Malankara World Journal
Malankara World Journal

Volume 2 No. 65 March 22, 2012

If the Journal is not displayed properly, please click on the link below (or copy and paste) to read from web

http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/MWNews_65.htm
Archives: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Newsletter/Default.htm
Annunciation to St. Mary
Annunciation to St. Mary

A new messenger of God greeted a new woman in a new way according to a new and unspoken mystery, a new and unspoken sacrament. "Hail, full of grace; the Lord is with you." This is a new form of greeting, never heard by another, never before encountered. - St. Lawrence

Table of Contents
If you are not receiving your own copy of Malankara World by email, please add your name to our subscription list. It is free. click here.

1. Editor's Note

2. Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 25)

This Sunday, our Holy Church celebrates two events. It is the sixth Sunday of the Great Lent. Hence the Lectionary Reading is the Jesus Healing the Blind Man. This is the last of the miracles recalled during the Great Lent.

On March 25, the Holy Church also celebrates a very important feast. It is the day of the Annunciation to St. Mary. ...

3. Sermons for This Sunday (March 25)

Sixth Sunday of Great Lent- Samiyo/ The Blind
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_6th-sunday-in-lent.htm

Annunciation to St. Mary
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Sermons/Sermon-of-the-week_annunciation_Mary.htm

4. Inspiration for Today

A Prayer

5. Featured This Week: Lovely Lady

This article is an all-time favorite of mine. In a storytelling style, the author tackles difficult topics in Christology, Mariology, Faith and Mystery. It is easy to read and very captivating. A must read as we approach one of the most important feasts honoring St. Mary, the Mother of God - annunciation.

Dorothy' poem assumes the most fundamental of human relationships, that of mother with child, and then assumes from there all of the normal emotions for God that inform human childhood. What the prayer does, in other words, is almost naively, but very persuasively, give us a God who has an emotional life. Such a daring feat becomes a shocking one when it is pulled out and articulated for what it is, but buried in the innocence of a small poem, such a feat becomes a shrewd and small, but mighty, miracle. ...

6. Book Excerpt: In the School of Prayer - Lesson 29: Our Boldness in Prayer

One of the greatest hindrances to believing prayer is with many undoubtedly this: they know not if what they ask is according to the will of God. As long as they are in doubt on this point, they cannot have the boldness to ask in the assurance that they certainly shall receive. And they soon begin to think that, if once they have made known their requests, and receive no answer, it is best to leave it to God to do according to His good pleasure. ...

7. Prayer and Love

The deep, sure ground of answer to prayer is God's forgiving love. When it has taken possession of our hearts, we pray in faith. But also, when it has taken possession of our hearts, we live in love. God's forgiving nature, revealed to us in His love, becomes our nature. With the power of His forgiving love dwelling in us, we forgive just as He forgives. ...

8. Friendship with God

Genesis 18 brings out the delight of true friendship with God, as compared with simply feeling His presence occasionally in prayer. This friendship means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God's will. ...

9. Solve 90% of Church Problems Before They Ever Exist

The number one reason most church problems do so much damage is that the people in the know, those charged with leadership, have not anticipated these things and done the hard work necessary to head them off. Good preparation will end most church problems before they arise. Here are 10 rules which, if implemented, can stop the next church split in its tracks. ...

10. Spread the Joy Around

As Christians, we revere God's name. And we've been healed and forgiven. When God looks at each of us, washed in the cleansing blood of Christ, he sees something incredible-absolute perfection! We've been "released." How can any of us consider keeping such news to ourselves? ...

11. Why Do You Go to Church Every Sunday?

A young woman asked her older co-worker: "Why do you go to church every Sunday? Does something happen there that can't happen somewhere else? And does it happen every Sunday?" ...

12. Recipe: Potato Mushroom Pie

13. Family: Tending Our Marriage

When I was young, I attended the wedding of an extended family member. I don't remember much about the ceremony, dancing or food. But I do remember the terrible fight at the reception. In front of all the guests, a woman screamed at her husband, broke down in tears and hid in a corner while her friends consoled her. The man yelled back, threatened to hit her, then stormed out of the building with his friends. He did not return that night.

It might shock you to learn that I'm describing the bride and groom. But it probably will not surprise you to learn that their marriage lasted less than a month. ...

14. A Lesson in Logic

15. About Malankara World

Editor's Note
Today (March 20) is the first day of Spring in North America. Usually, we have 10-15 feet of snow piled up at the end of our driveway at this time of the year. Normally, it does not get cleared till April.

This year, it is amazing! We had practically no snow. The temperatures had been in the seventies and even approaching 80s - something we don't see till June usually. Deer is out in full force eating the grass. The Great Lakes, usually frozen solid in winter, didn't freeze this year.

cherry blossoms in full bloom. Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew
Cherry Blossoms. Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew

It is spring/summer all around us. The magnolias are already in bloom. Cherry blossoms are out already. In our back yard, hyacinths have nearly finished blooming and dahlias are in full bloom. The peonies, which typically bloom in June, is already off the ground. All around us, things are growing. However, for people suffering from allergy and asthma, this is not a good time. The pollen count, which normally is around 2000 at this time of the year, is now over 9000 making it a real miserable time for them. Is there a spiritual lesson in all these?

Laura MacCorkle, one of my favorite writers, wrote in her devotional today:

"If they could talk, I'm sure many of the flowers around us this first day of spring might say something in this refreshing season of the year. They're in the midst of a growth spurt. What was once hidden from the human eye is now bursting through sometimes rocky and root-filled ground and ready to realize its full potential. I'm sure it's not exactly an entirely pleasant growing process either, even though it eventually yields a glorious beauty that can be appreciated by all and undoubtedly points to the master Creator.

I dare say it's similar to the Christian walk, is it not? Usually the times of growth in our lives are painful and involve traveling through a dark valley. And then there's usually a turning to the Lord. It's just what we do as humans. When we hurt, when we are pressed upon, when we experience discomfort in our lives, we cry out and turn to our Creator.

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer (Psa. 4:1).

I've called out in this manner many, many times in my life. And although I wasn't immediately delivered from whatever difficult circumstances I was going through at the time, I knew that God was with me, working in me and walking right beside me as I made my way along the valleys.

Pastor Tony Evans of "The Alternative" radio broadcast ministry reminds us ...

"If you're in emotional turmoil, know by faith the Lord is with you. And know that means that his power is there and his grace is there. And what they will do is comfort you. . . . There is a valley that God calls us to walk through. . . . What I can promise you is that in the valley of the shadow . . . that you don't have to walk through alone . . . God will be with you and if you will cast your eyes on Jesus Christ, he will meet you where you are. So you keep walking. You don't throw in the towel . . . you don't walk this road alone."

When we go through valleys in life, we are changed because this is by God's design. And our victories point to the One who has brought us through. Praise God for the new life he gives us through Jesus Christ! And praise him that he doesn't give up on us as we continue growing in him!"

As David said in Psalm 23, when we go through the valley of death, we do not have to be afraid, because, God is with us. When we partake on the passion of Jesus Christ in less than 2 weeks, let us keep that in mind. The suffering today will be turned into joy tomorrow for those who trust in God. And nothing is impossible to God as angel Gabriel reminded Mary when he revealed her role in the God's plan for the redemption of mankind.

This week, Pope Shenouda III, spiritual leader of the Egyptian Coptic Church since 1971 and a president of the World Council of Churches (WCC) from 1991 to 1998, died at the age of 88. Pope Shenouda III held the ancient office of Pope of Alexandria. He was a successor to Saint Mark the Evangelist who, according to tradition, brought the gospel of Jesus Christ to the great Mediterranean city in the first century A.D.

"As a leader he taught us that modesty is the best way to serve Christ," said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

Malankara World readers are familiar with the excellent scholarship of Pope Shenouda III. We had featured several of his articles in the past. There is another one of his articles included in the next issue of the MW Journal. We convey our deep condolences to our Coptic Orthodox brethren on this big loss.

This Sunday in Church
Bible Readings for This Sunday (March 25)

On this Sunday, our Holy Church celebrates two events. It is the sixth Sunday of the Great Lent. Hence the Lectionary Reading is the Jesus Healing the Blind Man. This is the last of the miracles recalled during the Great Lent. The next Sunday is Palm Sunday and the beginning of the Passion Week.

On March 25, the Holy Church also celebrates a very important feast. It is the day of the Annunciation to St. Mary. This feast is considered so important that even if it falls on a Good Friday, the church requires a mandatory celebration of Qurbana on that day (as it happened a few years ago.) We will provide the Lectionary Readings and sermons for both.

Sixth Sunday of Great Lent- Samiyo/ The Blind

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Annunciation to St. Mary (25th March)

We celebrate the Feast of Annunciation to St. Mary twice a year - on the 3rd Sunday after Koodhosh Eetho and on March 25th. Holy Eucharist must be celebrated on this day even if it comes during the Great Lent, during the Passion Week or on Good Friday. (The Holy Eucharist is not celebrated during the Great Lent days except all Saturdays and Sundays, Wednesday of Mid Lent, 40th Friday, and Maundy Thursday during the Passion week.)

Evening

Morning

Before Holy Qurbana

Holy Qurbana

Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church
http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Lectionary/Lec_Great-Lent.htm

Sermons for This Sunday (March 25)
This Week's Features

Inspiration for Today
A Prayer:

Our Father In Heaven,
Hallowed be Your Most Holy Name!
For You Alone Are Worthy of Our Worship,
For You Alone Are LORD,
You Alone Are the True God!

The Earth is Yours
And The Fullness thereof
You Control the Wind and The Rain
You Create a Lovely Spring Day
Or a Mighty Tempest.

Where can we run?
For When I Go to sleep at night, You are with me.
When I awake in the morning, You Are There.

You know my going out and my coming in.
You count every hair of my head,
And You keep all my tears in a bottle as a remembrance.

Featured This Week: Lovely Lady

by Phyllis Tickle

I have a son-in-law--actually Sam and I have four sons-in-law--a great treasury of good men bringing strength and affection to our lives, but I have one son-in-law whose own mother died not too many months ago. As one would expect, he and our daughter made two or three trips back to his home after that death, and they did with sorrow and peace all the things that human passing requires of those of us who love and have been loved.

One of those trips back home--the last one in fact--was to close down the old home place, emptying it of the personal effects that had been his mother's life and his own childhood, dividing goods and memorabilia amongst all the siblings, cleaning the remaining shell of home for re-sale to some other family. Several weeks after that most painful week of rending and leave-taking, our daughter came into my office one day and laid on my desk a piece of paper. "We wanted you to have this," she said, "because we thought you would care for it the way Dorothy did. She kept it with her all the time."

What my daughter had sat on my desk was actually a photocopy, but even in photocopy, it was clear that the original of which this was the image had been well-worn and, indeed, carried into Dorothy's daily life. Here, then, is what she had so valued, the prayer-poem she had so honored.

Lovely Lady

Lovely Lady dressed in blue,
Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little Boy.

Tell me what to say!
Did you lift Him up sometimes,
Gently on your knee?

Did you sing to Him the way
Mother does to me?
Did you hold his hand at night?

Did you ever try
Telling Him stories of the world?
Oh! And did he ever cry?

Do you really think He cares
If I tell Him things--
Little things that happen?

And do the Angels' wings
Make a noise? And can He hear
Me if I speak low?

Does He understand me now?
Tell me--for you know.
Lovely Lady dressed in blue,

Teach me how to pray!
God was just your little Boy,
And you must know the way!

They were right, of course, our daughter and son-in-law. I do treasure their gift. I carry it now, in fact, or more correctly, I carry a photocopy of their photocopy sealed in clear plastic in my breviary. I treasure Dorothy's prayer. I have to call it Dorothy's for there is no indication on my copy of where she found it or of who originally wrote it. I treasure Dorothy's prayer-poem as a mother, for of all the gifts my adult sons and daughters have given me in the years of their maturity, I can think of few that have sunk with greater meaning into my own life, nor can I think of any that have more touched me with their candor and grace.

But just as my daughter also knew and understood in making their gift, I treasure the Lovely Lady as a professional religionist as well as a mother and mother-in-law. That is to say, that for one who like me makes her living as an observer of and commentator upon religion, the Lovely Lady is a proof text of sorts of where many Americans, observant Christians or cultural Christians or just would-be Christians, where many Americans are yearning to be. What the Lovely Lady prayer speaks to-the reason she so moves my heart and so presumably moved and sustained Dorothy's-is that, as a picture poem, it carries our Lord to complete humanness.

Dorothy' poem assumes the most fundamental of human relationships, that of mother with child, and then assumes from there all of the normal emotions for God that inform human childhood. What the prayer does, in other words, is almost naively, but very persuasively, give us a God who has an emotional life. Such a daring feat becomes a shocking one when it is pulled out and articulated for what it is, but buried in the innocence of a small poem, such a feat becomes a shrewd and small, but mighty, miracle.

What Dorothy's poem subtly does is jump all the barriers of the centuries. In two dozen lines of very ordinary verse, it removes the encumbrances of 2,000 years of doctrine and distance. Doctrine and distance, blessedly, have given us who are here today, the incarnate God who is Christ, but they have also sealed away from our hearts and from all immediacy the vulnerable human being who was the incarnation itself. Even those of us who know and walk with Jesus, and say so in just those terms everyday, cannot know the inside corridors and mansions of His own interior life. They are blocked to us, they are nowhere recorded for us, they are forever a barrier between us. Only He knew them--He and the Lovely Lady.

The centuries have given Christians the divinity of Christ. Mary, as always, gives contemporary Christians a bridge of connection with His ancient and original humanity. It is a connection, an intimacy in knowing, a consoling comfort in identify, that fills the hearts of thousands today who yearn to find the heat and flesh of the God they hold in their thoughts to be the Son of God. In this, my daughter was correct. But it is as an observant Christian, more than as a mother or as a professional observer, that I treasure her gift of the rhymed prayer.

There is much discussion amongst us these days about the Virgin Birth. In fact, I suspect that few, if indeed any, of the historic tenets of our faith are under anything like the barrage of skepticism and revisionism that are presently assaulting the twelve verses from the Gospel of Luke that are our appointed Scripture for this Christmas Sunday. That concerns me deeply as a Christian. It concerns me because, for Christians, belief or disbelief in the virgin birth has become a point of division and of mutual scorn that eats away at the far more fundamental imperative of Christian love. It concerns me as well because so long as we Christians are ourselves pinioned and flailing on the spikes and stakes of our scornful divisiveness, we become a human fence between our non-Christian friends and neighbors and the faith which we say we wish to offer them.

The truth in both our camps is that no one knows. As with the infant needs and adolescent emotions and young adult interior of Jesus of Nazareth, only He and the Lovely Lady know what really happened. Only they, too, know by what means and machinations He really came to be among us. Once, in adulthood, He Himself addressed this, I think, if I read correctly, with a good deal of relish and perhaps some humor.

On that occasion, He had just been tested three times in a row in a public forum by the religious leaders of his day and by their cleverly contrived questions of dogma and practice. After He had rendered his answers to their questions--presumably with success--He turned, while they were still all together, and took them on with a dogma/doctrine question of His own.

"What do you think of Messiah?" he asked them. "Whose Son is He?"

"Why, David's," they answered immediately, for that answer was, and remains, central to Judaism, being in many ways the lynch pin that holds all the rest together and gives it purpose in as much as without it, Judaism has neither consolation nor design.

Good Jew and irregular rabbi that he was, Jesus accepts that answer as the only one possible and counters with the only response possible. "If that be true," He says, "then how can it be that David, inspired by God himself, calls Messiah Lord? If David calls Messiah Master, how can Messiah be David's son?"

And there was, of course, no answer to that question. There never is to a mystery. There is no answer because an answer would only wither the elegance, the poetry, the awful beauty of faith and leave us merely human again, stripped bare of all that exceeds us, for in the end it is Dorothy's poem that holds the truth:

Lovely Lady dressed in blue
God was just your little Boy
And you know the way.

Lovely Lady dressed in blue
Teach us this Christmas Sunday
How to watch and pray.

Let us pray.

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ at his coming may find in us a mansion prepared for Himself who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

About the Author:

Phyllis Tickle, founding editor of the religion department at Publishers Weekly, is one of the most highly respected authorities and popular speakers on religion in America today. She is the author of more than two dozen books on the subject, including the recently published The Words of Jesus: A Gospel of the Sayings of Our Lord and The Divine Hours, a series of manuals for observing fixed-hour prayer. A lector and lay eucharistic minister in the Episcopal Church, Tickle is a senior fellow of the Cathedral College of Washington National Cathedral.

Oh ... Morth Mariam Yoldath Aloho (Mother of God) Pray for us.

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

Lesson 29: Our Boldness in Prayer
[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.]

"And this is the boldness which we have toward Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us. And if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him." - 1 John 5:14, 15.

One of the greatest hindrances to believing prayer is with many undoubtedly this: they know not if what they ask is according to the will of God. As long as they are in doubt on this point, they cannot have the boldness to ask in the assurance that they certainly shall receive. And they soon begin to think that, if once they have made known their requests, and receive no answer, it is best to leave it to God to do according to His good pleasure. The words of John, 'If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us,' as they understand them, make certainty as to answer to prayer impossible, because they cannot be sure of what really may be the will of God. They think of God's will as His hidden counsel—how should man be able to fathom what really may be the purpose of the all-wise God.

This is the very opposite of what John aimed at in writing thus. He wished to rouse us to boldness, to confidence, to full assurance of faith in prayer. He says, 'This is the boldness which we have toward Him,' that we can say: Father! Thou knowest and I know that I ask according to Thy will: I know Thou hearest me. 'This is the boldness, that if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us.' On this account He adds at once: 'If we know that He heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know,' through this faith, that we have,' that we now while we pray receive 'the petition,' the special things, 'we have asked of Him.' John supposes that when we pray, we first find out if our prayers are according to the will of God. They may be according to God's will, and yet not come at once, or without the persevering prayer of faith. It is to give us courage thus to persevere and to be strong in faith, that He tells us: This gives us boldness or confidence in prayer, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us. It is evident that if it be a matter of uncertainty to us whether our petitions be according to His will, we cannot have the comfort of what he says, 'We know that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him.'

But just this is the difficulty. More than one believer says: 'I do not know if what I desire be according to the will of God. God's will is the purpose of His infinite wisdom: it is impossible for me to know whether He may not count something else better for me than what I desire, or may not have some reasons for withholding what I ask.' Every one feels how with such thoughts the prayer of faith, of which Jesus said, 'Whosoever shall believe that these things which he saith shall come to pass, he shall have whatsoever he saith,' becomes an impossibility. There may be the prayer of submission, and of trust in God's wisdom; there cannot be the prayer of faith. The great mistake here is that God's children do not really believe that it is possible to know God's will. Or if they believe this, they do not take the time and trouble to find it out. What we need is to see clearly in what way it is that the Father leads His waiting, teachable child to know that his petition is according to His will.1 It is through God's holy word, taken up and kept in the heart, the life, the will; and through God's Holy Spirit, accepted in His indwelling and leading, that we shall learn to know that our petitions are according to His will.

Through the word. There is a secret will of God, with which we often fear that our prayers may be at variance. It is not with this will of God, but His will as revealed in His word, that we have to do in prayer. Our notions of what the secret will may have decreed, and of how it might render the answers to our prayers impossible, are mostly very erroneous. Childlike faith as to what He is willing to do for His children, simply keeps to the Father's assurance, that it is His will to hear prayer and to do what faith in His word desires and accepts. In the word the Father has revealed in general promises the great principles of His will with His people. The child has to take the promise and apply it to the special circumstances in His life to which it has reference. Whatever he asks within the limits of that revealed will, he can know to be according to the will of God, and he may confidently expect. In His word, God has given us the revelation of His will and plans with us, with His people, and with the world, with the most precious promises of the grace and power with which through His people He will carry out His plans and do His work. As faith becomes strong and bold enough to claim the fulfillment of the general promise in the special case, we may have the assurance that our prayers are heard: they are according to God's will. Take the words of John in the verse following our text as an illustration: 'If any man see his brother sinning a sin not unto death, he shall ask and God will give him life.' Such is the general promise; and the believer who pleads on the ground of this promise, prays according to the will of God, and John would give him boldness to know that he has the petition which he asks. ... Read the full lesson in Malankara World.
http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Prayers/Murray/Murray_29.htm

Previous Lessons (Archive)

http://www.Malankaraworld.com/Library/Prayers/Murray/Default.htm
Prayer and Love
Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who also is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. - Mark 11:24-25

The first lesson we are taught here is to have a forgiving disposition. We should pray, "Forgive us just as we have forgiven others." Scripture says, "Forgiving one another . . . even as Christ forgave you" (Col. 3:13). God's full and free forgiveness should be the model of our forgiveness of men; otherwise, our reluctant, half-hearted forgiveness, which is not forgiveness at all, will be God's rule with us. All of our prayers depend on our faith in God's pardoning grace. If God dealt with us while keeping our sins in mind, not one prayer would be heard. Pardon opens the door to all God's love and blessing. Because God has pardoned all our sins, our prayers can go through to obtain all we need.

The deep, sure ground of answer to prayer is God's forgiving love. When it has taken possession of our hearts, we pray in faith. But also, when it has taken possession of our hearts, we live in love. God's forgiving nature, revealed to us in His love, becomes our nature. With the power of His forgiving love dwelling in us, we forgive just as He forgives.

If great injury or injustice occurs, try first of all to assume a godlike disposition. Avoid the sense of wounded honor, the desire to maintain your rights, and the need to punish the offender. In the little annoyances of daily life, never excuse a hasty temper, a sharp word, or a quick judgment with the thought that we mean no harm, or that it is too much to expect feeble human nature to really forgive the way God and Christ do. Take the command literally: "Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col. 3:13). The blood cleanses selfishness from the conscience. The love it reveals is a pardoning love that takes possession of us and flows through us to others. Our forgiving love toward men is the evidence of God's forgiving love in us. It is a necessary condition of a prayer of faith.

Let the word of God search us. Ask whether our prayers are indeed the expression of lives completely given over to the will of God and the love of man. Love is the only soil in which faith can take root and thrive. Only in the love of fixed purpose and sincere obedience can faith obtain the blessing. —Andrew Murray

Journal:

· Who in my life am I struggling to forgive? Am I desiring to maintain my rights or feeling a need to punish?

· If Christ forgave me like I forgive others, what exactly would that look like?

Prayer: Father, it is so convicting to see how little I forgive, yet I know how important that is to You. So much of my life of faith relies on my understanding of just how much You offer to me by Your grace. I need to respond to this fact by passing it on to others. Help me to love as You do. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Source: Our Journey Online, March 14, 2012

Friendship with God

by Oswald Chambers

"Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing . . . ?" - Genesis 18:17

The Delights of His Friendship

Genesis 18 brings out the delight of true friendship with God, as compared with simply feeling His presence occasionally in prayer. This friendship means being so intimately in touch with God that you never even need to ask Him to show you His will. It is evidence of a level of intimacy which confirms that you are nearing the final stage of your discipline in the life of faith. When you have a right-standing relationship with God, you have a life of freedom, liberty, and delight; you are God's will. And all of your commonsense decisions are actually His will for you, unless you sense a feeling of restraint brought on by a check in your spirit. You are free to make decisions in the light of a perfect and delightful friendship with God, knowing that if your decisions are wrong He will lovingly produce that sense of restraint. Once he does, you must stop immediately.

The Difficulties of His Friendship. Why did Abraham stop praying when he did? He stopped because he still was lacking the level of intimacy in his relationship with God, which would enable him boldly to continue on with the Lord in prayer until his desire was granted. Whenever we stop short of our true desire in prayer and say, "Well, I don't know, maybe this is not God's will," then we still have another level to go. It shows that we are not as intimately acquainted with God as Jesus was, and as Jesus would have us to be— ". . . that they may be one just as We are one . . ." (John 17:22). Think of the last thing you prayed about-were you devoted to your desire or to God? Was your determination to get some gift of the Spirit for yourself or to get to God? "For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him" (Matthew 6:8). The reason for asking is so you may get to know God better. "Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4). We should keep praying to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.

Solve 90% of Church Problems Before They Ever Exist

by Dr. Joe McKeever

The number one reason most church problems do so much damage is that the people in the know, those charged with leadership, have not anticipated these things and done the hard work necessary to head them off.

Good preparation will end most church problems before they arise.

Here are 10 rules--principles, suggestions, guideposts, lifelines, call them whatever you wish (except "laws")--which, if implemented, can stop the next church split in its tracks and allow this healthy church to go chugging on down the tracks while the devil sits there scratching his head, wondering, "Wha' happened?" (Old comic book image there)

1. Get your people serious about prayer.

Prayer is not brackets with which we open and close meetings. Prayer is not tipping our hat to the Almighty to let Him know we are aware He is eavesdropping the proceedings. Prayer is not a formality to be gotten out of the way so we can get on with the good part.

Prayer is calling on the Lord of Heaven and earth to help us, to guide us, to protect and fill and use us. Prayer is accessing Heaven's power and God's wisdom for earth's work.

Once a war breaks out, it's not too late to pray. But it almost is. It's never too late to pray, but far better to have been earnest in our praying when matters were in hand and nothing ominous loomed on the horizon.

Prayer for believers is like weight-lifting for athletes: you do it faithfully in the inner room so when you face the opponent you are strong and ready.

This is not a one-time act by a preacher to turn his church into a prayer/powerhouse. It will require many sermons, his example, changes in the order of worship, constant teaching and reminding, and creative plans and challenging reminders for his people.

2. Bring your church constitution and bylaws up to date.

The constitution and bylaws is not a strait-jacket to limit the church. It is not a shackle to hamper a congregation from doing what it wishes. It is not simply a legal document, and should not be turned over to the lawyers in the congregation.

It is a plan to allow the Lord's people to do what they wish and should. By setting the plan in writing and formally adopting it, a congregation establishes an order for how work and ministry will be done in the foreseeable future.

The constitution and bylaws keeps a church from hit-or-miss, scattergun, impulsive, or misguided leadership. A new pastor comes in and, without waiting to earn the trust of the members, begins to dismantle ministries and end programs in order to install his pet projects. A constitution and bylaws will put the brakes on this and keep the church on track.

The constitution and bylaws are simply the agreed-upon plan as to how the church will run its business. Sometimes it will protect the pastor from errant deacons or impulsive members; sometimes it protects the members and deacons from wrongheaded pastors.

At all times, when done right and kept current, it is a good servant of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. Adopt the Romans 12 model as the standard for how your church will operate.

We will go more into depth on this in a subsequent article, but briefly, here is the plan.

Romans 12 is an excellent blueprint for the operation of a church. It divides into three sections....

Vs 1-2 RELATIONSHIP TO GOD. (His Lordship)

Each member of the body is to be committed to the Lord. This is foundational. Unless each leader in particular is committed to Christ, nothing else matters and all bets are off as to what will happen.

No one not daily committed to Jesus Christ will be considered for a leadership position for this church.

Vs. 3-8 RELATIONSHIP TO HIMSELF. (Our Discipleship)

Each member is to be...
--humble (vs 3)
--appreciative of the other members of the body (vs. 4-5)
--using his/her spiritual gifts in Christ-honoring ways (vs. 6-8)

No one not humbly using the spiritual gifts the Holy Spirit gave for the benefit of the entire Body will be considered for a leadership position in this church.

Vs 9-21 RELATIONSHIP TO OTHERS (Our Behavior)

This passage refers mostly to "one another," meaning other believers. Verbs are throughout: love, hate, cling, rejoice, continue, bless, pray, etc.

This passage directs our relationships to one another (vs. 10,16), the saints (vs. 13), persecutors (vs. 14), rejoicers (vs 15), weepers (vs 15), the humble (vs 16), all men (17,18), and your enemy (vs 20).

God's people are to be active in their love toward one another, responsive to anyone in need, and patient with people people trying to destroy them. They are to be prayerful, faithful, peaceful.

No person not demonstrating love and kindness will be considered for a leadership position in this church.

4. Schedule periodic church business conferences and plan them well.

Get every church leader present. Make them aware that they may be called on, on the spur of the moment, to share their work, answer a question, or even defend some charge.

Now, there is such a thing as having business meetings too often and making them too detailed. For the most part, select good and Godly leaders and trust them to do their work well. But there has to be accountability and there should be a time for each leader to report to the authoritative body, whether that be the pastoral staff, deacons, or the congregation as a whole.

We suggest that you build in plans for people to ask questions and have answers ready. In order to be prepared for anything, role-play situations in which a divisive church member asks key questions. (Politicians role-play for their public debates; it makes them ready for surprises and on guard for low-blows.)

5. Keep all leadership informed.

No pastor can guarantee that every church member will be up to snuff on everything, even when regular mailings go out with all the data. People quickly tired of that and ignore it. Best to work with your key leadership on a regular basis, and give only periodic reports to the whole congregation.

A pastor's best protection against a member with inadequate knowledge and a burr-under-his-saddle attitude is a church leader with the facts. Someone is slandering the preacher based on his poor understanding when the person in-the-know steps into the conversation and says quietly, "Could I tell you what that's all about?"

This is a thousand times better than the preacher having to do this on the floor of the church when called down by someone with only half the facts. Even when the pastor answers correctly and the dissenter sees how wrong he was, the church leadership is now faced by another problem: how to help him save face and not leave an opening for Satan to work. (See Paul's approach to this in II Corinthians 2:5-11.)

6. Institute a plan for dealing with charges and attacks as soon as they arise.

A former deacon chairman, Rudy Hough, used to counsel all incoming deacons on a plan which we advocate strongly.

"Now that you are a deacon," Rudy would say, "from time to time, people will be calling you to complain about the preacher or one of the other leaders. I want to tell you how to handle that."

"You say to them, 'Thank you for telling me this. Come on with me now and we will go see that person.'

"If they'll go with you and deal with the matter, that should end it.

"But if they refuse to go with you, you should say, 'All right, I'll go. But I'm going to use your name.'

"If they let you use their name, that should be sufficient. You deal with it and get back to them.

"But if they say, 'No, leave my name out of it,' then you are to say, 'Then that ends it. I refuse to take anonymous criticism to our ministers.'"

I will add this: if, after rejecting your attempts to settle the matter, the individual persists in spreading his/her unhappiness, then they themselves become the problem and warrant a visit from that deacon and one other. Keep Matthew 18:15-17 as your standard of solving this.

7. Preach the Romans 12 Church-Operations Model from time to time. Keep it before your people.

Pastors cannot preach a great plan for anything one time and expect it to take hold. It must be preached from the pulpit, taught in classes, and spread by word of mouth. Sometimes, it will be one point in a sermon, and sometimes only a reference to Romans 12's plan will be made.

In committee meetings and in sessions with the larger leadership body, pastors will remind them of this divinely given plan for a healthy church.

Use posters, powerpoint, and the church bulletin to keep the principles before your people. Role-playing, dramas, and testimonies will further reinforce the church's commitment to God's Word and church health.

8. Rotate leadership.

The surest way to set your church up for trouble is to allow a few people to occupy positions of great influence for many years. Human nature being what it is, unseating them will present major headaches, something most pastors will not want to tackle but will leave for their successors. (I can hear a pastor say, "I'm not ready to die on that hill.")

The constitution and bylaws should spell out how committees, deacons, and other influential church bodies will be filled and rotated. Furthermore, it should be stated how the chairs will be chosen with some kind of limitation in place. (Without that, a powerful personality can insinuate himself into the chair and retain it for decades.)

9. Preach, practice, and insist upon transparency in all leaders.

We have nothing to hide. That's transparency.

Transparency is what Jesus had in mind at His trial. Asked to tell what He had been teaching, Jesus replied, "You may ask anyone who heard me. I had no secrets. Everything I had to say, I said in the open." (John 18:20-21)

If you are the treasurer, insist on regular audits or the financial committee taking a look at your books. This is for your own protection. If you have fears that money may be being handled carelessly, insist on a financial review from a respected accounting firm. They will come in, study how money is handled, then make suggestions.

If you are the pastor, demonstrate transparency yourself. Have no secret bank accounts, no funds to which you alone have access. Be willing to explain every request for checks. (I used to tell our bookkeeper Susan Ash, "If I ever ask you for a check and you have a question, don't write it. Get back to me. If my answer is not satisfactory, ask the chairman of the finance committee. But you must always protect yourself.")

Rules for transparency are for the protection of everyone involved.

10. Respond to infections immediately.

Your body does this. Scratch your finger and within seconds the white corpuscles inside your bloodstream get the message and head in that direction. The Creator built in this amazing failsafe system to protect you from infections that can do so much damage.

The laissez-faire attitude among some leaders is, "Well, leave it alone, and it'll go away. People are always complaining about something." Bad wrong. This should never be tolerated or ignored, but respected for the potent influence it is.

Rebellious staff members who criticize the church members or even the preacher himself must be dealt with severely and promptly. This must not be tolerated and can be grounds for dismissal.

Now, I am not one who believes that all dissent is evil. Sometimes leaders go astray and church members have lost any ability to call them back to reality. Complaining is all they have left. The pastor who interprets all complaints as of the devil may be playing right into the enemy's hand. If he has given the membership no means of registering their unhappiness, he's asking for trouble and going to get more than he ever wanted.

I once included an index card in the Sunday church bulletin. "If you have a question as to how things are done around here--even if it's a criticism--we need to hear. Write it down here, sign your name, and drop in the offering plate."

My chairman of deacons said, "Preacher, are you sure you want to do that? You're just asking for trouble."

I said, "Mike, if we don't give them an opportunity to express their unhappiness in a healthy way, they will create unhealthy ways."

We got a few questions, answered them fully, and went forward without a ripple.

About the Author:

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

Spread the Joy Around

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. - Malachi 4:2 (KJV)

Have you ever actually watched a cavorting calf? You'd probably think you were witnessing the worst possible case of bovine ADD. Human children act similarly. Position yourself outside an elementary school just before the day's final bell. Whether a child has to traverse ten feet to queue up for a bus or ten blocks to burst into her door, you can't fail to miss a common behavior: They run.

When was the last time you leaped? Don't count the day you were in range of an automatic sprinkler system just chugging into action. When did you dance like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof or like King David upon the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (see 2 Sam 6:14-15)?

In Psalm 28:7 David asserts: "My heart leaps for joy and with my song I praise [God]." That inner jubilation works well for some of us, but we can't all see ourselves physically leaping. Our hearts, though, alive in Christ and inspired by joy, can bound and jump.

Preacher and writer Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) knew the joy of being right with God:

No language can express the ineffable blessedness of the supreme reward that awaits the soul that has taken its supreme climb, proved its supreme love, and entered on its supreme reward. What an imperturbable certainty there is about the man who is in contact with the real God! Thank God, the life of the Father of the Faithful is but a specimen of the life of every humble believer who obediently follows the discipline of the life of faith. What a depth of transparent rightness there must be about the man who walks before God, and the meaning of the Atonement is to place us there in perfect adjustment to God. "[Walk before me and be blameless (see Ge 17:1)]," not faultless, but blameless, undeserving of censure in the eyes of God.

Chambers concedes that no language can adequately describe such euphoria, but he doesn't suggest that we hold back in expressing ourselves in whatever way is appropriate. Are you the "let it all hang out" type, immune to easy embarrassment? Do you gravitate like a moth toward the limelight, or are you continuously aware in a public setting of the impression you're making-or not making, if your goal is anonymity?

The fact is that it doesn't matter. As Christians, we revere God's name. And we've been healed and forgiven. When God looks at each of us, washed in the cleansing blood of Christ, he sees something incredible-absolute perfection! We've been "released." How can any of us consider keeping such news to ourselves?

Think About It

  • When you think about what God has done for you, what is the first emotion you feel?
  • How does your rightness before God allow you to experience joy?
  • Who needs to hear about this joy of yours?

Act on It

Someone out there needs the kind of joy that you as a Christian experience. Share that joy with someone.

Source: Bible Gateway

Why Do You Go to Church Every Sunday?

A young woman asked her older co-worker: "Why do you go to church every Sunday? Does something happen there that can't happen somewhere else? And does it happen every Sunday?"

The older woman replied, "What happens is I go to meet the God whom I've come to know in Jesus. God meets me in other settings than at church. However, I must confess that I'm sure I miss most of God's appointments with me. I find that I live most of my days in a daze – as though I'm sleepwalking or on autopilot. I go to church to be reminded that that's true."

The younger woman then asked, "So you go to church every week and God meets you there?"

The older woman answered, "I go to church every Sunday and for reasons I can't explain, I meet God about 1 in every 8 worship services."

The younger woman asked, "Then why do you go every Sunday?"

"I go every Sunday," said the older woman, "because I never know when that one Sunday is going to be."

Source: Mike Ripski, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com

Cafe - Recipe: Potato Mushroom Pie

Ingredients:

3 cups mashed potatoes
1-1/2 cups sliced mushrooms
1/4 cup minced onions
2 tablespoons margarine
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream

Directions:

1. Layer 1-1/2 cups of mashed potatoes in a well buttered 9-inch pie pan.

2. Saute mushrooms in a margarine. Stir in salt, pepper and lemon juice.

3. Add the mixture on the mash potatoes in pie pan as a layer.

4. Now layer sour cream and balance of mashed potatoes.

5. Bake uncovered in a 350 deg F (175 deg C) oven for 35 minutes or until lightly browned.

More Recipes/ Cooking Tips at Malankara World Cafe

Family: Tending Our Marriage
Scripture: Isaiah 5:1-7

"What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?" - Isaiah 5:4

When I was young, I attended the wedding of an extended family member. I don't remember much about the ceremony, dancing or food. But I do remember the terrible fight at the reception. In front of all the guests, a woman screamed at her husband, broke down in tears and hid in a corner while her friends consoled her. The man yelled back, threatened to hit her, then stormed out of the building with his friends. He did not return that night.

It might shock you to learn that I'm describing the bride and groom. But it probably will not surprise you to learn that their marriage lasted less than a month.

In Isaiah 5, God addressed the people of Israel and described himself as the owner of a vineyard and Israel as the vineyard. He had chosen a prime location for his grapevines, nurtured the soil and protected the land from harm. But in the end, the crop of grapes was no good. So he asked, "What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?"

The farmer had done everything right; there was no reason why the crop should not have flourished. But the painful message soon became clear: Israel had failed despite God's efforts to ensure her success. Though the people kept up elaborate rituals of worship, those were meaningless to God because the people neglected to do what he truly valued: caring for orphans, widows and the poor. As a result, they managed to spoil the harvest that God had nurtured.

God offers this same nurturing care today for your marriage. Even before you met your spouse, God was preparing the soil, removing the stones and building a watchtower. God placed you in a cultivated land, ready to produce good fruit. But in this vineyard, the Farmer doesn't do all the work; you must also do your part.

More and more Christian couples today are producing bad marital fruit, spoiling their relationship despite God the Farmer's efforts. Some couples, like the couple mentioned earlier, manage to kill their vine before it even takes hold.

In the end, a marriage will be judged not by the strength of its passion or by its ceremonial promises, but by the fruit it produces. The Farmer is there to weed, water and cultivate. But we must also take practical steps that will help our marriage reflect authentic devotion to each other and a true love for God and his values.

We can choose to forgive quickly and resist resentment. We can serve each other in purposeful ways throughout the day. We can encourage each other with words of love and by praying for each other. We can invite strong Christian couples to mentor us in spiritual growth. We can minister to others in need. By authentically reflecting God's values in our relationship, we can do our part to nourish our marriage vineyard and produce a harvest of good fruit.
David and Kelli Trujillo

Let's Talk

  • When we reflect on our life together (how we met, our courtship and our engagement), where do we see God's guidance, protection and nurturing?
  • If we, as God's people, are compared to a vineyard, how might we ensure the growth of good fruit within our marriage? What types of fruit do we most want to produce as a couple?
  • What habits or behaviors have we fallen into that could spoil the fruit of our marriage? What steps can we take to stop those damaging patterns?

Source: Bible Gateway, NIV Couple's Devotional Bible by Zondervan

A Lesson in Logic

Abbas, a fresh computer graduate from a world- class University, goes for an interview in a software company. The interviewer is Wahid, a grubby old man. And the first question he asks Abbas is, 'Are you good at logic?'

'Of course,' replies Abbas.

'Let me test you,' replies Wahid. 'Two men come down a chimney. One comes with a clean face and the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one would wash his face?'

Abbas stares at Wahid. 'Is that a test in Logic?'

Wahid nods.

'The one with the dirty face washes his face', Abbas answers wearily.

'Wrong. The one with the clean face washes his face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So, the one with the clean face washes his face.'

'Hmm. I never thought of that," says Abbas. 'Give me another test.'

Wahid holds up two fingers, 'Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face and the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?'

'We have already established that. The one with the clean face washes his face.'

'Wrong. Each one washes one's face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. So, the one with the clean face washes his face. When the one with the dirty face sees the one with the clean face washing his face, he also washes his face. So each one washes one's face.'

'I didn't think of that!' says Abbas. 'It's shocking to me that I could make an error in logic. Test me again!'

Wahid holds up two fingers, 'Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face and the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?'

'Each one washes his face.'

'Wrong. Neither one washes his face. Examine the simple logic. The one with the dirty face looks at the one with the clean face and thinks his face is clean. The one with the clean face looks at the one with the dirty face and thinks his face is dirty. But when the one with clean face sees that the one with the dirty face doesn't wash his face, he also doesn't wash his face. So neither one washes his face.'

Abbas is desperate. 'I am qualified for this job. Please give me one more test!'

He groans when Wahid lifts his two fingers, 'Two men come down a chimney. One comes out with a clean face and the other comes out with a dirty face. Which one washes his face?'

'Neither one washes his face', Abbas replies, 'I have learnt this logic.'

'Wrong, again. Do you now see, Abbas, why programming knowledge is insufficient for this job? .....

'Tell me, how is it possible for two men to come down the same chimney, and for one to come out with a clean face and the other with a dirty face? Don't you see the flaw in the premise?'

[Editor's Note: If you have read this far and understood all the logic, Congratulations! Lesson Learned: When you get your Malankara World Journal, always read till the end. You may miss something very important!]

About Malankara World
With over 6000 articles and hundreds of links to outside resources covering all aspects of Syriac Orthodoxy that are of interest to Family, Malankara World is the premier source for information for Malankara Diaspora. In addition to articles on spirituality, faith, sacraments, sermons, devotionals, etc., Malankara World also has many general interest articles, health tips, Food and Cooking, Virtual Travel, and Family Specific articles. Please visit Malankara World by clicking here or cut and paste the link on your browser: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/default.htm

Malankara World Journal Subscription

If you are not receiving Malankara World Journal directly, you may sign up to receive it via email free of cost. Please click here: http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/Library/Register/news_regn.asp

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Malankara World Journal Archives

Previous Issues of Malankara World Journal can be read from the archives here.

You can contact us via email at mail@malankaraworld.com

Thank you for your help and support.

Malankara World Team

Malankara World Journal is published by MalankaraWorld.com http://www.MalankaraWorld.com/
Copyright © 2011-2012 Malankara World. All Rights Reserved.