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

Theme: Evangelism and Christian Persecution

Volume 3 No. 177 November 7, 2013

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Giant Jesus Statue in Syria - Nov 2013
Giant Jesus Statue Erected in Syria

A giant Jesus statue was erected in Syria under cover of a truce among three factions involved in the country's civil war. The project took eight years to complete after a setback by the civil war that followed a March 2011 uprising in Syria.

The Jesus statue stands on the Cherubim mountain with its hands outstretched, looking out over a route pilgrims took between Constantinople and Jerusalem in ancient times. The statue stands 40 feet tall and sits on a base that brings its height to about 105 feet, according to the project's organizers.

The picture shows the installation of the statue and the panoramic view of its surroundings.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
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Foreword

This week, we take on the Evangelization Commandment and the Persecution of Christians. Christianity doesn't offer us any guarantees against persecution and suffering as Jesus reminded his Disciples several times. We should be willing to take our cross and follow Jesus. Our Lord also commanded us that we should proclaim the Good News to everyone. ..

THIS WEEK IN CHURCH

Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 10)

Hoodosh Eetho - Dedication/Renewal of Church
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_Hoodosh-eatho.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (November 10)

Sermons for Hoodosh Eetho - Dedication/Renewal of Church
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Hoodosh-eatho.htm

THEMATIC ARTICLES

Evangelism And The Holy Spirit

The Orthodox Church today is beginning to concern itself once again, with evangelism. There are, I believe, many ingredients to evangelism. The first ingredient for evangelism (sharing Jesus on a one-to-one basis) is growth in spiritual life. The second ingredient you must have is the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to show others by our lives that corruption and lust can be overcome and that we do not have to submit to the overwhelming flood of filth that is poured upon us everyday. These two items, in my opinion, are all you need to enable you to witness. Knowing Jesus we have through development of spiritual life, someone to witness about, and having the Holy Spirit, we have the power to share it. ...

Rebuild the Church of Christ!

Today, the Lord needs you, young people, for his Church. Today, he is calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries. How? In what way? .. I have thought of three images that can help us understand better what it means to be a disciple and a missionary. First, a field is a place for sowing seeds; second, a field is a training ground; and third, a field is a construction site. ... The question remains: Where do we start? What are the criteria for building a more just society? Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked what needed to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I! ...

How Well Can You Defend the Resurrection?

Of all the teachings of Christianity, no doctrine is more central than the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The truth of the resurrection has been attacked from every angle. New books and television media regularly appear questioning the truth of the resurrection, re-hashing old theories about what happened to Jesus' body. Since the resurrection is crucial to Christianity, Christians ought to be able to give answers to the inevitable questions about the truth of the resurrection. ...

What's It All About? 'Not I, But Christ'

"If you leave out Christ, you have left the sun out of the day, and the moon out of the night, you have left the waters out of the sea, and the floods out of the river, you have left the harvest out of the year, the soul out of the body, you have left joy out of heaven, you robbed all of it's all. There is no gospel worth thinking of, much less worth proclaiming, if Jesus be forgotten. We must have Jesus as Alpha and Omega in all our ministries." ... This is the focus we need. "There is no gospel…if Jesus be forgotten." It's all about Jesus. "Not I, but Christ." ...

The Power Of Prayer - Evangelism In Spite Of Persecution

The prayers of the thousands of believers around the world have truly changed the situation in this Ugandan village. God has heard these powerful prayers, and is at work in mighty ways! ...

One Third of Syria's Christians Have Fled Syria

The report suggests that the Arab Spring has turned into the 'Christian Winter', with political upheavals proving particularly costly for the Christian minority in the Middle East. "From all accounts, the incidents of persecution are now apparently relentless and worsening; churches being burnt, Christians under pressure to convert, mob violence against Christian homes, abduction and rape of Christian girls, anti-Christian propaganda in the media and from Government, discrimination in schools and the workplace… The list goes on," said Pontifex. ...

Beleaguered Syrian Christians Fear Future, Increasingly Targeted by Jihadis

The shelling and recent rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears among Syria's religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad's rule. Christians believe they are being targeted — in part because of the anti-Christian sentiment among extremists and in part as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad. ...

GENERAL ARTICLES

Health: Why Understanding Your Skin's Biology Can Help You Improve Its Look

In addition to environmental factors, such as smoke and excessive sun exposure, there are two primary biological processes that age our skin: oxidization and glycation. Despite antioxidants, which combats oxidation, being all the rage in recent years, few people are aware of what occurs through glycation." ...

Recipe: Fish Tacos With Cabbage and Apple

In North America we are at the end of harvest season. Fresh apples and cabbages are available in plenty at the road stands and grocery stores. Try the following recipe for variety. The salad can be used alone as delicious side dish. ...

Family Special: How to Strengthen Your Marriage with Grace

Grace is a vital part of how God expresses His love to us. But, too often, marriages lack this one key ingredient. Ironically, many spouses are more likely to show grace to people they don't know well than they are to the husband or wife that God is calling them to love deeply.

Much of what hurts or disappoints you in marriage is caused by an absence of grace. Simply making an effort to extend grace to your spouse can do wonders to strengthen your marriage, transforming it into a union where both you and your spouse can thrive. Here's how you can strengthen your marriage with grace: ...

About Malankara World

Foreword
This week, we take on the Evangelization Commandment and the Persecution of Christians. Christianity doesn't offer us any guarantees against persecution and suffering as Jesus reminded his Disciples several times. We should be willing to take our cross and follow Jesus. Our Lord also commanded us that we should proclaim the Good News to everyone:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
(Matthew 28:16-20).

Evangelization is not optional; it is a commandment. Unfortunately, it is not something our church do well. Many of us are reluctant to tell others about our faith. We feel inadequate. We feel we do not have enough knowledge of bible to do so. Jesus had foreseen this when he said:

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."
Acts 1:8

When you come upon a question that you cannot answer, get help from others. Evangelism should be a team effort, not individual task.

The doubts we have about approaching others are not confined to us alone. Take another look at Matthew 28:16-20 above. See the sentence: "When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted." This is the day the disciples assembled to see the ascension of Jesus. They had already seen the resurrected Jesus. They had encounters with him several times. They had seen all his miracles first hand. But they still "doubted." So, the early disciples also were human like us. But, in spite of that, they could overcome their doubts and feelings of inadequacy. Dr. Ray Pritchard talked about this "doubt" in one of his articles. I like to excerpt it here:

"What should we take from this? First, it means that the disciples were truly human. Second, Jesus didn't condemn them for their doubts. He didn't stop and say, "Hey, what's wrong with you guys? Can't you get your act together?"

Until yesterday I had never seen the connection between their doubt and what happens next. Even though some doubted, Jesus sends them out anyway.

Go and preach.
Go and make disciples.
Go and baptize.
Go and spread the Good News.
Go and I will go with you.

Don't let your doubts stop you.

Go and in the very act of going, your faith will be made stronger.

The very act of telling the Good News helps your own heart to believe it."

The root of Christian faith is the incarnation, crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So, when we talk to others about Christianity, one of the questions we will face will be the credibility of Resurrection. Justin Holcomb, in his article, 'How Well Can You Defend the Resurrection?' does a superb job of taking up this topic and gives us many talking points on this topic.

The next question is the need for evangelism. In our world of global communications and worldwide networking, are there still people who've never heard of the most important person to have ever lived? Yes there are. Plenty in fact. Here is what Dr. Jack Graham says about it:

"Today, with close to 7 billion people on earth, we can think of the world roughly in thirds. There's the third who have heard of Jesus Christ and claim to have responded in faith to His message. Then, there's the third who have heard of Jesus, but haven't responded. And then there's the last third, who haven't heard the message of Jesus Christ, and have virtually no access to the Gospel.

As Christians, our focus must be on getting the Gospel message to everyone. Only God can bring people to Himself, so it's our job just to get His message of salvation to them. And that's not beyond our reach in this generation!

When it comes to world evangelization, you have a role to play. Pray, give, and go to the ends of the earth to show Christ to the world. We can reach the world for Christ, but we have to work together!"

We have a big task ahead of us.

Our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted and tortured all over the world, particularly in the Middle East. Arab spring has turned into an Arab winter for Christians. Two of our bishops are still held in captivity. Traditional Christian towns had been destroyed and ransacked. People have lost all their possessions and are living as refugees. But in spite of all these bad news, look at the cross that was erected on the Cherubim mountain in Syria. It shows what we can accomplish if we persist enough.

Take a look at the outstretched arms of Jesus on our cover photo. The Jesus statue looks out over a route pilgrims took between Constantinople and Jerusalem in ancient times. The statue stands 40 feet tall and sits on a base that brings its height to about 105 feet, according to the project's organizers. It may be vandalized or destroyed in the future, but the fact that it was erected there under these conditions is a testimonial in itself. There is nothing God cannot do. Jesus Christ said, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can ask this mountain and move, and it will move." So, please pray for the safety of Christians all over the world and provide any help you can. Also preach the good news to everyone as commanded by Jesus.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (November 10)

Hoodhosh Eetho (Dedication) Sunday

The Sunday after Koodhosh Eetho is called Hoodhosh Eetho (Dedication of Church) Sunday.

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Sermons for This Sunday (November 10)
This Week's Features

Evangelism And The Holy Spirit

By Bryan Beal

The Orthodox Church today is beginning to concern itself once again, with evangelism. There are, I believe, many ingredients to evangelism.

The first ingredient for evangelism (sharing Jesus on a one-to-one basis) is growth in spiritual life. In Acts, Luke quotes John and Peter when they say that we cannot stop talking about the things which we have seen and heard. When the Apostles were ordered to stop speaking and teaching in the name of Jesus, (Acts 4:19) Peter and John replied, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge"; - how can you give heed to God and go speaking about Him if you do not have a personal relationship with Him?

Peter spoke later on when taken before the council in Jerusalem where he was told again not to speak or teach in the name of Jesus, that we must obey God rather than men. How can you obey God if you do not know what He has to say or who He is? The first thing you must know to witness, and to be a missionary to your neighbors is, who Jesus is. When you find that your experience and relationship to Jesus means something to you and has changed your life then you will find that you cannot stop talking and teaching in His Name.

THE HOLY SPIRIT

The second ingredient you must have is the Holy Spirit. At the beginning of the book of Acts, Jesus Christ said, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and even to the remotest part of the earth." He commanded them to go to Jerusalem and wait until they had received what the Father had promised. He said that the promise would be baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Two things in this passage are evident:

1. That if you are to be a witness, you have to receive the Holy Spirit just as you received Jesus.

2. When you received at baptism the Holy Spirit, you received power.

This word, power, in the Greek is often quoted by the Church. The word is "dynamis" and is the same word from which we get our word dynamite. We shall receive power and we shall be witnesses. They go hand in hand. You cannot separate a genuine witness for God from the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why do we need power?

We need power to overcome our fears, to be courageous, so we can speak about Jesus.

We need power so we will know when to speak and when to remain quiet.

We need power so we can have wisdom, supernatural wisdom, so that we can have a spiritual knowledge about Jesus Christ, so we can answer the questions of the curious and unbelieving.

We need power to endure and be diligent in our personal lives so that we can display our faith in Jesus Christ to those around us by the quality of our everyday actions.

We need power so that like in the Second Epistle of Peter, we can become partakers of the divine nature of Jesus Christ, that we can walk in a manner worthy of Him.

We need the Holy Spirit to show others by our lives that corruption and lust can be overcome and that we do not have to submit to the overwhelming flood of filth that is poured upon us everyday.

WE WILL KNOW WHAT TO SAY

These two items, in my opinion, are all you need to enable you to witness. Knowing Jesus we have through development of spiritual life, someone to witness about, and having the Holy Spirit, we have the power to share it. Jesus said that for His Name's sake we would be brought before the kings and princes of this world to witness about Him. He said not to worry or contemplate about what we would say. Jesus said that in that hour, in which you are wit­nessing, it (what to say) will be given to you. For the Holy Spirit will bring to our remembrance all things which Jesus has taught us. There is a catch to this type of witnessing: that your relationship to Jesus must be such that He can teach you so that there will be something for the Holy Spirit to bring to remem­brance.

If you want your witness to be one that abounds, then you must be a person who abounds in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. If you want your witness to have an effect upon other people's minds, then you must be a person who allows the Holy Spirit to endow you with power from on high to make your words have meaning to the hearer. When Jesus taught, He did not teach as a scribe or Pharisee, but rather He taught as "one having authority." That is, as one having absolute knowledge of the truth. You must not stand in your own strength when you share Jesus Christ but rather, you must stand on the authority of Jesus' word. The Bible says that when God sends forth His word that it will go forth and water those upon whom it falls, like they were plants. The Bible says God's word will not return to Him void but rather, that every time His word is spoken, and taught, it will have dramatic effect upon those who hear it. You must not trust in your emotions and feelings or the reactions and rejections of others, but rather you must witness in faith that One whom you are witnessing about is able to transform and alter the people to whom you are giving God's message of life.

BE SOBER!

With these two principles in mind, knowing Jesus, and having the power of the Holy Spirit, we will be able to answer the high calling concerning the Biblical imperatives about witnessing. One thing I would like to mention is in 2 Timothy 4:2 where Paul is exhorting his son in the faith, Timothy. He tells him the following things: preach the word, be ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with great patience and instruction. In verse 5, he says, "Be sober in all things, do the work of an evan­gelist, fulfill your ministry." Evangelism and wit­nessing as you can see, are not just teaching that Jesus Christ is God and the Saviour of mankind, but it is the whole emphasis of a Christian's life. It is sharing the word in all manner and ways with those who need to hear it. It is as Paul says in verse 6, the pouring out of your life as a drink-offering for the service of Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke (Matthew 28) what has come to be known as the "great com­mission." He said first of all, all authority has been given to you on heaven and earth. As a result of that authority we are to go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He then says, to teach them to observe all He commanded us. We are to teach to those who would follow Jesus all the things which He has commanded us and taught us. How are you going to witness and evangelize until you are willing to read and study the things in the Bible which he taught? Jesus ended that passage of Scrip­ture by saying, "I am with you always even to the end of the age."

TO BE WILLING!

Jesus is here, right this very moment. He is speaking to you, the reader. He is in our very lives. He is reaching out to a spiritually dead world with His life. And who will take that life to them? Paul, in Romans 10:8, says, "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salva­tion. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." For there is no distinc­tion between a Jew and a Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved."

Paul here begins to ask some very logical questions which I believe we must answer.

1. How then shall they call upon Him – these who have not believed?

2. How shall they believe in whom they have not heard?

3. How shall they hear without a preacher?

4. How shall they preach unless they are sent?

There is a logical order for going out and sharing Jesus Christ. But, it has to begin with you being willing to be sent out to share the gospel. This is the message of Pentecost.

About The Author:

Bryan Beat is a member of the Orthodox Church of the Redeemer in Los Altos Hills, California.

Source: Word Magazine June 1978 Page 12/43; Copyright 2011 Almoutran

Rebuild the Church of Christ!

by Pope Francis

We have just recalled the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. In front of the crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him: "Francis, go, rebuild my house." The young Francis responded readily and generously to the Lord's call to rebuild his house. But which house? Slowly but surely, Francis came to realize that it was not a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church. It was a matter of being at the service of the Church, loving her and working to make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly in her.

Today too, as always, the Lord needs you, young people, for his Church. Today too, he is calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries. How? In what way? Well, I think we are able to learn something from what has happened these days: how we had to move this vigil from Campus Fidei in Guaratiba because of the bad weather. Would not the Lord be willing to say to us that the real area of faith, the true campus fidei, is not a geographical place but are we that very place? Yes! Each of us, each one of you. And missionary discipleship means to recognize that we are the Campus Fidei of God! Starting with the name of the place where we are, Campus Fidei, the field of faith, I have thought of three images that can help us understand better what it means to be a disciple and a missionary. First, a field is a place for sowing seeds; second, a field is a training ground; and third, a field is a construction site.

A field is a place for sowing seeds.

We all know the parable where Jesus speaks of a sower who went out to sow seeds in the field; some seed fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and could not grow; other seed fell on good soil and brought forth much fruit (cf. Mt 13:1-9). Jesus himself explains the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God sown in our hearts (cf. Mt 13:18-23). This, dear young people, means that the real Campus Fidei, the field of faith, is your own heart, it is your life. It is your life that Jesus wants to enter with his word, with his presence. Please, let Christ and his word enter your life, blossom and grow.

Jesus tells us that the seed which fell on the path or on the rocky ground or among the thorns bore no fruit. What kind of ground are we? What kind of terrain do we want to be? Maybe sometimes we are like the path: we hear the Lord's word but it changes nothing in our lives because we let ourselves be numbed by all the superficial voices competing for our attention; or we are like the rocky ground: we receive Jesus with enthusiasm, but we falter and, faced with difficulties, we don't have the courage to swim against the tide; or we are like the thorny ground: negativity, negative feelings choke the Lord's word in us (cf. Mt 13:18-22). But today I am sure that the seed is falling on good soil, that you want to be good soil, not part-time Christians, not "starchy" and superficial, but real. I am sure that you don't want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads. I know that you are aiming high, at long-lasting decisions which will make your lives meaningful. Jesus is capable of letting you do this: he is "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). Let's trust in him. Let's make him our guide!

A field is a training ground.

Jesus asks us to follow him for life, he asks us to be his disciples, to "play on his team." I think that most of you love sports! Here in Brazil, as in other countries, football is a national passion. Now, what do players do when they are asked to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot! The same is true of our lives as the Lord's disciples. Saint Paul tells us: "athletes deny themselves all sorts of things; they do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable" (1 Cor 9:25). Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! He offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life. But he asks us to train, "to get in shape," so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith. How do we get in shape? By talking with him: by prayer, which is our daily conversation with God, who always listens to us. By the sacraments, which make his life grow within us and conform us to Christ. By loving one another, learning to listen, to understand, to forgive, to be accepting and to help others, everybody, with no one excluded or ostracized. Dear young people, be true "athletes of Christ!"

A field is a construction site.

When our heart is good soil which receives the word of God, when "we build up a sweat" in trying to live as Christians, we experience something tremendous: we are never alone, we are part of a family of brothers and sisters, all journeying on the same path: we are part of the Church; indeed, we are building up the Church and we are making history. Saint Peter tells us that we are living stones, which form a spiritual edifice (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). Looking at this platform, we see that it is in the shape of a church, built up with stones and bricks. In the Church of Jesus, we ourselves are the living stones. Jesus is asking us to build up his Church, but not as a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. He asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone! To me, to you, to each of us he says: "Go and make disciples of all nations." Tonight, let us answer him: Yes, I too want to be a living stone; together we want to build up the Church of Jesus! Let us all say together: I want to go forth and build up the Church of Christ!

In your young hearts, you have a desire to build a better world. I have been closely following the news reports of the many young people who throughout the world and also here in Brazil who have taken to the streets in order to express their desire for a more just and fraternal society. They are young people who what to be protagonists of change. I encourage them, in an orderly, peaceful and responsible way, motivated by the values of the Gospel, to continue overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to the social and political concerns present in their countries.

But the question remains: Where do we start? What are the criteria for building a more just society? Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked what needed to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I!

Dear friends, never forget that you are the field of faith! You are Christ's athletes! You are called to build a more beautiful Church and a better world. Let us lift our gaze to Our Lady. Mary helps us to follow Jesus, she gives us the example by her own "yes" to God: "I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me as you say" (Lk 1:38). All together, let us join Mary in saying to God: let it be done to me as you say. Amen!

Source: Address of Pope Francis at the 28th World Youth Day Prayer Vigil on Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, July 27, 2013

How Well Can You Defend the Resurrection?

by Justin Holcomb

Of all the teachings of Christianity, no doctrine is more central than the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The truth of the resurrection has been attacked from every angle. New books and television media regularly appear questioning the truth of the resurrection, re-hashing old theories about what happened to Jesus' body. Since the resurrection is crucial to Christianity, Christians ought to be able to give answers to the inevitable questions about the truth of the resurrection.

Historically Credible Accounts

The first step in defending the resurrection from its detractors is to establish the fact of the historical events that took place as conveyed in the Gospels. As philosopher William Lane Craig notes in his book Reasonable Faith, "The issue is whether the gospel narratives are historically credible accounts or unhistorical legends."

The Empty Tomb

One of the easiest parts of the resurrection data to establish is the fact that the tomb is empty. Because the location of Jesus' burial was known to those living in Jerusalem, it is unlikely that they would have believed the apostles' claims about the resurrection of Christ if there was not an empty tomb. Jesus' burial is widely attested in early, independent testimonies, both biblical and extra-biblical.

The fact that women are primary witnesses of the empty tomb in the Gospel accounts is further evidence of their authenticity. This is because, as is often noted, women were not considered reliable witnesses in first-century Jewish culture, so it would have been foolish for the authors to fictionally construct an account involving women in order to gain credibility.

Matthew 28:11 speaks of a myth that was spread among the Jews concerning the body of Christ. Apparently, the Jews were saying the disciples stole the body of Christ. This is significant because the Jews did not deny the tomb was empty, but instead sought an alternative explanation to the resurrection. The emptiness of the tomb is a widely attested historical fact.

However, just because the tomb of Christ was empty does not necessarily mean the resurrection happened. There are four alternative hypotheses to the resurrection that have been advanced over the years:

1. The Conspiracy Hypothesis

The conspiracy hypothesis says that the disciples stole the body of Christ and continued to lie about his appearances to them. According to this account, the resurrection was a hoax.

This hypothesis is not commonly held in modern scholarship for several reasons:

This hypothesis does not take into account that the disciples believed in the resurrection. It is highly unlikely that numerous disciples would have been willing to give up their lives defending a fabrication.

It is unlikely that the idea of resurrection would have entered the minds of the disciples, as such an event was not connected to the Jewish idea of a Messiah. The scholar William Lane Craig writes, "If your favorite Messiah got himself crucified, then you either went home or else you got yourself a new Messiah. But the idea of stealing Jesus' corpse and saying that God has raised him from the dead is hardly one that would have entered the minds of the disciples."

This hypothesis cannot account for the post-resurrection appearances of Christ.

2. The Apparent Death Hypothesis

The second hypothesis attempting to explain away the resurrection is the apparent death hypothesis. This view says Jesus was not completely dead when he was removed from the cross. Once in the tomb, Jesus was revived and escaped, thus convincing the disciples of his resurrection.

This view is difficult to hold for a few reasons:

It is unlikely that a half-dead man would have been capable of even getting up to walk, much less moving the huge stone that sealed the tomb, over-powering Roman guards, and fleeing from sight.

This theory cannot account for the disciples' attribution of resurrection to Christ, for if they had seen him after he was revived, they would have merely thought he had never died.

It is also foolish to think the Romans, who had perfected the art of executing people, would have let one slip by without ensuring he was dead.

Finally, given the physical torture described in the Gospel accounts, it is highly unlikely that Jesus could have survived crucifixion.

3. The Wrong Tomb Hypothesis

The wrong tomb hypothesis suggests that the women had gotten lost on their way to Jesus' tomb and accidentally stumbled upon the caretaker of an empty tomb. When the caretaker said, "Jesus is not here," the women were so disoriented they fled, their story later being developed into a resurrection myth.

Like the other theories, virtually no reputable scholars hold to this view. There are at least three reasons:

First, this theory does not explain the post-resurrection appearances, and it is spurious to think that such a simple mistake would have led a first-century Jew to think a resurrection had happened.

In light of the early evidence that is available concerning the location of Jesus' tomb, it is almost impossible that the women would have confused its location.

This hypothesis emphasizes that the caretaker of the tomb said that Christ was not there, but it passes over the next phrase: "He is risen!"

4. The Displaced Body Hypothesis

The displaced body hypothesis says Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus' body in his own tomb, but later moved it to the criminal's graveyard. The disciples were not aware that Jesus' body had been moved and therefore wrongly inferred that he had risen from the dead.

Because of the spurious nature of this theory, virtually no modern scholars hold to it:

This theory cannot account for the post-resurrection appearances of Christ or the origin of the Christian faith.

It is unclear why Joseph would not have corrected the error of the disciples by simply showing them where he had moved the body of Jesus.

The criminal graveyard, most likely, was quite close to the crucifixion site, so it would have made little sense why Joseph would not have simply buried Jesus there in the first place. In fact, it was against Jewish law to allow a body to be moved after it had already been buried.

The Post-Resurrection Appearances

In 1 Corinthians, an authentic letter composed by a man acquainted with the first disciples, the Apostle Paul claims that numerous people saw Jesus alive after his death (1 Corinthians 1:1).

It is fairly indisputable that Jesus actually appeared to the people that Paul mentions. Even the notorious New Testament critic Bart Ehrman admits, "we can say with some confidence that some of his disciples claimed to have seen Jesus alive."

The gospels all speak of post-resurrection appearances of Christ. It would be quite ridiculous to suggest that each of these events was a hallucination. Few scholars argue, therefore, that on different occasions different groups of people had experiences of seeing Jesus. They therefore question whether the experiences were actual physical, bodily appearances of Christ. However, Paul leaves no room for a merely psychological experience. His theology of the resurrected body ensures that he meant that Christ actually, physically appeared.

The resurrection is the most plausible explanation for the postmortem appearances of Christ. The alternative—the disciples were hallucinating—says nothing to explain the empty tomb. Nor does it explain the disciples' belief in the resurrection. In typical psychological postmortem experiences, the person having the experience rarely would think that a dead person actually returned physically to life. As New Testament scholar N.T. Wright argues, postmortem appearances in the ancient world would be more evidence that the person was dead than that he was alive.

The physical resurrection of Jesus proves to be the best explanation for the postmortem appearances described in 1 Corinthians 1:1.

The Existence of Christianity

The fact that Christianity started and grew is also evidence for the resurrection. For Jews, the Messiah was viewed as a figure that would be triumphant and rule on David's throne, not a figure that would be crucified and die.

The resurrection undid the catastrophe of the crucifixion. The Messiah, who had died, is risen! The resurrection validated and verified the claims Jesus had made about his own identity. The origin of Christianity rests solely on the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

It stands to reason that Jesus Christ did in fact rise from the dead victoriously on the third day after his death. No alternative hypothesis can adequately explain the empty tomb, the postmortem appearances of Jesus, and the origin of the Christian faith.

About The Author:

Justin Holcomb is an Episcopal priest and teaches theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and Knox Theological Seminary. Justin wrote On the Grace of God and co-authored with his wife Lindsey Rid of 'My Disgrace' and 'Save Me from Violence'. He is also the editor of Christian Theologies of Scripture.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

What's It All About? 'Not I, But Christ'

by Brian Hedges

Over the past several years the church seems to have experienced some degree of gospel renewal. We now have lots and lots of books with the word "gospel" somewhere in the title. I think this is a good thing and consider myself largely in step with this movement.

But there is a danger of turning "gospel" into a buzzword. A few years ago, member in our church expressed confusion about how often our church's teaching used the word "gospel." In her thinking, the gospel was the plan of salvation and she found it confusing when we talked about the gospel being the solution to this or that problem. But she also said that when we started talking about the person and work of Christ, things clicked. That's when she was fed spiritually and drawn into worship.

That important conversation reminded me that the good news isn't just an abstract concept, a system of doctrine. It's a person, Christ himself, whose doing, dying, and rising is the ultimate answer to the problems of sin and suffering in our world. What we really need, then, is to be Christ-centered: to keep all of our thinking, theologizing, preaching, writing, living, and doing tightly tethered to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Proclaiming Christ

The Apostle Paul is a wonderful model for us. Think about his ministry in preaching and teaching.

"For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:23-24)

"For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (1 Corinthians 2:2)

"For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake." (2 Corinthians 4:5)

A Passion to Know and Honor Christ

But the person and work of Christ wasn't for Paul simply a topic for teaching and proclamation. Paul was consumed with a desire to know and honor Christ. This was the controlling passion of his life. Even when imprisoned for preaching the gospel and uncertain of whether he would live or die, Paul could write:

It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:20-21)

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith - that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11)

Imitating Christ

And Paul's love for Christ clearly impacted how he lived and taught others to live. That's why he said, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). And the call to imitate Christ got fleshed out in all kinds of practical ways, in concrete real-life contexts and situations.

In marriage:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

In humble service to others:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)

In generosity:

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9)

The Taproot of Christ-centeredness

But the taproot of all of Paul's imitating, knowing, and preaching of Christ was his faith in Christ. That's surely why he calls attention to faith in almost all of his letters, reminding us that faith is the source of love (1 Timothy 1:5), the motive of good works (1 Thessalonians 1:3), and the impulse behind all gospel obedience (Romans 1:5; 15:26).

In other words, beneath and behind all Christ-centered living, experience, and ministry is a deep, personal trust and reliance upon Christ himself.

As Paul says in another well-known verse:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

But there is a danger even here – in placing more emphasis on faith itself than on faith in Christ. The nineteenth century pastor Charles Spurgeon warned against this, saying:

"Remember, sinner, it is not thy hold of Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not thy joy in Christ that saves thee – it is Christ; it is not even faith in Christ, though that is the instrument – it is Christ's blood and merits; therefore, look not to thy hope, but to Christ, the source of thy hope; look not to thy faith, but to Christ, the author and finisher of thy faith; and if thou doest that, ten thousand devils cannot throw thee down."

Not I, but Christ

One of the best sermons I've ever heard was preached not by a superstar preacher who regularly commands crowds of thousands, but by a very ordinary, but godly pastor – my dad. He preached on just four words from Galatians 2:20, "not I, but Christ." He said that these four words are the very essence of Christianity. And while I don't remember the exact outline of the sermon now, his points went something like this:

Not I, but Christ…

  • · in his obedience,
  • · in his righteousness,
  • · in his sacrifice,
  • · in justification,
  • · in regeneration,
  • · in sanctification,
  • · And so on.

And then he ended it by saying that we could even take out three of those four words and boil Christianity down to just one word: Christ. And then he quoted Spurgeon, perhaps his favorite dead theologian, who said:

"If you leave out Christ, you have left the sun out of the day, and the moon out of the night, you have left the waters out of the sea, and the floods out of the river, you have left the harvest out of the year, the soul out of the body, you have left joy out of heaven, you robbed all of it's all. There is no gospel worth thinking of, much less worth proclaiming, if Jesus be forgotten. We must have Jesus as Alpha and Omega in all our ministries."

Amen. This is the focus we need. "There is no gospel…if Jesus be forgotten." It's all about Jesus, friends. "Not I, but Christ."

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'. Brian and his wife Holly have four children and live in South Bend, Indiana. Brian also blogs at www.brianghedges.com.

The Power Of Prayer - Evangelism In Spite Of Persecution

by Daniel

In 2011, Francis Namukubalo, a Ugandan evangelist, was brutally murdered by several Muslim extremists.

Francis was a Muslim Background Believer, and these men did not approve of him evangelizing in their region. Two of the people involved in the murder were some of his closest friends.

The murder left his wife widowed, alone to raise their three children, with one on the way. The entire family was heartbroken by the situation, unsure of what the future held.

Open Doors launched a letter writing campaign for the Namukubalo family, and thousands of Christians around the world sent letters filled with words of encouragement. This proved to be a great blessing to the family, and reminded them that the body of Christ around the world was praying for them.

Two years later, it is amazing to see how those prayers are actually working?.

An excited William Masolo, the father of the late Francis Namukubalo, informed Open Doors of an evangelistic meeting that took place in his village.

"God is proving to me that He is hearing the prayers of the saints for this region. For the first time since Francis' death, we had a massive outreach in our village that lasted three days! The Muslims did not interfere with the meetings, and more than 30 people, including many Muslims, came to the Lord!"

He went on to say, "I know that the brethren around the world have been praying with us after reading the sad story of my late son Francis and how he shared my heart's desire for the evangelization of this area. I just wanted to let you all know that God is hearing and responding to the prayers ­ thank you!"

In spite of the painful persecution that this family has had to endure, God is at work in their lives, and in the lives of their community.

"We now move onto the discipleship of these new believers. Please join us in praying for each one of them. That they would get fully grounded in the Lord, and never revert back to their old ways. May God also give us wisdom and Christ's love as we disciple them."

Asked about the previous threats on his life as he seeks justice for his son's murder, he reported:

"It seems that the fear of the Lord has finally hit their hearts, and they have stopped threatening me. I thank God for that even as I continue to exercise care in my movements. Thank you also for praying for my life ­ God is surely answering those, too!"

The prayers of the thousands of believers around the world have truly changed the situation in this Ugandan village. God has heard these powerful prayers, and is at work in mighty ways!

Thank you Lord for the ways that You are at work in this region, in spite of the persecution!

Source: Persecution eNewsletter © 2013 Open Doors USA  

One Third of Syria's Christians Have Fled Syria
Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch claims more than 450,000 have fled, but opinions vary.

Christians have fled on mass from their homes in places such as the historic city of Maaloula.

Almost a third of Syria's Christians have left since the start of the civil war, according to one of the country's senior clerics.

Syria's most senior Catholic leader Gregorios III Laham, the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch, told the BBC that more than 450,000 of Syria's estimated 1.75 million Christians have gone.

However, he said he remained sure that Syria's Christian community would survive.

The precise number of Christians in Syria is open to debate, as is the number of those who have left the country.

A spokesperson for Open Doors International, an organization which supports Christians under pressure for their faith, says he thinks the figure for those who've left may be significantly lower.

There is some debate about the number of Christians in Syria at the beginning of the civil war. Suggestions that Christians amounted to around 8 per cent of the population are thought optimistic by some.

And of those Syrians known to have left the country – whether to refugee camps in neighbouring countries, or further afield – the percentage of Christians is believed to be lower than 8 per cent.

Patriarch Gregorios spoke at the London launch of a new report on Thursday (October 17, 2013), which claimed that the persecution of Christians is worsening globally.

Catholic international aid agency Aid to the Church in Need's 2013 Persecuted and Forgotten? claims that an exodus of Christians from many countries threatens Christianity's status as a worldwide religion.

The worst problems, according to the report, are found in North Korea and Eritrea.

"The principal finding of the report is that in two-thirds of the countries where persecution of Christians is most severe, the problems have become arguably even worse," said John Pontifex, one of the report's authors. "In fact the Church's very survival in some parts – notably the Middle East – is now at stake."

The report suggests that the Arab Spring has turned into the 'Christian Winter', with political upheavals proving particularly costly for the Christian minority in the Middle East.

"From all accounts, the incidents of persecution are now apparently relentless and worsening; churches being burnt, Christians under pressure to convert, mob violence against Christian homes, abduction and rape of Christian girls, anti-Christian propaganda in the media and from Government, discrimination in schools and the workplace… The list goes on," said Pontifex.

Source: World Watch Monitor; Open Doors USA

Beleaguered Syrian Christians Fear Future, Increasingly Targeted by Jihadis
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — Sami Amir is used to the deep echoing rumble of the Syrian army artillery pounding rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus. It's the thump of mortars launched from an Islamist-controlled neighborhood that scares him to death.

The mortars have repeatedly hit in his mainly Christian district of Damascus, al-Qassaa, reportedly killing at least 32 people and injuring dozens of others the past two weeks.

"You don't know when and you don't know where they hit," says Amir, a 55-year-old Christian merchant. "Life here is often too difficult."

Rebel shelling into the capital has increasingly hit several majority-Christian districts, particularly al-Qassaa, with its wide avenues, middle class apartment blocks, leafy parks, popular restaurants and shopping streets busy with pedestrians.

The shelling and recent rebel assaults on predominantly Christian towns have fueled fears among Syria's religious minorities about the growing role of Islamic extremists and foreign fighters among the rebels fighting against President Bashar Assad's rule. Christians believe they are being targeted — in part because of the anti-Christian sentiment among extremists and in part as punishment for what is seen as their support for Assad.

Though some Christians oppose Assad's brutal crackdown on the opposition and the community has tried to stay on the sidelines in the civil war, the rebellion's increasingly outspoken Islamist rhetoric and the prominent role of Islamic extremist fighters have pushed them toward support of the government. Christians make up about 10 percent of Syria's 23 million people.

"When you bring a Christian and make him choose between Assad and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, the answer is clear," said Hilal Khashan, a political scientist professor at the American University of Beirut, referring to the al-Qaida branch fighting alongside the rebels. "It doesn't need much thinking."

The rebels have targeted other Syrian minorities, particularly Alawites, the Shiite offshoot sect to which Assad belongs and which is his main support base. Altogether, ethnic and religious minorities — also including Kurds and Druze — make up a quarter of Syria's population. The majority, and most rebels, are Sunni Muslim.

But Christian areas have recently been the focus of fighting.

A week ago, rebels from the al-Qaida-linked group Jabhat al-Nusra attacked the Christian town of Sadad, north of Damascus, seizing control until they were driven out Monday after fierce fighting with government forces. The rebels appear to have targeted the town because of its strategic location near the main highway north of Damascus, rather than because it is Christian.

Still, SANA reported Monday that the rebels in Sadad vandalized the town's Saint Theodore Church, along with much of Sadad's infrastructure.

Similarly, thousands fled the ancient Christian-majority town of Maaloula when rebels took control of it last month, holding it for several days until government forces retook it. With rebels in the hills around the town, those who fled are still too afraid to return.

Beleaguered Syrian Christians fear future, increasingly targeted by jihadis

Two bishops were abducted in rebel-held areas in April, and an Italian Jesuit priest, Father Paolo Dall'Oglio, went missing in July after traveling to meet al-Qaida militants in the rebel-held northeastern city of Raqqa. None has been heard from since.

In August, rebel gunmen killed 11 people in a drive-by shooting in central Syria as Christians celebrated a feast day. Activists said at the time that many of those killed were pro-government militiamen manning checkpoints.

Al-Qaida-linked fighters have damaged and desecrated churches in areas they have seized. In Raqqa, militants set fires in two churches and knocked the crosses off them, replacing them with the group's black Islamic banner. Jihadis also torched an Armenian church in the northern town of Tel Abyad on Sunday, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad group that tracks the war through a network of activists on the ground.

The apparent deliberate campaign against Christians and other minorities have stoked worries in Washington and many European capitals over providing advanced weaponry to the mainstream opposition Free Syria Army, amid fears the arms will end up in the hands of extremists.

Christians in Damascus are convinced that extremists are deliberately targeting their neighborhoods as rebels battle government forces trying to uproot them from the towns they control outside the capital. Al-Qassaa is close to besieged rebel-held suburbs where Muslim residents have pleaded for international help to save them from starvation and constant government bombardment.

"Recently I noticed that every Sunday, they launch more than 15 mortars a day," Amir said. "They are targeting specifically Christian areas."

The most recent shells in al-Qassaa hit Thursday on the doorstep of a fashion clothing shop and next to a wall of a local hospital, killing three young men and damaging a church and several cars, which were left riddled by shrapnel.

Hundreds of Christians have fled al-Qassaa to other areas of the capital or into neighboring Lebanon. Nationwide, some 450,000 Christians have fled their homes, part of an exodus of some 7 million during the 2 ½-year civil war, according to Church officials.

Almost all the 50,000 Christians in the mixed city of Homs have fled, and another 200,000 have fled the northern city of Aleppo, both battleground cities. When insurgents occupied the strategic central town of Qusair in 2012, about 7,000 Catholics were forced out and their homes were looted.

Thousands who fled Maaloula have found refuge in the al-Qassaa and other Christian districts of Damascus. Maaloula was a major tourist attraction before the civil war, home to two of the oldest surviving monasteries in Syria. Some of the residents still speak a version of Aramaic, the language of biblical times believed to have been used by Jesus.

Youssef Naame and his wife Norma, an elderly Christian couple from Maaloula, described how bearded extremist Islamists stormed the northeastern village early last month chanting "God is Great!"

"The jihadis shouted: Convert to Islam, or you will be crucified like Jesus," Youssef said with a shaky voice in his daughter's al-Qassaa apartment.

He said they were trapped with other Christians for three days in a small house next to the town church, without food or electricity.

"There were snipers shooting everywhere, we were not able to move," he recalled. "We were so scared. I lost my speech."

Syrian Church leaders fear that Assad's fall would lead to an Islamist state that would spell the end to the centuries-old existence of Christians on Syrian soil.

"We are not taking any sides in the conflict," Bishop Luka, deputy leader of the Syriac Orthodox Church, said at his headquarters in the historic Damascus Old Town.

"We are standing alongside the country, because this country is ours," he said. "If the country is gone, we have nothing left. Nothing will remain of us. "

AP video journalist Darko Bandic and writers Bassem Mroue and Albert Aji contributed to this report.

Source: The Washington Post; Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.  

General Articles

Health Tip: Why Understanding Your Skin's Biology Can Help You Improve Its Look

Skin Expert Shares Tips - and Why They Work

Most people have a vague idea of what's good and bad for our skin, but since we don't understand the biology involved, we either do nothing or the wrong things, says skin-care expert Ron Cummings.

"How many times do we find mixed reports on health? Are eggs good or bad for you? Too much sun is bad, but so is too little - there's so much information overload, many people shrug off what they don't fully comprehend," says Cummings, founder and CEO of AminoGenesis Skin Care, (www.aminogenesis.com).

In addition to environmental factors, such as smoke and excessive sun exposure, there are two primary biological processes that age our skin: oxidization and glycation, he says. Despite antioxidants, which combats oxidation, being all the rage in recent years, few people are aware of what occurs through glycation."

"Glycation happens when a sugar molecule bonds with a protein. The protein then becomes misshapen. Collagen, which makes our skin look smooth and plump, is a protein that's particularly vulnerable. Cell damage through glycation results in wrinkles, lines and discoloration," he says.

To maintain youth - and even reverse some of that damage - Cummings offers these tips:

Monitor your alcohol intake.

Alcohol causes skin to get puffy and flush with dilated blood vessels. Over time, even moderate intake can cause permanent spider veins on one's face, chest, abdomen, arms, and hands. Damaged vessels leak, which causes discoloration and puffiness. Alcohol worsens common skin diseases such as psoriasis and rosacea; causes dehydration, which makes skin sag; causes a deficiency in nutrients, and impairs immune systems. The moderate intake of red wine, however, may help skin because red grapes are filled with antioxidants.

Try to cut out most sugar.

Americans average 150 pounds of sugar intake each year, according to the American Heart Association, and most eat and drink two to four times the amount they should. Sugar is a ubiquitous ingredient in the American diet and can be found in drinks and condiments. Sugar molecules - especially refined sugar, which is pure sucrose -- fuels glycation. In a European study, volunteers were asked to view photos of 602 people; those with the highest sugar intake were deemed to look the oldest. A high-sugar diet is also linked to diabetes.

Keep an eye out for anti-glycation products.

Most topical products maintain the skin's existing moisture by acting as a barrier. Other products utilize antioxidants to stabilize oxygen molecules that have lost electrons and cause damage to cell membranes when they take electrons from stable molecules. Products with certain amino acids address glycation by breaking the sugar molecule's bond with collagen, allowing the protein to return to its original shape.

"A new study of 500 French women who didn't change their diets showed that just 60 days of regular use of anti-glycation serum made them look eight to 10 years younger, and it worked for all participants," Cummings says. "I've seen the pictures and read the research - it's stunning."

About Ron Cummings

Ron Cummings is the founder and CEO of AminoGenesis Skin Care, which utilizes amino acids as the key ingredients to its age- and damage-reversing products. The company's formulas include anti-glycation properties, which are very rare in today's skin-care products. Cummings donated one of his products, a protective agent, to support military forces in Afghanistan and received a hearty letter of gratitude from the Marines of Special Operations Company Bravo, which described the product's excellent performance.

Recipe: Fish Tacos With Cabbage and Apple

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

In North America we are at the end of harvest season. Fresh apples and cabbages are available in plenty at the road stands and grocery stores. Try the following recipe for variety. The salad can be used alone as delicious side dish.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 12 corn tortillas
  • ½ pound green cabbage, cored and shredded thinly
  • 3 to 4 medium apples, cored and thinly julienned
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 ½ pounds halibut, cut into 4 fillets
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
  • Diced jalapeno (optional)
  • Lime slices (optional)

Cook’s notes:

Make sure your cabbage is light and thin so you have a delicate mouthful instead of a thick crunch that will overwhelm the flavors. Suggested apple varieties: Pink Lady, Cameo or Honeycrisp. Farm-raised catfish is an affordable fish alternative. Keep whole while cooking.

Directions:

Preliminaries: Heat oven to 250 degrees F (120 deg C). Lightly moisten a clean dish towel and wrap the tortillas in it. Place in the warmed oven and hold until you’re ready to serve. (Not necessary if you are using crispy tacos.)

Make salad: In a large mixing bowl, add the shredded cabbage, apples, 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, the apple cider vinegar, Dijon, honey, cayenne and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Toss the ingredients, using both hands or a large spoon. Stir until the ingredients are well combined and the cabbage is evenly coated. Set aside for at least 30 minutes.

Prepare the fish: Season halibut fillets with remaining teaspoon of salt and the pepper. In a large sauté pan, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot and rippling, add the fish fillets, being sure not to overcrowd the pan. Cook, without moving, for 4 minutes, until crispy and deep golden brown. Turn the fish and cook the other side until crisp and brown, about another 4 minutes. The fish is done when it is flaky and opaque.

Assembly: Remove the fish from the pan, chop into cubes, and place it on a platter to serve. Serve the fish alongside the cabbage, a plate of warmed tortillas, and any garnishes you’re using; let everyone build their own tacos.

Source: “Apples: From Harvest to Table” (St. Martin’s Grifin, 2013) by Amy Pennington

Family Special: How to Strengthen Your Marriage with Grace

by Whitney Hopler

Grace is a vital part of how God expresses His love to us. But, too often, marriages lack this one key ingredient. Ironically, many spouses are more likely to show grace to people they don't know well than they are to the husband or wife that God is calling them to love deeply.

Much of what hurts or disappoints you in marriage is caused by an absence of grace. Simply making an effort to extend grace to your spouse can do wonders to strengthen your marriage, transforming it into a union where both you and your spouse can thrive.

Here's how you can strengthen your marriage with grace:

Understand grace.

Grace means desiring the best for your spouse, even when he or she may not deserve it. If you're really going to love your spouse like God wants you to, you'll need to follow God's example of giving grace. Regularly reflect on the incredible grace that God has given to you through Jesus' sacrifice on the cross. Then let your gratitude compel you to let God's love flow through you, empowering you to love others - such as your spouse - gracefully.

Recognize the graceless ways you currently see your spouse, and replace those distorted perspectives with the truth.

Ask God to show you how you limit the love you express to your spouse, or tie your love to conditions that your spouse must meet before receiving it. Thank God that He doesn't withhold His love from you when you don't measure up His perfect standards. Regardless of how you behave, God loves you completely. Ask God to help you shift your focus from trying to protect yourself in your marriage to doing what's in the best interest of your spouse. Pray that God's grace - which saved you - will also transform the way you treat others, especially your spouse. Ask God to teach you how to view your spouse from His perspective.

Don't fall into the nitpicking trap.

Consider the various points of frustration in your marriage - from annoying habits to differing opinions about issues that are matters of personal preference. Then pray about each one specifically, asking God to help you avoid nitpicking your spouse and to empower you to let minor frustrations go so they won't cause unnecessary stress in your marriage.

Forgive regularly.

Obey God's command to forgive your spouse whenever he or she hurts or offends you, and rely on God's help throughout the process. Don't let resentment and bitterness build up in your marriage and block the flow of grace between you. Instead, make a habit of forgiving so God's grace can flow freely within your marriage.

Give your marriage a secure love.

All people are driven by a need to know that we're secure. Commit to meet this need for your spouse by giving him or her grace. Dedicate yourself to meeting your spouse's needs whenever you can, regardless of the cost. Accept the unique personality that God has created for your spouse. Encourage and help your spouse do what he or she does best to maximize your spouse's God-given potential. Take an interest in things that are important your spouse, and celebrate victories and mourn defeats with him or her. Show your spouse consistent affection (such as through hugs, kisses, and love notes). Make yourself consistently available for sex with your spouse, ready to express unconditional love freely together.

Give your marriage a significant purpose.

The need to know that we're significant (that we have intrinsic worth and value) drives everyone in life. Help meet your spouse's need for significance by encouraging him or her to join you in seeking ways you can serve together to build God's kingdom on Earth - from volunteering at your church or in your neighborhood, to donating regularly to a charity or ministry that works for a cause you both support. Ask God to help you bring out the best in your spouse as you work to contribute to the world together. Affirm your spouse, give your spouse your attention as often as possible, and hold your spouse accountable to living faithfully.

Give your marriage a strong hope.

We're all driven by a need to know we have the strength required to face whatever life brings our way. That strength comes from our confidence in Jesus' power to lead, sustain, and protect us in any situation. When you make a daily habit of placing your trust in Jesus and encouraging your spouse to do the same, you invite Him to pour strength into your marriage. Encourage your spouse to use his or her God-given abilities to achieve great accomplishments, and to pursue a life of adventure with you.

Find the freedom to be different and vulnerable.

As an agent of God's grace in your spouse's life, you can help both of you enjoy the freedom that comes from using your differences to complement each other and communicating openly and honestly in your marriage.

Find the freedom to be candid and make mistakes.

When you extend grace to your spouse, you both then become free to candidly communicate deep thoughts and feelings to each other, and to process the foolish choices each of you make so you both can learn and grow.

Motivate each other to build character muscles that will make your marriage stronger.

Giving grace to each other naturally motivates you and your spouse to want to grow into stronger people - and when that happens, your marriage will become stronger. A grace-filled marriage makes it easier for you both to pursue character that is distinguished by faith, integrity, poise, discipline, endurance, and courage.

Enjoy how grace strengthens each of your hearts.

Once grace begins flowing freely between you and your spouse, God will use it to give you both hearts that are humble, grateful, generous, and willing to serve - all qualities that can keep your marriage strong.

Adapted from Grace-Filled Marriage: The Missing Piece, the Place to Start, copyright 2013 by Dr. Tim Kimmel with Darcy Kimmel. Published by Worthy Publishing Group, Brentwood, Tn., www.worthypublishing.com.

Tim Kimmel is one of America's top advocates speaking for the family. He is the executive director of Family Matters. In addition to conducting Family Matters' conferences and keynote speaking, Tim and his wife, Darcy, are speakers for FamilyLife Ministry's Weekend to Remember conference. Tim has authored many books, including: Little House on the Freeway (featured in the Billy Graham crusades), Grace Based Parenting (a Gold Medallion award winner), Raising Kids for True Greatness, 50 Ways to Really Love Your Kids, Raising Kids Who Turn Out Right, Why Christian Kids Rebel, The High Cost of High Control, and Basic Training for A Few Good Men. Visit his website at: familymatters.net.

Whitney Hopler is the author of the new Christian novel Dream Factory, which is set during Hollywood's golden age. Visit her website at: whitneyhopler.naiwe.com.

Source: Live It Devotional

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