bible doesn't say. We only know He was laid in a manger, which is a feed box for cows and sheep. That's why we assume He was born in a barn.

Most miniature Nativity scenes employ a wooden shack as the barn, but we are fairly certain it wasn't a wooden barn. In biblical times, especially in the region around Bethlehem, farmers and shepherds didn't have enough wood to build wooden buildings. Instead they used the natural shallow caves that dotted the sides of the limestone hills.

If you ever get the chance to visit Bethlehem with me, we will go down into the Church of the Nativity, and there is a shallow cave, or grotto, that is the traditional site of the birth of Jesus. Of course, this huge church has been built over it, so I try to take travelers to a shepherd's cave outside the city that looks the same today as it might have looked 2,000 years ago.

So Mary and Joseph probably found refuge in one of these limestone caves. One of the things Mary pondered in her heart that night was the trip to Bethlehem and the tough experience of having her firstborn child born in less-than-ideal circumstances. However, there was a second journey that concluded at the same place that evening. I call it:  ..

Read the rest of this exciting story in Malankara World. Do not miss two stories in the end. A Must read article. http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Seasonal/Christmas/Christmas_day-god-became-a-baby.htm

The End of This Year

by Ralph Bouma

"Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God," Revelation 3:2.

As we think about how the world has just celebrated the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we are coming to the threshold of another year, we see how the time that is given us is being marked with decline.

I want you to see the message to the angel of the church in Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-4:

"Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love."

What is our first love? Verse 5 tells us: "Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."

The Word of God, the Saviour of the world, the King of kings, cautions against the declension of the church. The church started out in such a blessed state, but it continues to decline.

The Lord warns us in our text. The Lord brings this to our attention at the end of another year. We liken the closing of a year to a funeral service. We put to rest a year for which we must account in the Day of Judgment, but which we will see no more.

The Lord Jesus Christ, after He ascended to the right hand of His Father, gave His Revelation to the Apostle John. Jesus Christ warns the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3. He says that He sees a right spirit in us, but in our text He warns us to be watchful and strengthen those things that remain and are ready to die.

In the time in which we live we see that the church of Christ has declined and that the Spirit of Christ has been removed. The candlestick, the light, has been removed from much of the church of our nation today. Christ is the light, and the light reveals the corruption of our hearts. The gospel that is being preached today in the churches throughout our nation does not identify sin. The need for repentance is not being preached.

We read in Revelation 3:3: "Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee." We read about the gospel that Christ has authorized His apostles to preach in Luke 24:27: "And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." This is the beginning of the gospel. The gospel begins with repentance.

As we approach the end of another year, we see many tokens of God's displeasure in our nation. Satan is turned loose, and sin is rampant. Violence covers the earth, but we must confess as the Psalmist in Psalm 103:10-12: "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."

The Lord is merciful to us and allowed us to have the gospel. We still have His Word, and we still live in a land of freedom where we may have His Word, and we may assemble to worship Him as we please.

I want you to notice the difference between as far as north is from south from as far as east is from the west. If you go to the north pole, when you reach it you are no longer going north. From that point on you are going south. If you go south to the south pole, when you reach it you are no longer going south. From that point you are going north again.

However, you can go east, and you can go east, and you can go east perpetually and you are still going east. You can go west, and you can keep going west perpetually. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. This means He has removed our transgressions to such an extent they shall never again be mentioned because we have repented, because we have turned from our sins.

Each one of the seven churches in Revelation has an admonition. In each one, after the rebuke of their sin, they are told to repent. This is the message of the gospel we have to understand, that all the gospel begins with the word repent. Amen.

Come, let us to the Lord our God With contrite hearts return; Our God is gracious, nor will leave H desolate to mourn. John Morison, 1871

Source: Excerpted from sermon #435, 'HOLD FAST AND REPENT'; Gospel Chapel, Conrad, MT

Four Reasons to Face the New Year without Fear

by Adrian Rogers, Love Worth Finding

God's Word brings us a comforting promise, along with an insightful command as we face a new year: "Let your conversation be without covetousness; 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" (Hebrews 13:5-6).

We can live this coming year without fear if we apply these four incredibly wonderful truths to our lives and root them deep into our hearts.

The Contentment of His Provision

Contentment is not getting what you want, but it is wanting what you already have. 1 Timothy 6:6-8 says, "But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us therewith be content." If you know Jesus Christ, you have contentment. If you've got clothes on your back, something to eat, and Jesus Christ in your heart, you're rich!

Do you know why we have fear? Because we think our needs or the needs of someone we love are not going to be met. Or we fear that the things we think are meeting our needs are going to be taken away from us. The deepest need of your heart can only be met in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Companionship of His Presence

I don't know what I'm going to face next year. But there's one thing I know, He will never leave me. Are you a child of God? He will never leave you either. Isn't that wonderful!

What's another reason we may fear in the coming year? Because we're afraid we're going to have to face something we don't understand, and we're going to have to face it alone.

When God's Word promises that God will never forsake you, it literally means that He will never abandon you. He will not give up on you. We need to practice the presence of the Lord this coming year. When the devil comes and knocks at you heart's door, you can simply say, "Jesus, please go answer the door."

The Confidence of His Promise

We're going to zero in on a little phrase in our verses in Hebrews, "He hath said." A promise is no better than the one who makes it. Who says, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee"? It is the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God. This is the confidence of His promise.

In the coming year, when you say, "God, I just don't have the strength." The omnipotent God will answer, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." When you say, "God, I'm afraid of what is going to happen." The omnipresent God says, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." And when you say, "God, I don't know what to do." The omniscient God will respond, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." He himself hath said it.

The Comfort of His Protection

Hebrews 13:6 promises, "So that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me." Now, put that with verse 5, which says, "He hath said."

Like I said earlier, I don't know what you're going to go through this coming year. But I know you can boldly say, "The Lord is my helper, so I will not fear what man shall do to me." When you find your contentment, companionship, and confidence in Jesus. Then, you'll find your comfort and courage in Jesus.

Making All Things New

by Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor

He who sits on the throne said, 'Behold, I am making all things new.' - Revelation 21:5

I've never known anyone that claimed New Year's was their favorite holiday. The media shows flashy images of jubilant crowds forgetting their cares as they count down until midnight. After the ball drops, lovers kiss, friends embrace, and the partying continues into the wee hours.

In various real-life conversations, the consensus seems to be: New Year's isn't quite as fun as the TV makes it look. Many note the anti-climactic nature of this holiday, and have foregone the party scene for quieter evenings that may or may not last until midnight.

I think New Year's brings so many mixed emotions because New Year's (and birthdays) remind us that we are creatures limited to time. With the passage of time we not only sense our mortality, but most of us have accumulated personal losses or regrets alongside our precious memories. And time's indifferent, methodical nature does not allow us to go back and have a redo.

In a conversation last winter, a friend shared a perspective on time and eternity that really changed my approach to New Year's. A wise pastor once shared with her, "We struggle with time because ultimately our souls weren't meant for time. Our souls were meant for eternity, in relationship with an Eternal God."

Although I can't even begin to wrap my mind around the logistics of eternity (what is it like to have no beginning and no end?), my friend's comment gives me hope. Our linear existence is not "it." This, of course, doesn't mean we can approach time in a careless manner. Certainly God, the Creator of time, cares how we spend it. But our discomfort with the passage of another year points to a God who is bigger than the limitations of time and who loves us enough to prepare us for a day when we will no longer be bound to its limitations either.

But what of the regrets, the wrongs done, and the losses? These things seem set in stone, and like real stones they often weigh on us in our attempts to make fresh starts.

In the book of Revelation, we see that God, from His throne, continually makes all things new (21: 5). Once again, it's kind of hard to wrap your mind around a God who is bigger than time, Who can bring good out of a past we no longer have access to. But our pasts and all the failings and imperfections contained in them don't faze a God whose goodness knows no bounds. Although we are limited, God's grace is not.

When I look at it this way, I have to ask myself: "Why would I, a creature powerless to change the past, want to hold on so tightly to it? Why not give it to the One who can actually do something about it?!"

Can you hand your past over to the Eternal One in the coming year? Are you willing to surrender your present and your future as well? I know this without a doubt – surrendering your life to God is something you'll never regret.

Further Reading:

Psalm 96: 1-2
2 Corinthians 5: 17
Face the New Year Without Fear, by Adrian Rogers

Source: Crosswalk.com devotional. Sarah Jennings is Crosswalk.com Family Editor

Going Forward in the New Year

by Ralph Bouma

"Go to now, ye that says, To day or to morrow 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 vanishth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that."
 JAM 4:13-15.

Before making a decision, we must ask: Does this bring me under any enslaving power? We read in 1CO 6:12, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any." We can become enslaved to our worldly possessions. I know of many cases where the Lord has blessed people with farms or businesses that are paid for, but then they think it is time to mortgage and expand. They have problems and next thing you know they are slaves to what God once gave them free and clear. We must be careful not to become enslaved under the power of what the Lord gave us as a blessing.

We must not go out in our own might and think we will build a big empire, saying in the words of our text, "To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain." We will lose sight of one very important thing: "For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will." That is how we should deal in our daily affairs.

Then we come back to the question in Verse 14, "For what is your life?" Is the tenor of my life toward God or self, toward the church or the world, toward righteousness or sin, toward self-denial or self-indulgence, toward giving or receiving? Is Christ increasing and self decreasing? Is sin becoming exceeding sinful? Do we see the need of living with a heart that is tender before the Lord?

How shall I fare for eternity if I continue to pursue the same general course and direction of life as I have displayed in the past year? If you are running a business and go through your accounts and find what is profitable and find no aspect of the business that needs to be altered, would you not continue on in that course? Have I lived the past year with strong aspirations to know Christ and to be found more fully in Him for my own soul's consciousness? Have I had a yearning desire after the Lord? Have I lived in nearness and fellowship with Christ? If that is the account we can give for the past year, then yes, we should continue our course next year. If we can say this, shall we not fare well by grace when we appear before the Judge of heaven and earth? If we can say that Christ is altogether lovely, and the chiefest among ten thousand, our all in all, if we have lived with strong yearnings to walk uprightly before the Lord, and to bow before Him in the submission of saving faith, shall we not fare well by grace?

We must analyze our books by the Word of God so that every decision and everything we do is based on Scripture or we will hear, "Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love," REV 2:4. Do we look back at the year with shame and consternation of faith because Christ has not been our first love? Then we have an account that must be corrected and an inventory that needs adjusting.

As we enter the New Year, may the Lord grant that we can go forward with our hearts' desire and our longing aspirations after Christ, that we might "know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death," as we read in PHI 3:10. And ROM 6:10 says, "For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." Is that the desire of our hearts? To be "found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God, by faith," PHI 3:9. Amen.

Time! What an empty vapour ‘tis!
And days how swift they are!
Swift as an Indian arrow flies,
Or like a shooting star.

Yet, mighty God! Our fleeting days
Thy lasting favours share;
Yet with the bounties of Thy grace,
Thou load'st the rolling year.

‘Tis sovereign mercy finds us food,
And we are clothed with love;
While grace stands pointing out the road
That leads our souls above.

His goodness runs an endless round;
All glory to the Lord!
His mercy never knows a bound;
And be His Name adored.
Gadsby selection, 1838

Source: Excerpted from sermon #188 SPIRITUAL INVENTORY by Ralph Bouma at Gospel Chapel, MT

Motherhood is a Special Task

by Max Lucado

QUESTION:

More than anything in the world I want to be a good mom to my kids. How can I be the mom God wants me to be?

ANSWER FROM MAX:

The virgin birth is more, much more, than a Christmas story. It is a picture of how close Christ will come to you, a mom, as you also bring a child into the world.

Imagine yourself in that story found in Luke 1.

God comes to you and says, "I have a special task for you. A child. A special child that I want to entrust to you. Are you willing to raise this one?"

You stammer, take a breath. "This sounds scary."

"Don't worry. I'll be there with you. This child is special to me. He will be a great child."

You shake your head. "Such an awesome responsibility. I don't know if I can do it."

"Nothing is impossible with me."

You smile. "I am your servant. I'll do it."

Do we think only one child received God's special attention? Sure, only one was his Son, and an angel sent out those special birth announcements, accompanied by an angelic choir singing "Happy Birthday." Of course God pulled out all the stops for Jesus' birth.

But children aren't randomly born to parents. God orchestrates the right children to be born to the right parents.

Being the mom God wants you to be starts with the understanding of how important your job is in God's eyes. He entrusts you with one of his own children. He chose you out of all the moms in the world for this one child.

Remember, you, too, are highly favored by God himself to receive such a special gift.

From Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions; Copyright (Thomas Nelson, 2011) Max Lucado

There's No Love Like a Mother's

by Dr. Joe McKeever

An article in the most recent issue of The New Yorker proved to be a conversation stopper. You read it and think, "What?" and walk away thoughtful and speechless.

The former head of New York City's public schools tells how he encountered Caroline Kennedy Schlossburg and her young son Jack at a social function. The boy approached him and said, "They tell me you run the city schools? And that you are the one who declares snow days."

Now, little Jack attended a private school--it will not surprise readers to know--but he knew that if the public schools closed the private schools followed suit. Jack said, "When I have a birthday, I'd like the schools to be closed."

I don't recall the superintendent's answer

As it turned out, it was Caroline who called in that favor. The snow was coming down in buckets and she called the superintendent's house. "Tomorrow is not Jack's birthday," she said, "but he has a big paper coming due and he's not ready for it. This would be a great time for you to declare a snow day."

The superintendent, now retired, admits that that was one of the days he closed the schools for snow.

Fascinating. More than a little strange.

One wonders just how many of the high level decisions being made every day are prompted not by economic or other realities but as personal favors to people of influence.

Caroline Schlossburg has such influence. And money too, we presume. Enough to shut down the city schools for a day for her young son. How he must admire his mom. The things she does for him.

So, what has your mom done for you lately? Here's what my mother did for me recently. ...

Read the rest of the article in Malankara World. http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Family/Family_theres-no-love-like-mothers.htm

New Year Resolution

by Tim Ong

With the coming of the new year comes the many new year resolutions. It is that time of the year when we feel it is a good time to make changes to our lives, yet many new year resolutions come and go without much, if any, effective change at the end of that year.

Rather than drawing up a long list of things to do and to avoid, for this year I will focus only on one resolution. It is a resolution that, even if I am not able to fully keep it or even if I manage to keep it for a little while, I should still be able to benefit from it. There should be some perceptible difference to my experience of life.

So, for the new year, my resolution is simply to cease criticizing. By this, I mean stop my mental habit of criticizing others and myself. This is a very common mental tendency but most people are not aware that this tendency is very harmful to our well being as well as detrimental to our happiness. So if you want more peace in your life and more positive experiences, then I suggest that you make this your new year resolution as well.

Do not look down on this simple resolution. It may be a simple resolution but it is not an easy one to keep. However, each time I am able to stop myself from criticizing others or myself, I am achieving an important thing.

I am unlearning my mental tendency of focusing on the negative, whether it is the person or the deed, and relearning a new mental tendency of focusing on the positive. In the process, I am also learning to let go of my needs to be right or be perfect, or my need for others to say, act or behave in one way or another that matches my own expectations. In other words, I am learning to accept things and people as they are. I am also learning to accept myself as I am.

As always, all mental cultivation require the skill of mindfulness or heightened non-judgmental self awareness. Thus, in order to be able to keep this single resolution, I will need to constantly remind myself to be mindful of my thoughts and emotions.

So, while this single resolution to cease criticizing may look simple, it is not easy. Changing any existing mental habit is never easy but the fruit is well worth the effort.

May 2012 bring you better health, greater joy and more abundance.

Humor: God Help the Fish

Sam Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. It's said he was a rather nasty fellow with a checkered past. Later in life Houston made a commitment to Christ and was baptized in a river. The preacher said to him, "Sam, your sins are washed away." Houston replied, "God help the fish."

Although most of us were not baptized as adults in a river, we can probably relate to this reply.

Source: King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com

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