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

Mid Lent Special, Love of God

Volume 5 No. 268 March 11, 2015

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Great Lent
Mid-Lent Special Edition
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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1. Foreword

This Wednesday in Church

2. Bible Readings For The Mid Lent (March 11)

Bible Readings For The Mid Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_Mid-Lent.htm

3. Sermons For The Mid Lent (March 11)

Sermons For The Mid Lent
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_Mid-Lent.htm

4. Mid Lent

Today is the day we erect the Golgotha in the middle of the church. There are several significances to the erection of Golgotha. ...

5. Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc. Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

This Week's Features

6. Inspiration for Today: I Love You, O Lord

7. Like It Or Not .. I Love You

And there it is, in a nutshell: God in Jesus has made God's decision...and it is for us. Yes, we can run. But we can't change the fact that God loves us, that God in fact loves the whole world more than we can imagine. And so no wonder this is the world's most popular Bible verse, because it is, indeed, good news, even the best news. But first it's hard. Hard because we're not in control. Hard because it's not up to us. Hard because every time we hear how much God loves us we also know that we had nothing to do with it, cannot influence it, and therefore are out control. And, sometimes, that can make us afraid. ...

8. John 3:16 - The Rest of the Story

Some Christians have called John 3:16 "the Gospel in a nutshell," but John 3:16 is not enough to form a fully mature Christian life. For a touchstone verse, I would look instead to passages in the Hebrew Bible such as Micah 6:8, which has been called a "summary of the prophets." Or, I would look to passage in the Gospels such as Jesus’ own summary that all the law and the prophets hang on the two Greatest Commandments to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:28-31). ...

9. No Greater Love by Mother Theresa

Jesus came into this world for one purpose. He came to give us the good news that God loves us, that God is Love, that He loves you, and He loves me. How did Jesus love you and me? By giving His life.

The whole Gospel is very, very simple. Do you love Me? Obey My Commandments. He's turning and twisting to get around to one thing - to Love One Another. ...

10. Why Is Real Love So Rare?

So radical is the love that God commands us to have for others, it includes loving our enemies and persecutors (Matthew 5: 43-48) and loving without expectation of receiving love in return (Luke 6: 27-36). But the most challenging call to love is the great commandment, 'love God with all of our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves' (Matthew 22: 34-40). ...

11. The Music of My Love (Poem/Reflection)

The melody of my love flows like a singing stream
That flows from my heartstrings vibrating in a beautiful rhythm
The touch of your loving hand brings forth music that doesn't stop at any moment, even in my sleep, awakening new tunes in my heart, making me sing a new song. ...

12. About Malankara World

Foreword
This week is special for me for two reasons. First, we made it to the Middle of the Great Lent. Second, for the first time in five or six weeks, the accumulated snow surrounding our house started melting yesterday. There are even hope that the days when the temperature is below 0 deg F (-18 deg C) are numbered this year. Our colorful cardinals in the backyard started venturing out of their nests. A wood pecker, who has made its mission to eat through our cedar panels of the house (and Shila, my wife, has made it her mission to chase it away from damaging the house), is looking at the wood wondering if it is warm to come out. Three or four days of sunlight helped us all to being in cheerful mood, especially those suffering from seasonal affective disorder. So, I think my spouse will be seeing less number of patients complaining of SAD till late Fall. What a difference the change in season can make!

When you go to church on Sundays from now on, you will see the familiar "Golgotha" in the midst of the church. It symbolically tells us that the Son of God has descended from the heaven to live among us. Since Jesus Christ spent His public ministry among people and not delivering sermons from the temple, the Golgotha is placed in the midst of the congregation and not in the sanctuary. It will stay there till after Monte Thursday.

From here, the Lent will progress fast. On March 25th, we will have the annunciation of St. Mary and on March 27th, it is the 40th Friday when we look at the Temptation of Jesus Christ by Satan and Jesus winning it. On March 28, we will celebrate the raising of Lazarus, the last miracle performed by Jesus, that directly led to His being captured and led to His crucifixion. Then we have the Palm Sunday, the Kingly entrance of Jesus to Jerusalem, the Monte Thursday and the establishment of Eucharist (Holy Qurbana), the passion and death of Christ on Good Friday for our sins and the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter Sunday defeating death and the hold of Satan on us.

These are the most important days for Christians. Malankara World will be with you every step of the way to keep you informed about the importance of the day and providing you material for praying, meditating and fasting.

Dr. Jacob Mathew
Malankara World

This Wednesday in Church (Mid Lent)
Bible Readings For The Mid Lent (March 11)
Sermons For The Mid Lent (March 11)
Mid Lent
Today is the Mid-Lent Wednesday; in Malayalam we call it Paathi Nombu. We are at the mid point of the Lent.

Today is the day we erect the Golgotha in the middle of the church. There are several significances to the erection of Golgotha.

Today's Bible Reading says: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3: 14-15. Jesus predicted his eventual crucifixion to his disciples in this verse.

Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the middle of the desert (wilderness) around the middle of the Exodus, the journey of the Israelites from slavery to their promised land. He lifted up the serpent so that those who are bitten by the snake might look at it and have life. Similarly the cross (Jesus) is lifted up in the middle of the church so that we are reminded that those who are bitten by sin can look at Jesus and gain eternal life by the Him.

The Golgotha and erection of cross in the of the church also signifies that God came down from heaven and dwelt among us in this world. This is why the Golgotha is in the middle of the church with us, the common folks, and not in the Madbaha as we normally expect to find it. It is going to be in the middle of the church till Good Friday (representing the Public Ministry of Jesus) when it will be taken to Calvary and then buried. On Easter, Jesus will rise from the dead and then the cross will be placed in the Madbaha for another 40 days till the Feast of Ascension. Between the Easter and Ascension, Jesus only revealed to selected people (no public ministry as earlier), so the veiled cross will be seen only in the Madbaha during this time.

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement

Great Lent is the time for personal reflection, meditation, reconciliation, and prayer. Malankara World has a great resource that helps you accomplish that. We provide you daily reflections, meditations, prayer, bible readings etc.

If you only have a few minutes to spend a day, you can read short reflective articles and meditations. If you have more time, there is bible readings, and others to enrich your day.

Read the articles about how to practice lent. Then do the reading for the day specified. We will guide you week by week. You can find the resources here:

Malankara World Great Lent Supplement http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Lent/Default.htm

Malankara World Journal Specials on Mid-Lent:

Malankara World Journal Issue 204 - (March 23 2014) - Mid-Lent Supplement

Malankara World Journal Issue 128 - (March 6 2013) - Mid Lent Special

Selected Articles on Mid-Lent From Malankara World:

Lenten Reflection for Mid Lent

Mid Lent and Erection of Golgotha

Mid-Lent and the Holy Cross

Elevation of the Cross - Saved by The Cross

This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today: I Love You, O Lord
"I love You, O Lord." - Psalm 18:2

God is Love (1 Jn 4:8, 16). Because He is Love, we are in the image of Love, for we were created in His image (Gn 1:27). Because He is Love, our sins against Him are very serious - so serious that the nature of all human beings was wounded due to the first sin. Because He is Love, God gave us the opportunity to become new creations (see Jn 3:3, 5; Gal 6:15) by giving us His Son (Jn 3:16). Because God is Love, He became a human being to die on the cross and rise from the dead for our salvation. Love became flesh (see Jn 1:14). Love had nails driven into Him and thorns pressed into Him. Love became a bloody mess, brutally rejected and gasping for breath. Love was buried; Love rose; and Love is enthroned in heaven forever.

Because Love first loved us, we love Love (1 Jn 4:19). By His grace, we love Love with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength (Lk 10:27; Mt 22:37). We love Love by loving ourselves, our neighbors (Mt 22:37-39), and even our enemies (Mt 5:44). We live in Love (Jn 15:10). Love LOVE.

Prayer: Lord and Love, may I live in You and You in me (1 Jn 4:16).

Promise: "You turned to God from idols, to serve Him Who is the living and true God and to await from heaven the Son He raised from the dead - Jesus, Who delivers us from the wrath to come." - 1 Thes 1:9-10

Praise: Praise Jesus, our risen Lord and Love! He has taken "His seat at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, as far superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs" (Heb 1:3-4). Alleluia!

Like It Or Not .. I Love You

by The Rev. Dr. David Lose

Gospel: John 3:14-21

I have a confession to make: I don't much care for today's gospel reading; in fact, deep down, sometimes I don't like it at all.

Now, I know, I know--by saying this, I'm rejecting the world's favorite Bible verse. You know, John 3:16, the verse translated into more languages than any other piece of literature; the verse millions of children memorize before any other; the verse those silly people at all the major sporting events hold up on their big yellow cards. You know, John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life."

That's the one. And, sometimes, I just plain hate it.

Maybe I should explain by first asking you a question: What would it be like if someone died for you? I suspect it's not all that hard for most of us to imagine the incredible sense of gratitude we might feel for that person. But now imagine that it wasn't just an impulsive act of bravery, someone pushing you out of the way of a car or something like that. Rather, someone knew you were in mortal danger and deliberately exchanged his or her life for yours. Suddenly, it's not just gratitude we may feel, but a profound sense of debt. How, that is, can you possibly make it up to someone who has given you so much? Well, this is essentially the picture Jesus offers of God. For the "giving of the Son" he references isn't simply sending Jesus to deliver a message, it's giving Jesus over to die, to die on a cross, to die on a cross for us. This is why, as Martin Luther once said, this verse is "the gospel in a nutshell."

This is also why, however, that there is something troubling, even scandalous at the heart of this beloved verse. Notice that God doesn't ask our opinion about all this first. God doesn't ask our permission. God doesn't even consult us. God, in fact, brooks no objection but just goes ahead and gives the Son over to die...for us.

Do you see what I mean? Part of me is incredibly grateful and part of me pretty indignant. I mean, how dare God! How dare God sacrifice so much for us and by doing so have such a claim on us! It's not just scandalous but, if you think about it, even offensive, as it leaves absolutely no room for our hopes and plans, our wants or desires. It leaves us, that is, completely out of control.

Some years ago I preached a sermon when I compared this verse--the giving of the Son without our consent or consultation--to the scandal of infant Baptism. After all, we similarly bring young children to the baptismal font before they can offer their consent and simply immerse them in God's love. How offensive, some might say, that we don't wait until they are "of age" and can decide for themselves. But that's the heart of infant Baptism, when you think of it: God just plain adopts us, makes us God's own, and pledges to be both with us and for us forever. All this whether we are ready, interested, or eager to receive it or not! For this reason, I went on, perhaps we should add four words to our service of Baptism to highlight the scandalous, even offensive, nature of the sacrament: "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit...like it or not."

A week or two after I preached this sermon, Tom, a member of our congregation, told me a story. Several nights earlier, Tom's six year-old son, Benjamin, protested his bedtime. Frustrated by his father's refusal to budge, Benjamin finally became so frustrated that he said, "Daddy, I hate you!" Tom, possessing the presence of mind I wish I more frequently had--especially when dealing with my children--replied, "I'm sorry you feel that way, Ben, but I love you." And then what do you think Benjamin said? "Oh, it's okay." Or maybe, "Sorry, Dad. I love you, too." Nope. When Tom told his son that he loved him, Benjamin yelled back, "Don't say that!" Surprised, Tom continued, "But, Ben, but it's true--I love you." "Don't say that, Daddy." "But I love you, Ben." "Stop saying that, Daddy! Stop saying it right now!" And then it came, Tom reported, almost completely unbidden: "Benjamin, now listen to me: I love you...like it or not!"

Even at six years old, you see, Benjamin realized that in the face of unconditional love he was powerless. If Tom had been willing to negotiate--"I'll love you if you go to bed nicely"--then Benjamin would have been a player: "Okay, this time, but I'm not eating my vegetables at dinner tomorrow." But once Tom refused to negotiate, refused to make his love for his son conditional on something Benjamin did, then Ben could do nothing but accept or flee that love.

The same is true with us. If God makes God's great love for the world and us conditional, then we, suddenly, have tremendous power. We can negotiate. We can threaten to reject God's love. We can even tell God to go take a hike if we don't care for God's terms. But when God just loves us--completely and unconditionally--and when God just goes and dies for us, well then the jig is up; there's just nothing we can do to influence God. And that's just what happens in this verse. Listen to it once more: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him."

And there it is, in a nutshell: God in Jesus has made God's decision...and it is for us. Yes, we can run. But we can't change the fact that God loves us, that God in fact loves the whole world more than we can imagine. And so no wonder this is the world's most popular Bible verse, because it is, indeed, good news, even the best news. But first it's hard. Hard because we're not in control. Hard because it's not up to us. Hard because every time we hear how much God loves us we also know that we had nothing to do with it, cannot influence it, and therefore are out control. And, sometimes, that can make us afraid.

Perhaps trained by bitter experience to believe that no one, finally, can be trusted, or that life itself is such a gamble and so chaotic that we'd better stay in control no matter what, God's unconditional, uncontrollable love can frighten us. John says as much in today's reading: "And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed." Desiring to maintain some semblance of control at any cost, you see, we sometimes run from the light, fleeing God's loving embrace, only to find ourselves trapped in the darkness of our own devices.

But then along comes life, or God, or destiny, or tragedy, or whatever you want to call it, something that shakes us up, presents something utterly beyond our ability to cope, and drives us to our knees in despair--you know, like the end of an important relationship, or the death of a loved one, or the return of illness, or the loss of a job-- and you realize in a flash of painful insight that you never were in control. Not of your life, not of circumstances or fate, and certainly not of God. And all of a sudden this difficult, disturbing, even offensive message about God's grace becomes the best news you can imagine. Because here's the thing: precisely because we are not in control of God and therefore not in control of our relationship with God, we realize that it is the one relationship we can't blow, the one relationship that we can't screw up. God has taken responsibility for this one. And God has promised to bring it to a good end.

This is why I find John 3:16 so difficult, so offensive...and at the same time so desperately hopeful and life-giving. Indeed, thihttp://www.MalankaraWorld.comis why it is both my least and my most favorite verse in the Bible: because it promises that God will never let us go, that God will not take "no" for an answer, that God will pursue us like the intrepid hound of heaven until we are God's own.

Does that mean that we have nothing to do, nothing to contribute to this most important relationship? Definitely not! Once we have been loved this fully, this completely, we can respond in love, honoring God and sharing the news of God's love for the world with all we meet. Further, we can love each other, throwing ourselves into struggles and celebrations all around us, always working for the good of our neighbor and the world, propelled forward by the knowledge that God loves us and this world so very much. So, there's plenty to do. But we do it all knowing that we are messengers, witnesses to what God has done for us, not managers.

So hear both the judgment and promise of this passage once again. You are not in control--of this world or even your life, not really. But the God who created the vast cosmos will hold onto you amid the chaos, love you even when you feel most unlovable, and bring you to eternal life. As St. John writes and as Jesus' cross and resurrection guarantees, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life." Like it or not. Amen.

Will you please pray with me.

God of all loving compassion, love us, keep us, hold onto us in all things, even and especially when we are tempted to flee your love and light, and then release us again that we might in turn love one another. Amen.

About The Author:
The Rev. Dr. David Lose is the president of the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, and author of Making Sense of Scripture and many other books.

copyright © The Rev. Dr. David Lose

John 3:16 - The Rest of the Story

by Dr. Carl Gregg

Part I: Floating on the Surface: the immediate context of Nicodemus and John 3:14

One reason "born again" Christians made John 3:16 famous is its proximity to the story of Jesus telling Nicodemus that "no one can see the kingdom of God without being born again." To complicate matters, many translators argue that "born again" is not the best English equivalent of the Greek. In the New Revised Standard Version, the phrase is rendered "born from above" or "born anew." So perhaps we should start speaking of "born from above" Christians, but I doubt that slogan will catch on.

Many Christians, if reminded of the Nicodemus story, will recall being told at some point that this dialogue is the origin of the phrase "born again." If pressed, they may also remember that one of the reasons John 3:16 is popular with "born again" Christians is that it follows almost immediately after the Nicodemus story in John 3:1-10. However, many of these same Christians find the middle verses between the Nicodemus story and John 3:16 much less familiar, especially verses 14-15: "Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."

Toward the middle of my first semester of Greek, our professor asked us to make an original translation of John 3:16 as if we didn’t were unfamiliar with the famous verse. We quickly saw the point of the assignment. The very first word of John 3:16 in Greek is outos. In the vast majority of English Bibles, this word is translated as "so," as in "God so loved the world." The problem is that many of us hear that "so" in the wrong way. We hear it in terms of degree: "God didn’t just love the world; God loved the world a LOT." But that’s not the way John meant it. Another meaning of the English word "so" is the sense of "in this way" or "in this manner." Try to hear the "so" in that sense: "God so loved the world. God loved the world in this way. God so loved the world. God loved the world in this manner." You can see this understanding represented in a handful of recent versions that have resisted the influence of traditional translations like the King James Bible. It is difficult sometimes for translation committees to agree to change the wording of well-known verses, but sometimes it happens:

The Holman Christian Standard Bible says, "For God loved the world in this way."
The New English Translation: "For this is the way God loved the world."
The New Jerusalem Bible: "For this is how God loved the world."

The Gospel writer is talking about the way God loved the world, which points us back to verse 14. Suddenly that Moses and the snake stuff makes more sense. God loved the world in this way: God lifted up Jesus in the same manner that Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness - at least according to the theology of the Gospel of John.

Part II: Diving Deeper: the background of Moses lifting up the snake in Number 21:4-9

In Numbers 21 - which includes the story of Moses lifting up the snake - the Israelites are wandering in the wilderness following the Exodus from Egypt. And they are growing impatient with year after year of hiking around the Sinai Peninsula. They don’t like the food and there’s not enough water. And in one of those classic Hebrew Bible moments, God responds to their complaints by sending "poisonous serpents among the people." It’s kind of like treating a broken arm by smashing the patient’s toe with a hammer. Your arm may not feel better, but you’re too busy screaming about your toe to complain about your arm.

In this case, all those poisonous serpents biting people, gave the Israelites some perspective. They stopped complaining about the quality of the food, and started praying for God to contain the snakes. In response God told Moses to "‘Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.’ So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live." That is the immediate background the writer of the Gospel of John has in mind: just as Moses lifted up a bronze serpent to cure people bitten by the snakes, so God lifted up Jesus "that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." But we can dive deeper still past the surface of John 3:16 in our search for the rest of the story.

Part III: Pushing off from the Bottom of the Pool: reading John 3:16 through the lens of 2 Kings 18:4

In 2 Kings 18, Hezekiah has just become the ruler of the southern kingdom of Judah. He was twenty-five at the time, and reigned for twenty-nine years. At least according the writer of Kings, Hezekiah, "did what was right in the sight of the Lord." What matters in regard to this week’s Gospel lesson is the specific acts that he did that the book of Kings deems "right in the sight of God." In the first part of verse four, we learn that Hezekiah, "Removed the high places, broke down the pillars, and cut down the sacred pole." The high places, pillars, and sacred pole are all associated with idolatry - worshipping gods other than Yahweh.

But it is the second part of verse four that is particularly relevant: "[Hezekiah] broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it." Apparently, the bronze serpent that Moses lifted up in the wilderness (or a convincing facsimile) was kept in the Temple as a relic. Over time, people had begun to worship Moses’ bronze serpent as an idol. Just as the people of Israel had found healing from venomous snake bites in the wilderness by looking at Moses’ bronze serpent, hundreds of years later, some Judeans hoped to find healing from the bronze serpent displayed in the Temple.

Ironically, the bronze serpent had originally been built to remind the Israelites to trust God, to look to God for healing and salvation - to stop complaining about minor inconveniences like food quality and to be grateful for major events like freedom from oppression. In Hezekiah’s day that same bronze serpent had become an end in itself. Judeans were worshiping the snake instead of the God to whom the statue pointed. So, that idol-smashing King Hezekiah "broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made."

Now, having dove past the surface of John 3:16, past Numbers, and, deeper still, to 2 Kings, we are ready to push off back to the surface, returning full circle to John 3, bringing with us what we have learned along the way. The writer of the Gospel of John finds healing in Jesus being lifted up on the cross - just as the Israelites found healing in Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. But in 2 Kings we see how the symbol of the serpent has hardened. It no longer points beyond itself to God. Instead it has become a simplistic formula: if you want to be healed, go visit the bronze snake in the Temple. But God cannot be reduced to a formula.

Today, for many Christians, John 3:16 has become this same sort of gimmick: read this verse and you’re saved. Done and done. But God cannot be reduced to a formula - neither can the way of God, revealed in the life of Jesus. And just as in Hezekiah’s day, the idol of John 3:16 needs to be broken. Like the bronze serpent in Hezekiah’s day, John 3:16 alone is an insufficient guide for healing and salvation. Instead, we need an authentic encounter with the Mysterious, Loving, and Gracious Presence that we call God - and concrete steps transforming one’s life to follow the way of Jesus.

Another pitfall of taking John 3:16 out of context is that it concentrates almost exclusively on Jesus’ death, Jesus being "lifted up" on the cross. Just as Hezekiah rightly smashed Moses’ serpent when it became an idol, an end in itself, we are in danger today if verses like John 3:16 lead us to focus exclusively on Jesus’ death to the exclusion of patterning our lives after Jesus’ life. Just as it is not enough to visit a sanctuary and pay homage to a relic (like a cross on a wall), it is insufficient to admire Jesus’ death while ignoring life, especially his call to "take up your cross and follow me" (Mark 8:34).

Conclusion: Micah 6:8 vs. John 3:16

Some Christians have called John 3:16 "the Gospel in a nutshell," but John 3:16 is not enough to form a fully mature Christian life. For a touchstone verse, I would look instead to passages in the Hebrew Bible such as Micah 6:8, which has been called a "summary of the prophets." It says, "God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does God require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" Or, I would look to passage in the Gospels such as Jesus’ own summary that all the law and the prophets hang on the two Greatest Commandments to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" and to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:28-31).

In our modern day wilderness we can lift up Micah 6:8 and the two Greatest Commandments as a source of healing. May these slogans never become for us an idol because it not enough to believe with our lips that salvation comes from doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with God - and from loving God and neighbor. We must live in such a manner everyday. May we learn to love the world in this way - as God so loves the world.

About The Author:

The Rev. Dr. J. Carl Gregg (D.Min., D.A.S.D., M.Div., B.A.) is a graduate of Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religion and Philosophy in 2000. In 2003, he graduated from Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas, having earned a Masters of Divinity. In 2012, he graduated with a Doctor of Ministry from the San Francisco Theological Seminary. He has also taught "Introduction to the Hebrew Bible" as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Louisiana at Monroe.

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No Greater Love

by Mother Theresa

Jesus came into this world for one purpose. He came to give us the good news that God loves us, that God is Love, that He loves you, and He loves me. How did Jesus love you and me? By giving His life.

God loves us with a tender love. That is all that Jesus came to teach us: the tender love of God, "I have called you by name, you are Mine." (Isaiah 43:1 NAB).

The whole Gospel is very, very simple. Do you love Me? Obey My Commandments. He's turning and twisting to get around to one thing - to Love One Another.

"Thou shalt love the Lord Thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, and with all thy mind." Deuteronomy 6:5 KJV. This is the command of our great God, and He cannot command the impossible. Love is a fruit, in season at all times, and within the reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no time is set.

Everyone can reach this love through meditation, the spirit of prayer, and sacrifice, by an intense interior life. Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary.

What we need is to love without getting tired. How does a lamp burn? Through the continuous input of small drops of oil. What are these drops of oil in our lamps? They are the small things of daily life, faithfulness, small words of kindness, a thought for others, our way of being silent, of looking, of speaking, and of acting. Do not look for Jesus away from yourselves. He is not out there; He is in you. Keep your lamp burning and you will recognize Him.

These words of Jesus: "Even as I have loved you, that you also love one another," should not be only a light to us, but they should also be a flame consuming the selfishness that prevents the growth of holiness. Jesus "loved" us to the end, to the very limit of love; the cross. This love must come from within, from our union with Christ. Loving must be as normal to us as living and breathing, day after day until our death.

I have experienced my human weaknesses, many human frailties, and I still experience them. But we need to use them. We need to work for Christ with a humble heart, with the humility of Christ. He comes and uses us to be His love and compassion in the world in spite of our weaknesses and frailties.

One day I picked up a man from the gutter. His body was covered with worms. I brought him to our house, and what did this man say? He did not curse, he did not blame anyone. He just said, "I've lived like an animal in the street, but I'm going to die like an angel, loved and cared for!" It took us three hours to clean him. Finally the man looked up at the sister and said, "Sister, I'm going home to God." And then he died. I've never seen such a radiant smile on a human face. He went home to God. See what love can do! It is possible that young sister did not think about it at the moment, but she was touching the body of Christ. Jesus said so when He said, "As often as you've did it for one of my least brothers, you did it for Me." Matt. 25:40 RSV), and this is where you and I fit into God's plan.

Let us understand the tenderness of God's love. For He speaks in the Scripture, "Even if a mother could forget her child, I will not forget you. I have carved you in the palm of My hand. (see Isaiah 49:15-16). When you feel lonely, when you feel unwanted, when you feel sick and forgotten, remember you are precious to Him. He loves you. Show that love for one another, for this is all that Jesus came to teach us.

I remember a mother with twelve children, the last of them terribly mutilated. It is impossible for me to describe that creature. I volunteered to welcome the child into our house, where there are many others in similar conditions. The woman began to cry, "For God's Sake, Mother, don't tell me that. This creature is the greatest gift of God to me and my family. All our love is focused on her. Our lives would be empty if you took her from us." Hers was a love of understanding and tenderness. Do we have a love like that today? Do we realize that our child, our husband, our wife, our father, our mother, our sister or brother, has a need for that understanding, for the warmth of our hand?

I will never forget one day in Venezuela when I went to visit a family who had given us a lamb. I went to thank them and there I found out that they had a badly crippled child. I asked the mother, "What's the child's name?" The mother gave me a most beautiful answer. "We call him 'Teacher of Love', because he keeps us teaching us how to love. Everything we do for him is love for God in action."

We have a great deal of worth in the eyes of God. I never tire saying over and over again that God loves us. It is a wonderful thing that God Himself loves me tenderly. That is why we should have courage, joy and the conviction that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

I feel that we too often only focus on the negative aspect of life - on what is bad. If we were more willing to see the good and the beautiful things that surround us, we would be able to transform our families. From there, we would change our next-door neighbors and then others who live in our neighborhood or city. We would be able to bring peace and love to our world, which hungers so much for these things.

If we really were to conquer the world, we will not be able to do it with bombs or with other weapons of destruction. Let us conquer the world with our love. Let us interweave our lives with bonds of sacrifice and love, and it will be possible for us to conquer the world.

We do not need to carry out grand things for us to show a love for God and for our neighbor. It is the intensity of love we put into our gestures that makes them something beautiful for God.

Peace and war start within one's own home. If we really want peace for the world, let us start loving one another within our families. Sometimes it is hard for us to smile at one another. It is often difficult for the husband to smile at his wife or for the wife to smile at her husband.

In order for love to be genuine, it has to be, above all, a love for our neighbor. We must love those nearest to us, in our own family. From there, love spreads toward whoever may need us.

It is easy to love those who live far away. It is not easy to love those who live right next to us. It is easier to offer a dish of rice to meet the hunger of a hungry person than to comfort the loneliness and the anguish of someone in our own home who does not feel loved.

I want you to go and find the poor in your homes. Above all, your love has to start there. I want you to be the good news to those around you. I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know who your neighbor is?

True love is love which causes us pain, that hurts, and yet brings us joy. That is why we must pray to God and ask Him to give us the courage to love. From the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. If your heart is full of love, you will speak of love. I want you all to fill your hearts with great love. Don't imagine that love, to be true and burning, must be extraordinary. No; what we need in our love is the continuous desire to love the One we love.

One day I found among the debris a woman who was burning with fever. About to die, she kept repeating, "It was my son who has done it!" I took her in my arms and carried her home to the convent. On the way I urged her to forgive her son. It took a great while before I could hear her say, "Yes, I forgive him." She said it with a feeling of genuine forgiveness, just as she was about to pass away. The woman was not aware that she was suffering, that she was burning with fever, that she was dying. What was breaking her heart was her own son's lack of love.

Holy souls sometimes undergo great inward trial, and they know darkness. But if we want others to become aware of the presence of Jesus we must be the first ones convinced of it.

There are thousands of people who would love to have what we have, yet God has chosen us to be where we are today to share the joy of loving others. He wants us to love one another, to give ourselves to one another until it hurts. It does not matter how much we give, but how much love we put into our giving.

In the words of Our Holy Father, each one of us should be able "to cleanse what is dirty, to warm that is lukewarm, to strengthen what is weak, to enlighten what is dark." We must not be afraid to proclaim Christ's love and to love as He loved.

Where God is, there is love; and where there is love there always is an openness to serve. The world is hungry for God. When we all see God in each other, we will love one another as He loves us all. That is the fulfillment of the law, to love one another. This is all Jesus came to teach us; that God loves us, and that He wants us all to love one another as He loves us.

We must know that we have been created for greater things, not just to be a number in the world, not just to go for diplomas and degrees, this work and that work. We have been created to love and to be loved.

Always be faithful in little things, for in them our strength lies. To God nothing is little. He cannot make anything small, they are infinite. Practice fidelity in the least things, not for their own sake for the sake of the great thing that is the Will of God, and which I respect greatly.

Do not pursue spectacular deeds. We must deliberately renounce all desires to see the fruit of our labor, doing all we can as best we can, leaving the rest in the Hands of God. What matters is the gift of yourself, the degree of love that you put into each one of your actions.

Do not allow yourselves to be disheartened by any failure as long as you have done your best. Neither glory in your success, but refer all to God in deepest thankfulness.

If you are discouraged, it is a sign of pride, because it shows you trust in your own powers. Never bother about people's opinions. Be humble and you will never be disturbed. The Lord has willed me here where I am. He will offer a solution.

When we handle the sick and the needy we touch the suffering body of Christ and this touch will make us heroic; it will make us forget the repugnance and the natural tendencies in us. We need the eyes of deep faith to see Christ in the broken body and dirty clothes under which the most beautiful one among the sons of men hides. We shall need the hands of Christ to touch these bodies wounded by pain and suffering. Intense love does not m Our works of charity are nothing but the overflow of our love of God from within. Charity is like a living flame: the drier the fuel, the livelier the flame. Likewise, our hearts, when they are free of all earthly causes commit themselves in free service. Love of God must give rise to a total service. The more disgusting the work, the greater must love be, as it takes succor to the Lord disguised in the rags of the poor.

Charity, to be fruitful, must cost us. Actually we hear so much about charity, yet we never give it its full importance: God put the commandment of loving our neighbor on the same footing as the first commandment.

In order for us to be able to love, we need to have faith because faith is love in action; and love in action is service. In order for us to be able to love, we have to see and touch. Faith in action through prayer; faith in action through service, each is the same thing, the same love, the same compassion.

Some years have gone by, but I will never forget a young French girl who came to Calcutta. She looked so worried. She went to work in our home for dying destitutes. Then after ten days, she came to see me. She hugged me and said, "I've found Jesus!" I asked where she found Jesus and she said "In the home of the dying destitutes." What did you do after you found Him?" "I went to confession and Holy Communion for the first time in fifteen years!" Then I said again, "What else did you do?" "I sent my parents a telegram saying that I found Jesus." I looked at her and said "Now pack up and go home. Go home and give love, joy and peace to your parents." She went home, radiating joy, because her heart was filled with joy, and what joy she brought to her family! Why? Because she had lost the innocence of her youth and had gotten it back again.

God loves a cheerful giver. The best way to show your gratitude to God and people is to accept everything with joy. A joyful heart is a normal result of a heart burning with love. Joy is strength. The poor felt attracted to Jesus because a higher power dwelt in Him and flowed from Him - out of His eyes, His hands, His body - completely released and present to God and to men.

Let nothing so disturb us, so fill us with sorrow, or discouragement, as to make us forfeit the joy of the resurrection. Joy is not simply a matter of temperament in the service of God and souls; it is always hard. All the more reason we should try to acquire it and make it grow in our hearts. We may not be able to give much but we can always give the joy that springs from a heart that is in love with God.

All over the world people are hungry and thirsty for God's love. We meet that hunger by spreading joy. Joy is one of the best safeguards against temptation. Jesus can take full possession of our soul only if it surrenders itself joyfully.

Someone asked me, "Are you married?" And I said, "Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at Jesus because He can be very demanding."

God is within me with a more intimate presence than that whereby I am in myself: " In Him we live and move and have our being. (Acts: 17:28 NAB). It is He who gives life to all, who gives power and being to all that exists. But for His sustaining presence, all things would cease to be, and fall back into nothingness. Consider that you are in God, surrounded, and encompassed by God, swimming in God. God's love is infinite. With God, nothing is impossible.

Excerpted From The Book: 'No Greater Love' by Mother Teresa

Why Is Real Love So Rare?

by Trillia Newbell

Strange, how in our popular culture the word "love" can be used in such a trivial way, but then also be used to refer to the deepest of relationships.

"I love my wife!"
"I love hamburgers!"
"I love my husband!"
"I love the movie Nacho Libre!"

No wonder it's so easy for us to miss the type of love God calls us to express toward, not just our favorite people, but toward all people. Let's face it. Real love is rare.

So radical is the love that God commands us to have for others, it includes loving our enemies and persecutors (Matthew 5: 43-48) and loving without expectation of receiving love in return (Luke 6: 27-36). But the most challenging call to love is the great commandment, 'love God with all of our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves' (Matthew 22: 34-40).

Love God, Love Others

To truly love, we must first know God. Love starts with God and ends with God because God is love. We see this in 1 John 4: 7-8 when he writes: "Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." God is not physically love, but it is one of his attributes. All God does is out of love. He cannot and does not do wrong. His display of love the purest and truest there is. He loves perfectly. And because we are made in God's image, we can love.

Love isn't something that is derived from within us. It is radical. It is supernatural. For the kind of love that God calls us to–the love that loves our neighbor as much as we love ourselves– that must come from Him. We cannot love like that without first being born of God. God's common grace allows for all men made in His image to love, but there is a love that is set apart for the Christian. And it is also God's enabling Spirit that allows us to love God. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

This should cause us to pause. If we are enabled by His Spirit to love and if this love is set apart, we should be seeking to express it and to know it. Our love for each other has great implications. Jesus says that, "by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another," (John 13:35). This command to love is important. It isn't a haphazard imperative to be tossed. God never says, "if you feel like loving, then love." Perhaps it's most challenging because to display love in such a practical way that causes even non-Christians to recognize that it's supernatural would mean death to self.

No, we can't do it on our own. But with God, we can love radically: "for the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised" (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). Christ died so we might live for him and we die to our flesh as we learn to love others in both practical and non-practical ways. We have to move past how we feel about a situation or a person and ask God to give us a genuine love for others.

Motivated by a love for God that began because He first loved us, we can actively pursue loving others both in practical ways and through expression. Practically speaking, this means putting others above ourselves, our perceived needs, and our wants. That will look differently for each person, so a ‘must do' list won't work. However, we'll know if we're sacrificially loving others because it's going to be a little painful. We may experience loss of time, sleep, money, energy, whatever it is, we will feel it. And that person who is being extended love will also know it.

Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit puts within the people of God a conviction to love people and make sure they know that they are loved. We fail miserably at this when we try to love in our own strength. We will never love God or anyone with our whole hearts. I fail at this because my flesh fights for me to be selfish and self-focused. Like Paul, when I want to do good, sin is right there with me (Romans 7:21). I don't always want to love, but I can choose to. I thank Jesus who died on the cross for my half-hearted love. He loved perfectly in my place. And by God's grace, I will grow in loving others.

About The Author:

Trillia Newbell is a freelance journalist and writer. She writes on faith and family for The Knoxville News-Sentinel, and serves as the managing editor for Women of God Magazine and Lead Editor of Karis, the Women's Channel of CBMW. She guests post frequently at The Gospel Coalition and Desiring God. You can learn more about her via her site www.trillianewbell.com.

Source: Christianity.com Daily Update

The Music of My Love (Poem/Reflection)

by Dr. Mercy Abraham

The melody of my love flows like a singing stream
That flows from my heartstrings vibrating in a beautiful rhythm
The touch of your loving hand brings forth music that doesn't stop at any moment, even in my sleep, awakening new tunes in my heart, making me sing a new song.
It is so beautiful, your love engulfs me at every moment, cleansing my every sin, making me pure white as snow.

It is Thy mercy, Thy love that sustains me in this slippery path, steadying me on my every leaning side.
I can not stop singing as I think about your love it is sweeter than honey in the honeycomb, sweeter more as years go by. To see your face, to be a pillar in your house is my desire ever
How long I should wait, but waiting in anticipation makes me more patient as you desire, as I wait down here
where earthly sunbeams makes my day bright with your love
Energising me to write new tunes in my new song

Your touch vibrates the very rhythms of my heartstrings
It is so beautiful, to describe even unless you experience the same, to feel the warmth of your love I want to share this beautiful moment with you
When you are laid down with troubles sore and despite filters into as an unwanted enemy to dull.

God's love and Grace transforms the very life
As the sunbeams dries off the dew early morning
Where can you get such love other than in You Lord my God
All other love is mere trash if I compare
I would lose every thing I cherish, to gain your Love and Grace
You feed with every goodness each day
I am filled with thanksgiving for this gift, as undeserving as I am


Your kindness and love is so fathom less saving a forelock sinner as I am
Your love flows like a never ending stream even in this dry desert where
hot winds blow dry and dusty where storms of trials makes everything drab
But your hand sustains me my very life and
your everlasting hands carries me where I can't stand
It is only Thy love and Thy care and Grace.

My heart is flooded with thanksgiving Oh Lord my God
I am filled with wonder at Your Mercy
Wonder and owe at Your Majesty and
My heart is filled with adoration and praise,
Thanking You Lord God Almighty

About The Author:

Dr. Mercy Abraham does not need an introduction for Malankara World Journal readers. She had written several poems that has been published here. Mercy, a medical graduate from Kottayam Medical College, works in UAE. She is truly the "voice of the wilderness and desert. The eerie landscape, the desert and the hot winds blowing on the face inspire Mercy to write her poems.

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