Malankara World Journal
Malankara World Journal
Focus on Humility

Volume 2 No. 49 January 26, 2012

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Proverb 2:8
Table of Contents
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Editor's Note
If you had been following Malankara World Journal, you might have noticed that we have some popular themes we emphasize such as:
  • Servant Leadership
  • God Makes Ordinary People Extraordinary
  • God keeps His Promises
  • Prayer
  • Thankfulness - Gratitude

To this list, today we add another item today:

  • Humility, Repentance, Contrite Heart or Meekness

This issue of Malankara World Journal examines this topic in depth. It is a subject that is very rarely heard in any church sermons. But to Jesus, it was the queen of our virtues; something that distinguishes a true Christian from the rest. It is the fruit by which we will be known. Our lead article on this topic is written by our Holy Father himself. We will expand on this topic in our future issues.

This Sunday is the Fourth Sunday following the Baptism of Jesus in the Church Lectionary. The Gospel Reading is from Mark 6:1-16. In a nutshell, the reading has two stories: 1. The rejection of Jesus in his hometown (Nazareth) and 2. The Great Commission - Jesus sending his disciples out to preach the gospel.

Looking through the thread of this Gospel, one emerging theme is that in life we may face rejections and ridicule from others. Jesus faced it. He had prepared his disciples to face it too. The key is how we react to it.

This is where our humility comes in. If we humble ourselves and anchor ourselves to the will of God, we will be ready to face anything in life. Like St. Paul, we will take life as it comes and believe that when we trust God, our weaknesses become our strengths.

Jesus Christ started and ended his public ministry reminding everyone the need for repentance as a precondition to welcoming the Kingdom of God. For example, in Mark 1:15 at the start of the Jesus' public ministry:

Mark 1:15 And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.

After the crucifixion and resurrection, just before the annunciation, Jesus bids farewell to the disciples in Luke 24:47:

Luke 24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,

46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:

47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

48 And ye are witnesses of these things.

Jesus Christ opened his famous Sermon on the Mount by noting that meekness is one of the most prized virtue to God. (Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. - Mat. 5:5)

When we approach God with a contrite heart, we are filled with remorse. When we experience repentance, we feel humble. No wonder humility is prized even more than Love.

Lastly, today's featured sermon has one of my popular quotes by Reinhold Niebuhr showing humility in practice:

God, grant me the serenity to
Accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

This Monday (Jan 30), we start the Ninaveh Lent or 3 Day lent. It is the shortest lent in our Church and ends on Thursday (Feb 2). Ninaveh lent is a precursor to the Great Lent that begins on Monday, Feb 20.

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday
Sermons for This Sunday

Strength Through Weakness - A Lesson on Humility
Sermon Based on 2 Corinthians 12:2-10 and Mark 6:1-13

by Rev. John Duncan

2 Corinthians 12:2-10

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven-- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person-- whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows-- was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat.

On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations.

Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness."

So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

Gospel: Mark 6:1-13

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house." And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them." So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

Sermon

Humility can be a source of tremendous strength. There's a kind of sobriety and restraint in so many people of my dad's generation, a kind of wisdom about how to move forward in life. Dad couldn't get too full of himself because he'd seen the evil people can do. He frequently said, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

If you can get your heart around that, you stop kidding yourself about human nature. But you want to do right, to be constructive, even in the face of opposition. You keep doing what is right and good though others may disappoint, betray their values, be selfish or wicked. You know it's all you can do.

If you are full of yourself, you get too wounded – too angry when things go wrong. But it doesn't have to be that way. If you know how people can be, then you plan more wisely, and you aren't shocked when things go wrong or people disappoint, but you stay open to being delighted, to being proud of people when they come through, when they live up to their ideals, when they show good faith and great commitment.

St. Paul struggled with this. Here he was a great apostle, starting churches in quite a number of cities around the empire, nurturing them. A man who had incredible visions, and through whom wonderful things were done. Paul found that he was vulnerable to inflation. He was tormented when he couldn't soar. And yet he discovered that his high times were not the best times. The good times were the ones when, in spite of his every error, in spite of all opposition, Christ shone through.

Paul matured enough to discover that it wasn't the greatness of Paul he wanted, it was to be a disciple, a part of the wonder of Christ. The love that entered ordinary lives when Paul was able to let it – that was his greatest joy. "Whenever I am weak, then I am strong." We have to learn to get over ourselves, get out of God's way.

That is only possible when the focus in on God and not ourselves. That is humility.

Humility is a practice, a kind of realism, a wisdom that knows that for all we'd like to do, and all we'd like to say, there is a greater power at work. It works in us a kind of sobriety and restraint.

Jesus began to gather disciples, to preach and to heal and to form communities of people who loved and forgave one another and expected God to act. And he came to his hometown, to Nazareth, to the synagogue. I'll bet he had some hopes for what would happen there in his hometown. But instead he was met with stubborn opposition. What could this kid teach us – God isn't up to anything – this is the carpenter's kid. Who does he think he is? And they wouldn't listen.

Jesus was astonished by their disbelief. Why would they close their hearts? I wonder what that felt like? Another part of our humanity he wasn't afraid to share. But he doesn't recoil: Instead he turns and says to the disciples, "You need to experience this, too. Go out, two by two, not like we usually do as a traveling event, just two by two with nothing to insulate you, and preach and heal and where you are welcomed, enjoy, but where you are not, just face up to it, you were not welcomed."

You can't discover what you stand for until you speak justice, listen to the response, think it over and respond some more. Until you speak forgiveness, listen to the response, think it over and speak again. You can't be a disciple unless you get rejected once in a while and get received with joy once in a while. If they are going to learn wisdom, they need to know something of human nature. They've got to get used to being received with joy and not take it personally – to be opposed with malice and not take it personally. And not be destroyed by it. It isn't about them, it's about God at work, and when you know that you have strength to carry on.

I've been thinking about what makes this nation great, and how to strengthen and preserve that. And I recently heard a program about Reinhold Niebuhr, pastor and theologian of 20th century America, one of the great public intellectuals of that time. Liberals and conservatives alike claim Niebuhr. He was an original. A pastor of the German Evangelical Church, then a professor at Union Theological Seminary, he started out a pacifist, a socialist, an opponent of the factories exploiting workers and of the Klu Klux Klan which was strong in Detroit when he began to preach there. He came to condemn communism, and became a strong influence on Martin Luther King, Jr. He opposed Vietnam but argued that nuclear weapons were a necessary deterrent for his time.

What Niebuhr became known for was what he called "Christian Realism". Holding to Christian ideals in public policy, working hard to do what was just and right – but without naivety. Knowing how frail is human nature, and planning policy with that in mind. Wanting all the best things, but working toward them with a certain sobriety. He quipped, "I think there ought to be a club in which preachers and journalists could come together and have the sentimentalism of the one matched with the cynicism of the other. That ought to bring them pretty close to the truth." And another, "Goodness, armed with power, is corrupted; and pure love without power is destroyed." Some of you have been waiting for his most famous lines:

God grant me the serenity to
Accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Niebuhr captures for me in his engagement with so many public intellectuals that humility I saw in my dad, a sadness that human nature is frail, a delight that love is possible, and a willingness to move forward into the future steadily, without too many illusions, but with trust that God will find a way.

The arc of justice is long, and any good thing takes much time, and much love and faith.

But there is tremendous staying-power in humility. If you keep your eyes on Christ, you can know the world is a difficult place, and yet invest yourself in goodness.

More sermons, bible commentaries, gospel analyses for the Fourth Sunday after Denho can be found in Malankara World:

Sermons for the Fourth Sunday After Denho
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_4th-sunday-after-denaha.htm

This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
In the multitude of my thoughts within me thy comforts delight my soul.

When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

O LORD, I am oppressed; undertake for me. - Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee. it:

I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. - If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, ... and it shall be given him.

Who is sufficient for these things? - I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing. - My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.

Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee ... Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.

My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; ... when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate on thee in the night watches.

PSA. 94:19. Psa. 61:2. Isa. 38:14. Psa. 55:22. I Kgs. 3:7. Jas. 1:5. II Cor. 2:16. Rom. 7:18. II Cor. 12:9. Matt. 9:2,22. Psa. 63:5,6.

Source: Daily Light on Daily Path

Featured This Week: Meekness and Humility

by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
Patriarch of Antioch and all the East
Supreme Head of the Universal Syrian Orthodox Church

The Lord Jesus says: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (St. Matthew 11:28-30).

Dearly Beloved, humility and meekness are noble and divine virtues which complement each other. For, by our humility, we glorify God, confessing His great benevolence toward us. Because He is our Creator, Who cares for us. Thus, it behooves us to continually offer thanksgiving to His majesty, admitting our weakness and need for His mercy. Furthermore, we ought to be confidently assured that all the gifts we own, be it heavenly or earthly, and whatever grace we enjoy in this life, are but free gifts from Him, glory be to His name. Hence, we have no right to be proud, but ought to give all credit to God, avoiding pride which separates us from Him. For pride causes us to be deaf to God's holy word and leads us to self-adoration and atheism. Henceforth, let humility rule our minds and our hearts be filled with the light of Christ, thus enkindling within us the flame of faith in God, to trust in Him and accept all the tenets of faith He inspired unto us through His Holy Bible, God’s living word. In so doing, we glorify His holy name, just like David who said: "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but to Your name give glory" (Psalm 115:1).

Humility is the foundation and the culmination of all Christian virtues. Moreover, meekness is the ripe fruit of humility, and its companion in the spiritual struggle. The virtue of humility, when established in the heart and mind of a person, becoming a part of him, directs his behavior and others see it in him through his behavior. As that person acquires meekness, he is given enough spiritual courage to wrestle the cursed devil and overcome hard temptations. God grants him sufficient strength for self-control to overcome raging anger, limit evil thoughts and keep away from hatred, jealousy and enmity, thereby obeying God’s commandments: "Do not resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also." (St. Matthew 5:39-40). Also, "love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you" (St. Matthew 5:44). Only in this manner, meekness becomes our second nature by which we deal with others in kindness and charity.

This is how we may imitate Christ, our Lord, Who bids us to learn from Him, for He is meek and humble of heart. These two virtues were evident in all His dealings during His divine dispensation in the flesh. He loved children and they, in return, loved Him and were comfortable in His company. He had compassion towards women and had pity on sinners, opening the way for them to return to God through sincere repentance. He also forgave His enemies and those who hated Him. Indeed, He taught us these two virtues through His words, deeds and parables. Therefore, if we imitate and follow Him, we attain peace with God through complete surrender to His divine will, during bad and good times. We will also find peace with ourselves, which leads to a clear conscience, enabling us to love God Who loved us first, obey His laws, avoid what He forbids and to fulfill our religious duties. We should also be at peace with our neighbor, showing him love by countering his bad behavior with forgiveness and by praying for him, as St. Paul commanded Timothy his disciple, saying: "A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth" (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

By His meekness and humility, our Lord Jesus corrected the world’s understanding of heavenly virtues and noble values. Before the birth of the Lord Jesus, meekness was regarded a weakness; however, in Christianity it is considered a great spiritual strength. Similarly, in the past, humility was regarded a weakness, while in Christianity it is considered rising above iniquity and triumphing over the devil and his boastful followers, and condemnation of their pride which caused them to fall into disobedience, making them enemies of God and man. Pride also led mankind to fall into the sin of rebellion against the Creator, meriting the punishment of death. Consequently, in order to save mankind from rebellion, and to bring them back to life, the Lord Jesus treated them with humility and commanded them to be meek, saying to His disciples: "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (St. Matthew 10:16).

Indeed, the Lord’s disciples did comprehend the majesty of their divine Teacher. They also understood the weakness of their condition and realized their constant need for the Lord. This became evident when the Lord explained, saying: "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing" (St. John 15:4-5).

Dearly beloved, in these difficult times, our Holy Church is going through a critical juncture which constitutes a dangerous turning point in her modern history. Disorganized immigration has exposed our people to foreign ways, leading them away from their cultural roots and sources of spiritual values inherited from their esteemed fathers. Moreover, the enemies of truth lurk around them to ensnare them in their nets. They have set up evil traps for them both in the homeland and overseas. There are those who follow old heresies and those who follow new sects who claim to be Christians, though they are not. They come like ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing to snatch Christ’s sheep. Then there are those lay persons, who through their evil pride, have formed false ideas trying to control the Church in order to meddle with her administration system, which is divinely instituted. For the Church is a spiritual institution and the mystical Body of Christ. Christ is the head of the Church Who appointed His holy apostles and gave them the authority to serve the children of the Church. They are put in charge of her administration, the management of her affairs and to provide care for her members. They are also her legal representatives and defenders of her religious tenets, name, heritage, language, traditions, culture, attributes, aspects and definitions granted from heaven and confirmed by history throughout the generations.

The Church will not be shaken because Christ is with her, and has promised her, saying: "and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (St. Matthew 16:18). Whoever rises against her shall be defeated, because the Church’s authority comes from above. In the spirit of humility and meekness, it is our duty to offer instruction and advice to those who have gone astray. If they return to obey the Church, heaven will rejoice over one sinner who repents, and we will welcome them back into the Church. However, if they insist on opposing the Church and causing division among her ranks, in order to divide her followers, and disobeying the true shepherds, then it becomes our duty to use our spiritual authority to defend the noble faith and honorable tradition, and to chastise those who rebel against the Church system, in order to fulfill what St. Paul has urged us to do in such conditions, saying: "Therefore, put away from yourselves the evil person" (1 Corinthians 5:13).

Dearly Beloved, The coming of the holy Lenten season is a golden opportunity for us to spiritually strive to emulate the Lord Jesus in His humility and meekness. Moreover, it provides us the opportunity practice noble virtues and join our faith with good deeds and especially with works of mercy such as the distribution of alms, helping the poor and caring for the orphans and widows. Let us also show our love to our Holy Syriac Orthodox Church, to her administrative structures, her Syriac language, liturgical traditions and the teachings of her Holy Fathers.

May God accept your fasting and prayers, and may He make you worthy to celebrate the feast of His Holy Resurrection from the dead with joy and happiness. May His grace abide with you forever.

Our Father Who art in heaven, ...

Issued at our Patriarchal Headquarters.
Damascus, Syria.
January 20, 2007
The 27th year of our Patriarchal reign.

Humility: It Has a Power All Its Own

by Dr. Joe McKeever

Humility. It's in far too short supply these days in every strata of life, but even in the ministry where one would think we would have enough to export.

Take Moses, a man God used in incredible ways. Now, the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

Take the Lord Jesus Himself. I am gentle and lowly in heart. (Matthew 11:29)

Take me.

Better yet, do not take me.

And, if you will allow me to say so, we'll not be taking you either.

You and I struggle with this all the time, don't we?

And it's not because we are people of such great acclaim and attainments. It's not necessary to have published best-sellers and belong to the speakers' jet set to have a pride problem.

It's a human condition that besets hermits on islands and stalks rulers in palaces. It afflicts celebrities and waitresses, congressional staffs and janitorial crews, seminary faculties and homeless shelters.

Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time. (I Peter 5:6)

Did you get that? For the moment, forget the promise that the Lord will exalt the one who humbles himself.

Focus on the command: Humble yourselves.

This is not a task you will want to be asking the Lord to do for you. When God humbles people, He does so with a mighty hand. Sometimes, people don't survive the experience.

--Think of the comeuppance God gave the too-big-for-his-britches King Saul in I Samuel.

--Consider what He did to Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon's almighty ruler who was reduced to grazing with the goats. (Daniel 4)

Much better--and a whole lot easier--if we do it ourselves. Humble ourselves.

And just how would we go about doing that?

1) Take a good look at the Lord. That does it for most people.

When Isaiah saw the Lord in all His majesty and holiness, the next thing he saw was his own sorry condition. "Then said I, 'Woe is me. I am undone. I'm a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people just like me. For my eyes have seen the King." (Isa. 6:5)

2) Focus on the Lord and not on you.

The end of Romans 11 and the beginning of Romans 12 were originally written as a unit with no break in between. They work well that way.

Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!.... For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.

I beseech you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

3) Do tangible things to reinforce the humility you have chosen.

Go serve the homeless. Do random acts of kindness. Take the plaques of achievement off the wall and either store them in a closet, or better yet, trash them. And do not tell anyone that you did it!

4) Look at your speech. Cleanse it of its egotism.

We pastors like people to know about our degrees and the number of people in our churches. We call attention to the numbers who responded to the gospel invitations on our mission trips. And we do it from the purest of motives.

We think we do. But a person's motives can be a stew composed of joy in the Lord, the desire to please God, a love for people, and a need to fulfill the ministry to which we were called. Stirred in with those are pride, conceit, insecurity, a competitive streak, ego, and what the KJV called "vainglory."

Billy Graham used to say, "Hundreds of you are coming." We could easily see the numbers were in the thousands. But he chose the smaller expression.

5) Keep it up. It's a daily thing.

Yesterday's humbling of yourself before the Lord will not suffice for today. The human heart is a congenital rebel, a determined force, and a powerful master. Its pride will not go away easily, will not admit defeat permanently, and will not leave you alone for long.

May I pose two considerations for any man or woman of God who would take a public position in opposition to sinful practices?

1) Take a good honest look at your life.

Are you consistently living for Christ? Or, are there secret sins which, if others knew about them, would bring embarrassment to the people who love you and the cause you are espousing?

It's a part of courage for you to admit, "I'm not qualified," when asked to speak out on some issues. That's all. You do not have to go into detail and explain to the person who asked you to man a bullhorn or carry a sign why you are not the person to do this. Just say it and stand by it.

2) If your life is all right--if there are no inconsistencies which could bring dishonor to you or your Lord or your cause--then consider your spirit.

Be humble about it. Be sweet-spirited. Love the sinner, while standing firm in the position you hold.

Let no one attack you for being mean-spirited. Such spokesmen bring shame to the Lord whom they claim to be representing.

Bear in mind that the daily newspaper and your local television absolutely loves to catch a Christian worker in some major hypocrisy. You'll make the evening news and tomorrow's front page.

So, don't do it. That's the last thing the churches in your area, the sincere witnesses for the Lord, and the cause of Christ in general, need.

When David sinned with Bathsheba, then committed manslaughter to cover it up, the prophet Nathan confronted him. He said, By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme. (I Samuel 12:14)

They're scoffing at Christians today in the French Quarter.

And indirectly, at God.

Shame.

"Lord, forgive us. Forgive me. Forgive all your servants who deign to speak for Thee. Oh, keep us on our knees, make us like Jesus, clothe us in humility and thy righteousness. For Jesus' sake."

Editor's Note:

Excerpted from an article by Dr.  Joe McKeever. The full article can be read in Malankara World.

About the Author:

Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.

The Beauty of Humility

by Fr. Phil Bloom

Today I like to talk on a central Christian virtue: humility. I'd like to begin with a humorous story. When Oscar Wilde was visiting France, he was introduced to an upcoming author, Marie Anne Bovet. She was a good writer, but plain, even homely in appearance. She noticed that Oscar Wilde was surprised when he saw her. She said, "Come on, admit it. Am I not the ugliest woman in France?" Oscar Wilde made a profound bow and said, "In the world, madam. In the world."

You know, that woman, Marie-Anne Bovet was not only a a good writer. She was beautiful in her humility - her good-natured humility. There is nothing more beautiful, more attractive than humility. I remember seeing that at my ten-year high school reunion. I was struck by one of the girls and asked myself, "Who is she?" As I got closer I recognized her. She was a girl we boys made fun of. One of her facial features was disproportionate. Now, nothing had changed about her face (no cosmetic surgery), but she now had a nice gentle smile. She looked strikingly attractive. What had happened was that she had humbly and gratefully accepted the face God gave her - and she made the best of it. And I hope that we boys had changed in ten years - that we were better able to appreciate the spring of beauty. And, really, nothing is more beautiful than grateful, good-natured humility.

Humility is like a lamp. It enables us to appreciate true beauty, to see what really matters. When Michelangelo Buonarroti was in his mid-eighties, realizing his death was near, he confided to a friend that two things made him sad. "The first," he said, "is that I have not taken more care for the salvation of my soul." Then he added, "the second thing that saddens me is to die now, when like an infant, I am barely beginning to babble the first words of my art." Michelangelo had produced immortal works such as David, Moses, the Pieta and the Sistine Chapel. They have such overwhelming beauty that they often leave people breathless. Yet, at the end of his life, he realized that even these masterpieces - in light of eternity - were like incomplete words. "I am barely beginning to babble."

By his humility before God, Michelangelo was like St. Paul. Today we hear that no one can boast before God. We are saved by grace, says Paul. Our salvation is a gift from God. In the Gospel, we have a famous verse - John 3:16 - I hope all of you know it by heart, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that everyone who believes in him might not perish, but have eternal life."

Ironically, the recognition that we owe everything to God is the basis for true self-esteem. Some think that self-esteem comes from doing everything just right, achieving great things - and having others acknowledge what we do. That kind of self-esteem is very fragile. If I make a mistake, if I fail in some way or if someone criticizes me, I fall to pieces. My self-esteem comes apart because it depends on something external: my accomplishments - and whether others listen to me or appreciate me.

St. Paul - and Michelangelo - point to a deeper source of esteem. Even if I do the greatest works ever seen, they are small in comparison to God and eternity. What counts is not so much what you and I do, but what God does for us. God loves us so much that he gives his only Son so that we have life in him.

A person who had this great trust in God was the Cure d'Ars - St. John Vianney. He mentioned that one day he received two letters. One of them praised him, said what a great saint he was; the other accused him of being a fake and a hypocrite. St. John Vianney commented, "The letter of praise gave me nothing. The letter of criticism took nothing from me. I am what I am in the eyes of God and nothing more."

In the eyes of God our works matter only if they express a dependence on him. And the wonderful thing is that acknowledging our sins can bring that same result: humility, reliance on God. This doesn't mean that we should keep sinning or start sinning. No: An unrepented sin can drag a person to hell. Jesus did not come to condemn, but to give life. That means returning to him, resolving to sin no more.

In a few weeks we will celebrate Palm Sunday - the inauguration of Holy Week. What we bring to Holy Week is humility - the awareness of who we are before God. In a human being, there is nothing more beautiful, more attractive than humility. Before God none of us can boast. We are saved by grace. He loves us so much that he has given his only Son.

Bottom line: In a human being, there is nothing more beautiful, more attractive than humility.

Humility: Getting It and Keeping It

Scripture is filled with teachings, examples, violations, commands, and encouragements regarding humility. Nothing cinches it for believers like knowing that even Jesus Christ was humble and became our example. Read the article in Malankara World.

A Contrite Heart

by Ralph Bouma, Conrad, MT

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise."-Psalm 51:17.

According to Webster's American Christian History Education Series, contrition means, "Penitence; deep sorrow for sin; grief of heart for having offended an infinitely holy and benevolent God."

So to address the words of our text, let's see what God's Word says in Psalm 112:1; "Praise ye the Lord, Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments." This fear is not a slavish fear, but a holy reverence for the Lord. If we understand what true contrition is, then we also have some knowledge of what true reverence is, which results in not only a desire to keep his commandments out of true reverence for his revealed will; but keeping His commandments becomes our greatest delight.

The heart that feels the power of sin as a burden, that suffers under temptation, that groans beneath Satan's fiery assaults, that bleeds under the wounded conscience over committed evil, and has repented of past sins is a broken and a contrite heart. This repentance, brokenness of heart and contrition of spirit is that which accompanies salvation. It is the quickening power of the Holy Spirit that works ". . . repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." Acts 20:21.

A contrite one need not despair of hope, but look away from self and every human help unto the Saviour, for He is calling unto you!!!! "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matt. 11:28-30.

Oh, how suitable to "a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart" is such an invitation!! Oh, to see how our lovely Saviour can relate to just such a one, as He says, ". . . for I am meek and lowly . . .," and then, oh how beautiful! "Take my yoke upon you . . . and learn of me . . . ." Don't you see he is saying that Christ must be formed in you, or you must become Christ like. "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

And what does Christ mean by, "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light?" See how He first says, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden," under the power of sin. Your heart seems so hard sometimes. There seems to be no spiritual revivings, so you labour under these trials and become heavy laden with a broken and a contrite heart. And at just such a time Jesus brings your attention to the true meaning of His name; "and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." Matt. 1:21.

But what does it mean, "my yoke is easy, and my burden is light?" See Psalms 112:1, how those who learn the fear of the Lord, ". . . delighteth greatly in his commandments." Oh then the yoke is easy because it is our delight to serve the Lord, ". . . and his commandments are not grievous." 1-John 5:3. Look unto Jesus and away from sin ". . . and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matt. 11:29.

The gospel's the law of the Lamb;
My soul of its glories shall sing;
With pleasure my tongue shall proclaim
The law of my Saviour and King;
A sweet law of liberty this;
A yoke that is easy and mild;
Of love it the precious law is,
Unknown unto all but a child.

The law of the Spirit of life,
That takes the old yoke from our neck,
Proves Zion to be the Lamb's wife,
And Zion with beauty does deck;
Provides her a clothing divine,
And makes here all-glorious within;
Nor angels are clothed more fine,
Nor can it be sullied with sin.

Its beauties all center in Christ,
For Christ is the substance of it;
It makes broken hearts to rejoice,
And insolvent debtors will fit.
Tis wisdom, tis strength, and tis love,
Tis all that a sinner can need;
And all that are born from above,
By Jesus from Moses are freed.

This law is the poor pilgrim's rule;
With boldness this truth I'll maintain;
Thrice happy's the man, though a fool,
That in it can look and remain;
This man shall be blest in his deed,
For Jesus and he are but one;
He'll therefore supply all his need,
For ever and ever. Amen.

Source: Devotion from Gospel Chapel

How to Open Your Heart to Christ

by Dr. Jack Graham

"God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 1 Peter 5:5

Did you hear about the little boy who was given a sticker for his humility? Well, they took it away from him because he wore it all the time!

Now, real humility is knowing who you are in Christ and accepting your position in Christ. It’s not thinking of yourself with sinful exaggeration, but with sober evaluation, knowing God and knowing who you are in Him. It’s putting Christ first, others second, and yourself last.

And pride is the very antithesis of the Christian life. Pride is the original sin. In fact, before time began Lucifer said, "I will be like the Most High!" And there was a rebellion when Lucifer chose to live independently of God. That’s how Lucifer became the devil. It was pride!

Also, the first sin that mankind committed was the sin of pride. Satan tempted them and said, "If you eat of this tree, you shall be as gods" (Genesis 3:5). The first temptation was not to be ungodly; it was to be as gods!

The Christian life is one of humility. Had there been no pride, there would have been no sin. So as you live the Christian life, put God first, others second, and yourself last. When you do that, you’ll understand the true essence of the Christian life: humility!

THE ESSENCE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS A HUMBLE HEART. SO LIVE YOUR LIFE IN HUMILITY BY PUTTING GOD AND OTHERS BEFORE YOURSELF.

Source: Powerpoint Devotional

Book: 'With Christ In the School of Prayer' by Andrew Murray

Lesson 21: If ye abide in me Or The All-Inclusive Condition
[Editor's Note: Here is this week's lesson from the book, 'With Christ in the School of Prayer' by Andrew Murray. This book is a very important reference book on intercessional prayer, something Orthodox Church believes in greatly. Murray skillfully describes the role of the Holy Spirit within the church and exhorts Christians to use the blessings God has given us. This book is a guide to living a life as a temple of the Holy Spirit. If you have missed the earlier lessons, please read them in Malankara World.]

'If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you.'—John xv. 7.

In all God's intercourse with us, the promise and its conditions are inseparable. If we fulfill the conditions, He fulfils the promise. What He is to be to us depends upon what we are willing to be to Him. 'Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.' And so in prayer the unlimited promise, Ask whatsoever ye will, has its one simple and natural condition, if ye abide in me. It is Christ whom the Father always hears; God is in Christ, and can only be reached by being in Him; to be IN HIM is the way to have our prayer heard; fully and wholly ABIDING IN HIM, we have the right to ask whatsoever we will, and the promise that it shall be done unto us.

When we compare this promise with the experiences of most believers, we are startled by a terrible discrepancy. Who can number up the countless prayers that rise and bring no answer? The cause must be either that we do not fulfil the condition, or God does not fulfill the promise. Believers are not willing to admit either, and therefore have devised a way of escape from the dilemma. They put into the promise the qualifying clause our Saviour did not put there—if it be God's will; and so maintain both God's integrity and their own. O if they did but accept it and hold it fast as it stands, trusting to Christ to vindicate His truth, how God's Spirit would lead them to see the Divine propriety of such a promise to those who really abide in Christ in the sense in which He means it, and to confess that the failure in the fulfilling the condition is the one sufficient explanation of unanswered prayer. And how the Holy Spirit would then make our feebleness in prayer one of the mightiest motives to urge us on to discover the secret, and obtain the blessing, of full abiding in Christ.

'If ye abide in me.' As a Christian grows in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, he is often surprised to find how the words of God grow too, in the new and deeper meaning with which they come to him. He can look back to the day when some word of God was opened up to him and he rejoiced in the blessing he had found in it. After a time some deeper experience gave it a new meaning, and it was as if he never had seen what it contained. And yet once again, as he advanced in the Christian life, the same word stood before him again as a great mystery, until anew the Holy Spirit led him still deeper into its Divine fullness. One of these ever-growing, never-exhausted words, opening up to us step by step the fullness of the Divine life, is the Master's precious 'Abide in me.' As the union of the branch with the vine is one of growth, never-ceasing growth and increase, so our abiding in Christ is a life process in which the Divine life takes ever fuller and more complete possession of us. The young and feeble believer may be really abiding in Christ up to the measure of his light; it is he who reaches onward to the full abiding in the sense in which the Master understood the words, who inherits all the promises connected with it.

In the growing life of abiding in Christ, the first stage is that of faith. As the believer sees that, with all his feebleness, the command is really meant for him, his great aim is simply to believe that, as he knows he is in Christ, so now, notwithstanding unfaithfulness and failure, abiding in Christ is his immediate duty, and a blessing within his reach. He is specially occupied with the love, and power, and faithfulness of the Saviour: he feels his one need to be believing. Read the rest of the Lesson in Malankara World. http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Prayers/Murray/Murray_21.htm

Previous Lessons (Archive)
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Family Special: Why I Stayed in Marriage - A Wife's Focus on God Saves Her Marriage

by Carla Anne Coroy

I wanted out. My marriage was over. My husband was rarely home. When he was, he was working, de-stressing from his job by playing on the computer, or sleeping off jet-lag and long days of meetings. There didn't seem to be any benefit to being married.

It wasn't just his absence, but what it communicated to me. I felt unloved, used, and taken advantage of. His work, hobbies, free time, and desires seemed more important than me, than family, than us.

I was lonely, starving for attention. I needed to know I mattered. I always said I'd never be one of those women. The kind that have affairs. I was a Christian. I loved God, read my Bible, and prayed every day.

Even so, a close friend soon captured my heart. By God's grace the relationship didn't become physical. But it was still an affair… an emotional affair.

When I realized there was another man who could love me, who would be there for and with me, I knew my marriage was finally done. Why would I intentionally stay in a painful marriage with someone who didn't seem to care?

Surely God wanted me to be happy.

Then my world came crashing down. My husband had been gone for three weeks and was coming home in a few days. It was time to let him know our marriage was over. Before he got home, though, God used the Body of Christ, His Word, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit to shake up my world like never before.

A Christian friend asked me hard questions about my marriage. She prayed a targeted prayer for my marriage and against my emotional affair. In our private and tolerant society it is unusual for someone to ask personal questions and challenge our lifestyle. Yet she did.

The next morning an encounter with a stranger and a conversation with radio hosts Gary and Barb Rosberg made things even more black and white: I was being selfish and unfaithful in my marriage.

Finally I went to God. I begged Him to understand why I really needed a divorce. But the heavens were silent. I decided to play the trump card. “God, didn't you promise that Christian marriages would be happy? Won't you keep your promise?”

The heavens finally broke open. I felt God say He would keep His promise to give me a happy marriage if I could find that promise in Scripture. I searched. And searched. And searched.

There is no happy marriage promise.

I was devastated. God graciously turned my eyes to the book of Hosea, not to chastise me, but to show me something new. Read the rest of the article in Malankara World.
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Family/Family_why-I-stayed-in-marriage.htm

Read more articles on Relationship Issues and How to Strengthen Your Marriage in Malankara World. http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Family/Default.htm

Health Tip: Watch Out for Gluten's Sneaky Partner

by Al Sears, MD

You know, I don't go to the grocery store very often. So when they make a change, I really notice it.

Like the huge section of gluten-free foods they now have.

That's good news, because when you're sensitive to gluten, it can ruin an enjoyable meal by giving you serious stomach pain.

You see, gluten is not part of our native diet. Your body recognizes it as a foreign substance.

You may already know that gluten is a gooey protein commonly used in baked goods.

Gluten holds on to the carbon dioxide made from yeast and expands. It's what makes dough stretchy, holds cookies together, makes cake rise, and why bagels are doughy.

Gluten also hides in lots of foods that don't seem like they would have grains in them. For example, different types of ketchup, mayonnaise, sauces and ice cream also have wheat flour mixed in to make them thicker.

Many processed meats, like sausages and hamburger patties, add in bread crumbs or wheat products for texture.

The problem is, it's not so easy to just say "avoid glutens" and you're home-free. Gluten is only one part of a whole group of digestive troublemakers. It's a group of sticky proteins called lectins.

Lectins are found in plants and serve as a natural defense system to fight off mold and parasites. When they sense an invader, lectins counterattack by binding to the foreign sugar molecules. That stops the unwanted cells in their tracks.

That's good news for the plants. But when lectins get into your body, they're still programmed to attack sugar molecules. That's bad news for your digestive system, which is lined with sugar-containing cells that help you break down food.

The lectins are drawn right to that lining and your immune system retaliates. Then you have the perfect recipe for upset stomach, irritable bowels, bloating and other not-so-pleasant consequences.

But other lectins are even trickier to avoid, because they're not only in grains…but also dairy, eggs, beans, peanuts, and even nightshade vegetables like potatoes, tomatoes and eggplant.

It's almost impossible to avoid them all. And that's why, for some people, a seemingly "gluten-free" diet is not enough to keep their digestive systems comfortable.

The medical advisor over at True Health™—Dr. Michael Cutler, MD—has developed a unique, natural way to fortify your digestive tract and neutralize the lectins. He calls it Ultimate Lectin Defense™.

It uses "sacrificial sugars" to distract the lectins. The lectins bind to the "sacrificial sugars," instead of to the naturally-occurring sugars in your intestines. That keeps the lectins away from your digestive system so you stay comfortable.

These "sacrificial sugars" also don't affect your blood sugar. It's a unique way of helping you steer clear of all these gluten-like substances and their effects.

Read more health tips in Malankara World Health Section

Humor: Making the 'Difference'

As we get older we sometimes begin to doubt our ability to "make a difference" in the world.

It is at these times that our hopes are boosted by the remarkable achievements of other "seniors" who have found the courage to take on challenges that would make many of us wither.

Harold Schlumberg is such a person:

THIS IS QUOTED FROM HAROLD:

"I have often been asked, 'What do you do now that you're retired?'

Well...I am fortunate to have a chemical engineering background and one of the things I enjoy most is converting beer, wine and whiskey into urine. It's rewarding, uplifting, satisfying and fulfilling. I do it every day and I really enjoy it."

Humor: Job in a Post Office

Gopal goes to the Post Office to apply for a job.

The interviewer asks him, "Are you allergic to anything?"

He replies, "Yes - coffee."

"Have you ever been in the military service?

"Yes," he says, "I was in Iraq for two years."

The interviewer says, "That will give you 5 extra points towards employment."

Then he asks, "Are you disabled in any way?"

Gopal says, "Yes. A bomb exploded near me and I lost both of my testicles."

The interviewer grimaces and then says, "O.K. You've got enough points for me to hire you right now. Our normal hours are from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. You can start tomorrow from 10:00AM every day."

Gopal is puzzled and asks, "If the work hours are from 8:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M., why do you want me to start here from10:00 A.M.?"

"This is a government job," the interviewer says, "For the first two hours, we just stand around drinking coffee and scratching our balls. No point you coming in for that."

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