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Table of Contents
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12. Beware of Criticizing Others
The average Christian is the most piercingly critical individual known. Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it. The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized. The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. ...13. Health: What You Eat May Matter More Than How Much You Eat
Several studies have shown that excessive leanness - seen often in calorie-restricting humans - can be as risky as obesity. Taken together, these studies suggest that the optimal body-mass index is about 25, which is on the verge of being overweight. ...
The theme for this issue of Malankara World Journal is, "Harmony and Unity in
Church." Those following Malankara World for sometime know that we have selected
a few themes to focus on. These themes were carefully selected as they exemplify
the Christianity as Christ saw it. The examples are: Prayer, Servant Leadership,
Ordinary People doing extraordinary things (Tree is known by its fruit), Shining
light of Jesus on our faces and in our lives, Understanding suffering,
Importance of Sacraments, etc. To this list, today we are adding a new category,
viz., Harmony, Unity and Christian Fellowship.
Malankara World has a policy of staying away from church politics. We want to concentrate on spiritual aspects and discussing issues that are important to Christian Families, as families are a miniature church as Jesus envisaged it. It was the model used in the early days of the church. The inspiration for adding this theme came from a lengthy conversation I had with Mr. George Paily at the Family Conference last July. Mr. Paily shared with me an article he wrote for the Family Conference Souvenir. After researching this matter further, I came to the conclusion that this is an extremely timely topic.
Author J.B. Phillips, after spending 14 years translating the New Testament, sat back and reflected on his most lasting impressions. He kept returning to the book of Acts and its portrait of an infant church.
In Hebrews 10:23-25, St. Paul advised the early church:
God uses us as the ministers of His Word. He uses the Christian Fellowship to bind the body together as one. Greg Laurie talked about the Christian Fellowship in one of his devotionals as follows:
Christian fellowship contributes heavily to the effectiveness of the church.
In this issue, we will examine the importance of the Christian Unity, Harmony and Fellowship in our churches. In future editions, we will cover prescriptions for resolving disputes and fights in the church. The principles we discuss can be used in any situation in our lives including the conflicts in our families, and that between the husband and wife, that may contribute to the breakup of the marriage. So, keep a broad mind when you read these. Print and save it for future reference.
We invite your comments as well as suggestions for future subjects or themes in Malankara World.
Dr. Jacob Mathew
This Sunday in Church (September 16)
First Sunday after Sleebo/ the Feast of Holy Cross
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
|HYMN: O God, Our Help in Ages Past|
O God, our help in ages past,
O God, Our Help in Ages Past by Sheffield Cathedral Choir; Words: Isaac Watts, 1719.
by Edwin Gray Hurley
Scripture: John 2:1-11
The perfect church is not all neatly fixed, flawlessly decorated magnificently complemented by the perfect choir and perfect ushers, perfect ministers and perfect officers. You already realize in one sense, there is no perfect church because there are no perfect people. Whatever perfection a church approaches comes as we learn to rock and reel and navigate through the ups and downs of our imperfect lives learning upon our perfect Lord.
What makes a church perfect is imperfect people like you and me caring enough about God and each other, and bringing enough of our real, broken, imperfect lives to the Lord who can take them and make us new. Jesus Christ, who turned water into wine, can turn imperfect people like you and me into new people. He can create the perfect, or the real, church.
I absolutely love how John's gospel begins. As Jesus is initiating his ministry, having called the first disciples and invited them, "follow me" 2, the very next thing they all do is show up at a wedding. It is in Cana of Galilee, a few miles from his home town of Nazareth. It is a festive gathering. But a simple catering problem arises. They run out of wine. Pushed by his mother, and apparently irritated by her insistence, Jesus yet acts and offers an utterly extravagant gesture. He turns water into wine. Not just a little wine. Those six ceremonial stone jars held all together about 180 gallons of the finest wine. It is a gesture of extravagant joy.
It is, moreover, a gesture that contravenes the catering practices of the day which dictate that the good wine be served first and the cheap stuff later. Beyond the light-hearted festive enjoyment the miracle brings, it also attests to Jesus' true nature. "Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him." 3
Arising out of this marvelous story, (and supported by that Old Testament image in Isaiah of marriage, Israel returned from exile, no longer desolate but married, together with that great list from the early Church at Corinth about the life-giving gifts of the Spirit,) are three attributes about what the perfect church is like. I would like to share them with you this morning.
I. The Perfect Church Celebrates Extravagantly
What John is showing us is the extravagance of life Jesus embodied and embraced. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" Jesus said. 4 A wedding surely symbolizes a high moment of joy and delight. It is an occasion filled with solemn promises and with an abundance of human happiness. Jesus only heightens the happiness by his gracious act. And the fine wine overflows.
At Cana Jesus models extending extravagant hospitality. Too often I think church gatherings are characterized by minimal attitudes rather than maximal attitudes. And let's be honest, too often people stay away from churches like this because they have some incorrect stereotypes about the institutional church being a place where they would not be welcomed because their life is, well, a bit messed up. They may have a memory where some church treated them in a harsh judgmental manner. Frederick Nietzsche, the atheist philosopher, instructed us well when he said, of Christians, "I would believe in their salvation if they looked a little more like people who have been saved." 5 Friends, the world outside needs an extravagant sign from us to overcome those negative tapes.
II. The Perfect Church Is Full of Imperfect People Who Serve Extravagantly
But let's not stop with partying. At the marriage celebration Jesus is being called into action to begin his serving. His mother is utterly confident of his abilities. And serve he does, the finest wine. We all have a need to serve. To reach out and make a difference in someone's life. We undertake this mission even at the risk of losing our lives.
This Church of which we are a part is a serving Church. With all the pressures on our lives, hectic schedules. job and school deadlines, we yet long to be part of something significant, something that will outlast us. So we seek ways to serve. Why do we do these things? Because we have a need to serve in the manner of our Master who came not to be served but to serve.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is remembered as a man who made a difference. Shortly before his tragic death in Memphis, he was reflecting with a friend about his funeral. He had an ominous sense that he would not live much longer. And he said,
"Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize... I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King, Jr. tried to give his life serving others... I'd like somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King, Jr... tried to love somebody... I want you to be able to say on that day that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say on that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked... and visit those in prison. I want you to say on that day that I tried to love and serve humanity. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave behind a committed life."
Don't you want to do that? We all have a need to serve. I believe we as a Church need to step up to a new level of enabling one another to serve. And in serving we will discover significance. We will leave behind a committed life.
III. The Perfect Church Is Full of Imperfect People Who Seek God Extravagantly
All this extravagant celebrating and serving finally leads me to say, The perfect church is full of imperfect people who seek God extravagantly. This is why we are here. We are on a spiritual quest. We have been doing these things because they express our search for God. All human beings have a need for God, for a personal relationship with God. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, came down from heaven to live among us and show us how. The Holy Spirit lifts us up to heaven and engrafts us into the risen Christ. These are the two hands God the Father uses to embrace us, Christ coming down to meet us, the Spirit lifting us to where God the Father is.
The Perfect Church appears when these three attributes converge: extravagant celebration, extravagant service. and extravagant seeking after God. Sometimes Country Music, with its honesty about the storms of life, says it best. Like these words by Trisha Yearwood.
I believe it is time for this great church to fly, and manifest Christ's glory. Riding out every storm that comes, and equipping God's people to do God's work, beginning right here and going to the ends of the earth.
1. Eugene H. Peterson in his forward to Philip Yancey's 'Church: Why Bother?',
About the Author:
Edwin Gray Hurley is the Pastor of The Presbyterian Church, Bowling Green, KY
Adapted from 'The Perfect Church' by Edwin Gray Hurley. The full article can be
read at: http://www.preaching.com/resources/Preaching-online/11545205/
by Keith Smith
As Christians, we have a responsibility to maintain unity in the Church.
A long time ago, a little child in an African tribe wandered off into the tall jungle grass and could not be found. The tribe search all day, but could not find the little boy. The next day the tribal members all held hands and walked through the grass together. This enabled them to find the child, but due to the cold night, he had not survived. In her anguish and tears, the mother cried, "If only we would have held hands sooner."
Our churches and fellowships are in decline. Why? I believe the number one reason is lack of unity.
In (Jn. 17:21), Jesus earnestly prayed that believers "may be one." Our lack of unity is destroying the church that Jesus purchased with His own blood.
We must have unity in the church.
This morning, I will present two points on the concept of unity.
I. FIRST, GOD EXPECTS US TO MAINTAIN UNITY.
1. Here are some passages that instruct us to have unity.
"May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 15:5-6).
"I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought" (1 Cor. 1:10).
2. Just like a family must have unity to survive & prosper, the church must have unity to survive & prosper.
Jesus once said, "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand" (Mk. 3:25). If a church is divided against itself, it will not stand!
3. Let me offer several reasons why I believe that some churches divide.
a. Churches divide because of selfish ambition.
(1) In (3 John 9) we read about a man named Diotrephes who wanted to control the church. In fact, the Bible says that "he loved to be first."
(2) Churches divide over men who are hungry for power and control. They want things their way, and if they don't get it, they start causing problems.
Several years ago, a man in a church wanted to be an elder. However, he was not qualified. Since He couldn't be an elder, he along with several other people, left and started their own church so he could be an elder. That split was all about selfish ambition.
b. Churches divide over believers boasting in certain men.
(1) In (1 Cor. 1:12), the church was being divided because several members were pledging alliance to different preachers. Some said they followed Paul, Apollos, Cephas, and Christ. They were dividing the church over human alliance.
I have heard that some churches have split because some members liked the preacher, but others didn't. We must understand that our only alliance must be to Jesus Christ. We must not divide over human favoritism.
c. Churches have divided because false teachers have turned others from the truth.
(1) In (1 Cor. 15:12), there were some false teachers telling Christians that Jesus was not raised from the dead. They were in essence telling the Corinthian Christians that their faith was useless. So Paul wrote chapter 15 to explain that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. And in (v. 14) Paul said, "and if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith."
(2) There are still false teachers today who distort the gospel message and cause Christians to divide.
The May 1987 edition of National Geographic included a feature about the arctic wolf. Author L. David Mech described how a seven-member pack had targeted several musk-oxen calves who were guarded by eleven adults. As the wolves approached their quarry, the musk-oxen bunched in an impenetrable semicircle, their deadly rear hooves facing out, and the calves remained safe during a long standoff with the enemy. But then a single ox broke rank, and the herd scattered into nervous little groups. A skirmish ensued, and the adults finally fled in panic, leaving the calves to the mercy of the predators. Not a single calf survived. Paul warned the Ephesian elders in Acts 20 that after his departure wolves would come, not sparing the flock.
(3) Wolves continue to attack the church today but they cannot penetrate and destroy when unity is maintained. When believers break ranks, however, they provide easy prey.
There are many reasons why churches divide. We have just noticed three reasons. At this time, I will share some ways to maintain unity.
II. SECOND, HOW CAN WE ACHIEVE UNITY?
1. The word unity literally means "oneness, one of the same mind, one in thought."
A. To achieve unity, we must be like-minded regarding the essentials to our Christian faith.
1. Paul provides us with a list of the essentials we must believe in (Eph. 4:4-5).
2. As brothers and sisters, we should believe alike regarding the essentials to our faith. We should be like minded on what it takes to be saved. We should be like minded that the Bible is the Word of God. If we do, we should have unity. If we don't, then we will have many problems.
B. To achieve unity, we must have liberty regarding the non-essential beliefs.
1. Too often, Believers are separated because of minor differences on certain issues or passages. What a pity it is that our interpretation about the millennium, music, workshops, or even school loyalty has separated baptized believers from one another in the body of Christ. Surly that cannot honor God. That cannot be the idea that God had in mind. These issues should not divide a family.
2. I hope that my salvation does not depend upon my interpretation of the second coming of Jesus; my interpretation of the works of the Holy Spirit; my interpretation of the book of Revelation; my interpretation of kitchens in the church building. If my interpretation is dependent upon these things, I am a doomed man.
3. The problem in many churches is that people take matters of opinion issues and turn them into to mandatory truths that you must believe alike or you cannot have fellowship with one another. That's just not true. We must have liberty on non essential beliefs that cause problems.
(Rom. 14:1-4, 22) "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him… So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God."
4. These verses assume that there will be differences of opinion in the church on disputable matters. Paul says we are not to quarrel about issues that are matters of opinion. Differences should not be feared or avoided, but accepted and handled with love.
Rubel Shelly, at the Tulsa Worship, gave this illustration or something similar to it.
Two die hard supporters of the Dallas Cowboys and the Miami Dolphins may set on opposite sides of the field and they may scream their lungs out for their different teams, wave pennants and jump up and down and applaud at exactly the opposite moments.
You may be shocked to find that they came to the stadium together. And after the game they went out to dinner together and picked up their friendship without a beat being missed. In spite of the fact that their loyalty is with two different teams.
5. In our churches, we must love one another and be friends with one another although we disagree on certain issues.
6. Don't expect everyone, even in the best possible church, to agree on every subject. Through sharing ideas we can come to a fuller understanding of what the Bible teaches. Accept, listen to, and respect others. Differences of opinion need not cause division. They can be a source of learning and richness in our relationships.
1. God expects us to maintain unity in the church. Jesus even prayed that all believers "be one."
2. We cannot allow Satan to destroy the churches unity. We must be on guard all the time for situations that could divide the church. It is a serious offense to cause divisions in the body of Christ.
(1 Cor. 3:17) "If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him; for God's temple is sacred, and you are that temple."
3. To maintain unity in the church, we must be like-minded regarding the essentials to our Christian faith. We should believe alike on how one is saved.
4. But yet, to achieve unity, we must have liberty regarding the non-essential beliefs. We all strive to know the truth, but at times, we may differ or have different opinions on certain non essential subjects: Subjects that may not be clear in the Scriptures. If we do, we should talk about it in love, and if we still have different opinions, we are still brothers and sisters in Christ and a part of God's family.
Copyright © 1998 - 2011 Bible Center. All Rights Reserved. Used with Permission
by George Paily, St. Mary's Syrian Orthodox Church, Houston
A common problem we face in some of our churches these days is the lack of harmony among members. It is very unfortunate to see arguments and fights in our places of worship.
Harmony is essential to promote the spiritual growth of the church and its members. A harmonious community involves loving relationship within the church, orderly worship, unselfish participation in the church activities and mutual respect. A place of worship in peace and harmony becomes a healing place where people's broken hearts and shattered lives are mended through intimate relationships.
The Holy Spirit's most difficult work in the church is to promote harmony among its members. Ephesians 4:3 commands us to "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace." It starts by developing the spiritual art of harmony - in other words, by becoming a peacemaker. It is being able to promote love and unity through the bond of peace for the sake of the Body of Christ and Christ Himself. What are we doing in the middle of our disagreements, conflicts, and intolerances to promote harmony? Ask God to give us a generous spirit to affirm and love people who do things a little differently than we do - that's what the spiritual art of harmony is all about! We give God honor, when we pursue harmony.
Most splits in churches or in its leadership teams are the result of violating the vital principle of respecting each other. If we truly set our hearts on outdoing each other in showing honor and respect, preferring one another and putting others in the forefront instead of ourselves, there won't be much time left for church disunity. The reason this is so difficult to do is that it runs directly opposite to our selfish human tendencies. When people say they are going to "look out for Number One," they probably aren't talking about taking care of other members of the group. Insulting comments and hurting statements about others will take away the harmony.
The reasons for this lack of mutual respect are many. One of the greatest failings of the modern Christian Church is a wholesale distrust of creative people. As a result, we've driven too many of these folks out of our churches at a time when we desperately need them to help us address needs within the Body in a more proactive way. Are we willing to reach out to the creative people we've often pushed away? Shouldn't our leadership team take the initiative in their role of helping others to identify their gifts and use them for building the Body of Christ?
Each person is uniquely gifted to serve the Lord and each of us has a personal experience of God that must also fit into an understanding of unwavering Faith. When we walk into the place of worship in order to experience the presence and power of the living God, we should be able to feel the love and care that our Lord commanded us to share one another.
Apostle Paul wrote to Corinthians: "I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, let there be no divisions among you, - that you be perfectly joined together in one mind, and in the same judgment" (1 corinth 1:10). For Apostle Paul, the inherent human self-centeredness was the primary obstacle to unity in the Church and harmony among the members and the leadership team. Yet, just as he was clear on the source of the problem, he was also clear on the remedy - the Cross. "For the message of the Cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).
To the believers in Corinth, Apostle Paul delivered some of the most definitive and eloquent illustrations and instructions regarding relationships with one another. Beginning in chapter 12 of his first letter and continuing on through chapter 13, he clearly describes what must be done to be in unity and harmony among believers in the church. Through His servant Paul, the Lord has placed before us these subjects for our consideration, and those who have the privilege of being brought together in church capacity will be united, understandingly and intelligently. The figure of the members which compose the body represents the church of God and the relation its members should sustain to one another.
When St. Paul encouraged the Philippians to live in unity, he immediately turned to the example of Jesus in laying His life down. He wrote: "Fulfill my joy by being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others" (Philippians 2:2 4). While the principles of unity and spirituality are foundational to Church growth, genuine Christian love within a congregation works like a powerful magnet in drawing people to Christ.
One of the consequences of lack of unity and harmony in churches is that a number of our youth members stay away from or leave the Church. It is time our churches take seriously their commitment to ministry to the youth. If the youth are the church of tomorrow then they need to be a priority in the church today. Are we seriously focusing on this matter? The fights and quarrels and lack of harmony among parents drive the youth away from the church. So, the question of how to attract and keep our young people close to the Church is one of major concern in our troubled age. The most important thing is to provide our youth, a peaceful and harmonious atmosphere in our churches. For that we need to keep aside the personal pride and bring humility and the true Christian love to our places of worship. Can we do that? It is a serious challenge to us.
Our Lord's commandment to us is that we should love one another. If we cannot share the divine love that He gave us, in our places of worship, how can we have peace and harmony in our community? St. Paul, in Romans 12:18 urges us to do our part: "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." He appeals to leaders and followers alike to be sensitive to the Spirit's directives and to become ambassadors for unity.
Submission to authorities is another important element in maintaining Church harmony. In Romans Chapter 13:1-2, St. Paul reminds us one thing. "…The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against authority rebels against what God has instituted and those who do so bring judgment against themselves." Rebellious activities within a church can result in losing unity, harmony and peace.
Church is not a place where one should try to win with a personal agenda. Someone's personal interest can lead to petty politics and group formation. In many churches, some people are demoralized by 'friendly fire' within the ranks. As a result, some of them either leave the church or stay inactive. They may not leave their faith, but stay away from Church where the lack of Christian harmony caused them deep pain. On the other hand, if the Church leaders and the members work as a Christ centered team, everyone will experience a sense of harmony and intimacy in the place of worship. As a Church continues to develop healthy relationships, the congregation finds itself in healing ministries that connect people with God and others. Ultimately this harmony within the body of Christ will be rooted in our relationship with God. This is what our Lord is expecting from us; this is what our early Church fathers taught us through their sacrifices and this is what we, as Christians, are called for.
Let us pray and hope for that "divine harmony' in our churches, with the help of the never ending love of God, the Father, the Grace of the Son and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, so that our praise and worship become meaningful.
by Dr. Joe McKeever
Within religious denominations, division is a constant threat. Doctrinal differences are a constant, social trends inject themselves into church life, and the world exerts its pressures for churches to conform. Personalities complicate negotiations and division often results.
Within your own church membership, the enemy is always at work, looking for wedges to drive between members and the leadership. He walks to and fro, to paraphrase the Apostle Peter, looking for an opening in the wall he can enter to create havoc.
In our never-ending concern for unity within the body of Christ, let's make a few points here.
Everything stands or falls on the leadership.
If you are the pastor then, the ball is in your court. You own the initiative. You have the power and the right to address the matter of unity/disunity with your people and to begin the process of making things right.
If you pastor a great church that is doing well, the worst thing you can do is ignore this subject. The temptation is overwhelming to assume your church is the exception and that since all is well, you can check this off your list. Bad mistake.
My friend James led a terrific church for over a quarter of a century. He was godly and mature, competent and in charge, and the church leadership knew it. They were fortunate to have such a man as their shepherd and they recognized it. The relationship between pastor and people thrived.
The harmony in the congregation lasted exactly one day after he walked out the door.
As soon as he vacated the parsonage and moved to a city a hundred miles away, ancient hidden and latent rifts in the membership began to surface. Some people wanted the church to be more evangelistic, several wanted it to turn charismatic, and others had agendas of their own.
The first thing we on the outside (I was a neighboring pastor) noticed was the squabbling within the membership over the makeup of the pastor search committee. Soon, it became a full-fledged fight. In time, the committee's recommendations for pastor were turned down by a divided congregation again and again. The disheartened committee resigned, and some people left the church.
By the time a new pastor was voted in, only half a congregation was left to welcome him. The others had moved out--some to start a new church, others to join local congregations where people loved one another, and more than a few went home and sat down and quit going to church altogether.
How different this story might have been had my friend James taught his people about protecting their unity and dealing with conflict and division. (That said, I need to state the obvious here and admit that I do not know what he did to prepare them since I was not there. I believe he felt the same way we all did, that they were a mature congregation who could handle anything that came up.)
Some pastors have no choice but to teach unity--and the principles that achieve it and safeguard it--in the midst of division and disunity. That is a little like repairing a plane while it's in flight. It can be done, but only with great difficulty and at tremendous risk.
The best time to teach the principles of unity to God's people is when the church is prospering and the members think the preacher is God's gift to them.
Leaders--especially pastors, but all leaders--must know the value of submission, must demonstrate it, and must teach it to their people.
"...giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God." (Ephesians 5:20-21)
Theological definitions aside, my working meaning of submission is simply to "give in to the other person."
You and I have a disagreement over a path to take, a choice that has to be made. Both alternatives are good, no moral issue is at stake. It's simply a matter of taste, of preference.
I give in to you. "Let's do it your way."
Pastors submit themselves to their people every day of their lives. The phone rings, interrupting his dinner. The pastor whispers to his wife, then grabs his jacket and he's out the door. Two hours later, he arrives back at home. In the meantime, he has comforted a grieving family or accompanied a frightened member to the hospital or counseled someone going through a crisis.
He would rather have stayed home. His preference was to sit in front of the fire with his wife and enjoy their favorite television show, then retire early with a novel he's trying to read. But because he was needed, he put his own plans aside.
Submission is a constant in every harmonious family, whether nuclear or spiritual. Parents submit themselves to the needs of a sick child, forego buying an item they'd had their hearts set on to provide for their children, and put off a needed vacation to put braces on the child's teeth.
The church where a great percentage of the members practice submission to one another is one in a hundred, and destined for great things.
The key to submitting is Romans 12:3.
For I say through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
If harmony and unity are all about submission, then submission is all about humility.
The greatest enemy of the church, the foe of spiritual oneness in any congregation, is an enlarged sense of oneself.
Pride. Hubris, some call it. An excessive sense of "me."
Self on steroids.
Pastor Kent Hughes tells of a court-appointed mediator finding the roots of a church split that had torn up a community and destroyed a great congregation. The threads of the fight were traced all the way back to a Wednesday night supper in which a self-important church leader grew offended on seeing that a child had received a larger slice of ham than he had been given.
The out-of-control ego is not a pretty thing. It can destroy a good marriage, sabotage a great ministry, defile a pure love and bring a great church to the landfill.
It's tempting here to say it's all a matter of spiritual maturity, and it is. But it's actually simpler than that.
We can choose humility.
We do not need God to humble us. We can do that to ourselves, thank you.
Confession: Whenever I hear someone pray for God to humble them, if the circumstances allow, I will counsel them afterward that that is not a suitable prayer. God can humble you, but if you know your Scripture, you know when He does it, He uses a heavy hand. Think of what He did to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4. That's why Scripture tells us to "humble yourselves."
Simply taking a good look at who God is and who we are ought to do it.
A pastor friend told me of a man who was carrying an argument onto the floor of the church business meeting. "All I want is what's coming to me," he bellowed. "Sit down, Henry," said a little elderly woman. "If you got what was coming to you, you'd be in hell."
That's the realization that ought to humble all of us. We are all failures in life and recipients of God's infinite grace. We have no right to put ourselves above anyone else and a hundred reasons to put them ahead of us.
A parable Jesus told says it well.
Which of you, having a servant plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, "Come at once and sit down to eat"?
But will he not rather say to him, "Prepare something for my supper, and gird yourself, and serve me till I have eaten and drunk, and afterward you will eat and drink"?
Does he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I think not.
So, likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do." (Luke 17:7-10)
About The Author:
Dr. Joe McKeever is a Preacher, Cartoonist, and retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans.
Just like a computer virus, sin can spread in the church.
A computer virus on the loose is a computer user's worst nightmare. A virus can destroy everything in a computer's memory. Here is how a computer virus works. A computer virus is software, or a piece of programming code, whose purpose is to replicate.... Many viruses enter the computer via a pen-drive, email or are downloaded from another source. ... Once the computer is infected, the virus checks each time a program is opened to see if the program is clean. If it is, the virus copies itself onto the program. Because viruses need time to spread undetected, most will not affect the proper functioning of the computer right away.
But eventually their destructive power is felt as files are erased or corrupted. Just as a computer virus spreads through the files of a computer, so can sin spread in the church.
I Cor. 5; Gal. 6:1
Adapted From: Contemporary Illustrations For Preachers, Teachers, & Writers; Editor Craig Brian Larson, Baker Books, p. 28.
by Jill Carattini
When a book titled Life Together landed on my desk as a college student, the subtitle promising "a discussion of Christian fellowship," to say the least, I was skeptical. Wary of Christian culture and preferring to remain on the fringes, I saw fellowship primarily as a means of enclosing oneself in self-affirming circles. I was weary of feel-good religion; I was also bothered by the charade of unity carried on in pluralistic crowds. But the book was given to me, and the giver was insistent that its author, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was someone who would turn skepticism and self-affirmation on their heads.
Life Together was written in the thick of a mounting Nazi regime during Bonhoeffer's unique experience with 25 vicars in an underground seminary. It took me only a few pages to realize that he was speaking with weighted words on a topic I had long judged as fluff. Almost immediately I was uncomfortably aware of the skepticism that kept me on the outskirts of community, clutching an impaired image of the Christianity I professed. "Christianity," Bonhoeffer announced in the first few pages, "means community through Jesus Christ, and in Jesus Christ."(1) The two are inseparable.
In the community of believers, the Christian is said to be encouraged and admonished, uplifted and stretched (a few of the reasons I suspect many try to avoid it). As the priests called out to the crowds in the book of Nehemiah, the Christian is called to attention, called to remember in community the one who unites us: "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting," said Nehemiah. In community, the Christian is repeatedly shown that Christ has called us to die to ourselves and live in him - together. An invitation to be three.
Bonhoeffer thus reminds the cynical not to overlook the opportunity of Christian fellowship. "It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians. Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies. At the end all his disciples deserted him. On the cross he was utterly alone." (2) Being in the presence of other believers is indeed a hopeful gift. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus repeatedly cried out to his disciples that they stay awake and keep watch with him. While in prison, the apostle Paul called for Timothy, his "true child in the faith," to come and visit.
Christian fellowship is vital - though not as an end in itself, but in and of the God we profess. Thus we must not avoid being a part of a believing community, but neither should we believe that gathering is the extent of the call. Christ's call to the disciples was a call to community even as it was a call to a common vision to reach the world with the reality of God's love. Before going to the cross, he asked the Father that "they might be one even as we are one... so that the world may know that you sent me" (John 17:11). Surrounded by a world of belief, the collective praise of the Son is a compelling testimony of God's presence to a world the Father longs to reach.
Consequently, even as Bonhoeffer himself recognized the privilege of living with fellow Christians, he chose to live in the midst of enemies as well. Given the opportunity to move outside of Nazi Germany, he declined.
God's people remain scattered throughout the nations, but held together in Jesus Christ. This is part and parcel of the invitation of Christ. Even as God places people around us that we can learn from and grow with, the reach of a believing community goes beyond physical presence. Hearing a song written by Fernando Ortega recently, "Take heart, my friend, the Lord is able," I was stirred by words God knew I needed to hear, and moved to worship with the songwriter himself. "Where two or three are gathered in my name," Jesus told them, "there I am among them." United to Christ, we are invited to be members of a community beyond our imagination because of the one in our midst. And thus we can be encouraged by the believer beside us or a person we have not met, and heartened at the God who knows us both. A thousand voices tuned to the same instrument are automatically in tune with each other. And so we take heart; Christ is among us as we sing
(1) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper and Row, 1954), 24.
About the Author:
Jill Carattini managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.
Copyright © 2011 Ravi Zacharias International Ministries
by Susan Eapen, Thiruvananthapuram
Most of the time people leave our church in search of fellowship - which can be explained as: a) The condition of sharing similar interests, ideals, or experiences, as by reason of profession, religion, or nationality. b) The companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms.
This is lacking in our church. There is a Friday women's prayer that is desultory and if some women try to console each other and meet in their homes, immediately the men report to the vicar that a group is forming which would pray now and later prophesy and claim miracles. These are real dangers, but what substitutes can the Church offer? Perhaps it depends on the shepherd of each parish. Support groups are critical for healthy recovery from diseased like cancer and addictions.
The Orthodox Church has been there for 2000 years but is an empty tin that makes maximum sound/noise over cases and politics. The administration is haphazard, there are no clear-cut duties for the parish priests and on the pretext that the Church is centered around its Liturgy, some do not extend themselves beyond that and baptisms and housewarmings etc that gives them money.
The people consist of sheep (able and healthy), lambs (young needing nurturing irrespective of age - to be carried on the way if necessary) and ewes (needing to be lead gently). But there is only a kind of herding and the claim that God would take car of His own.
I met my Marthoma friend who has cancer. It had come back for the 3rd time about 3 years ago and the doctors said that since it has spread everywhere, they can do nothing more. I met her accidentally at a supermarket last week - quite happy and energetic and she told me "God has always worked wonders for me." She has a group of Marthoma women praying with her who meet regularly, I think about thrice a week. Her sons are abroad and her husband had died of Cancer many years ago. It is these women who are known to her and share with her, who hold her up. This is loving the neighbour and true fellowship.
My cousin had a heart attack and in the scan they could see a rupture in the wall of the heart that was bleeding. Her Marthoma Church women immediately started praying together for her and within hours the hole closed and the doctors said that it is a miracle.
In some of our churches I have seen Achen asking one of the women to pray and there would be a morose hysteric prayer full of platitudes for 15-30 minutes, which is a display of the knowledge of verses etc of that person. She would keep reminding God of the things He had said to Moses and David and Jesus to his followers and ask Him now to make His promises come true. But almost always God does not answer. Once, the person prayed for was already dead and the news had not reached the church. How far are these prayers moved by compassion? How far moved by a sense of our own importance?
Compassion means suffer together with, sharing the other's pain and wanting to relieve it. Compassion is what Jesus had. We need to be taught to pray beyond our written prayers or at least to understand them. We need support groups and fellowship. The early Church had that. Other groups have that. We don't.
Only the strong can love, said Swami Chinmayananda. Others can only take love. Most of us are weak and need support, which is specific and concrete. The clergy at all levels are selfish and do not see beyond their noses nor share in the suffering of the sheep. Many do not do house visits. Show me compassion that is not self-glorification in the Church. Show me some acts of charity, which is not claimed, as sponsored by some one and where there are no stones laid to remain eternal in the memory of posterity.
I read in Philokalia that the trials of the lay, living in the world far exceed that of the ascetic Brahmachari. But it is not even acknowledged. We must look with an impartial and discerning eye and never think ourselves too big to learn or change.
Bible knowledge is important because it is the verses from the Bible and the prayers and the songs that rise to our minds when we are in a crisis and give us proper guidance. Recently I was about to claim that I had planted the tree, which was now yielding many fruit when I remembered the verse "Nadunnavanum Nanakkunnavanum Ethumalla. Valarumaarakkunnathu Daivam Aakunnu." It effectively stripped off my pride.
by Oswald Chambers
Jesus' instructions with regard to judging others is very simply put; He says, "Don't." The average Christian is the most piercingly critical individual known. Criticism is one of the ordinary activities of people, but in the spiritual realm nothing is accomplished by it. The effect of criticism is the dividing up of the strengths of the one being criticized. The Holy Spirit is the only one in the proper position to criticize, and He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into fellowship with God when you are in a critical mood. Criticism serves to make you harsh, vindictive, and cruel, and leaves you with the soothing and flattering idea that you are somehow superior to others. Jesus says that as His disciple you should cultivate a temperament that is never critical. This will not happen quickly but must be developed over a span of time. You must constantly beware of anything that causes you to think of yourself as a superior person.
There is no escaping the penetrating search of my life by Jesus. If I see the little speck in your eye, it means that I have a plank of timber in my own (see Matthew 7:3-5). Every wrong thing that I see in you, God finds in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17-24). Stop having a measuring stick for other people. There is always at least one more fact, which we know nothing about, in every person's situation. The first thing God does is to give us a thorough spiritual cleaning. After that, there is no possibility of pride remaining in us. I have never met a person I could despair of, or lose all hope for, after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.
By Bill Gifford
Rhesus monkeys do not often appear on the front page of the New York Times, but on July 10, 2009, there were two, pictured side by side: Canto, age 27, and Owen, age 29. In monkey terms, this made them the equivalent of senior citizens, but the striking thing was that Owen looked like he could have been Canto's beer-drinking, dissipated dad. His hair was patchy, his face sagged, and his body was draped in rolls of fat. Canto, on the other hand, sported a thick (if graying) mane, a slender frame, and an alert, lively mien.
What made the difference? Diet. Since early adulthood, Canto had been fed 30 percent less food than Owen. The two monkeys were part of a long-running study of dietary restriction and aging, conducted at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center in Madison. Beginning in the late 1980s, the researchers had been deliberately underfeeding Canto and some of his unfortunate colleagues. By late 2008, enough animals had died that the scientists could report meaningful results in Science.
The differences were as striking as the side-by-side photos: The calorie-restricted monkeys were far healthier, in terms of basic measures such as blood pressure, and had far less incidence of age-related disease, such as diabetes and cancer. And they seemed to be living longer: While 37 percent of the control monkeys had died of age-related causes at the time of the report, only 13 percent of the restricted monkeys had done so.
The results seemed to confirm one of the longest-held beliefs about aging: That eating less - a lot less - will help you live longer. Since the 1930s, scientists have learned that restricting diet in many animals, from fruit flies to trout to mice, will extend lifespan, both the average and the maximum. The phenomenon has been known for so long, and observed so often, that it's been accorded the status of near-dogma in some circles. A devoted group of believers who think the principle should extend to humans has practiced caloric restriction, sometimes eating as little as 1,200 calories per day.
Now a new paper has come out in Nature, reporting a parallel monkey study conducted by the National Institute of Aging. The NIA study began around the same time as the Wisconsin study, with similar experimental conditions. But the Nature authors found no increase in lifespan; the calorically restricted animals lived no longer, statistically, than their well-fed cousins. Even stranger, the NIA control monkeys, the ones who ate a lot, actually lived just as long as the calorie-restricted Wisconsin primates. What gives?
Many of us simply roll our eyes and click away when yet another medical study contradicts the last study - so what else is new? Coffee's bad for you, until it's good for you - and so is red wine. Antioxidants are essential, or they're useless. And so on. Contradictory studies are an essential part of the science-news stream - and, in fact, an important part of science itself. But that doesn't make it any less frustrating.
The parallel monkey studies are some of the most important and closely watched experiments on aging to be conducted in our lifetimes. It was expected, even assumed, that the NIA results would show that caloric restriction extended longevity—the holy grail of aging research.
The fact that it didn't, and that the two studies conflict, has unintentionally revealed a different truth about diet and aging. In both studies, the monkeys that ate less were healthier by a number of measures - and suffered far less from age-related disease. Even better, when taken together, both studies reveal a different path toward living a healthier life - one that doesn't require self-starvation. ...
In the 1990s, Leonard Guarente of MIT discovered a class of longevity genes in yeast called sirtuins that appear to be activated by a lack of food. Sirtuins appeared to be "conserved" in evolution, meaning that they appear in nearly all species, on up to humans. Sirtuins are thought to have evolved as a way to enable animals to survive periods of famine. They seem to work by regulating certain metabolic pathways and reduce the amount of damage cells endure.
It appeared, then, that caloric restriction seems to activate some sort of deep survival mechanism common to nearly all life forms. If researchers could somehow identify and isolate that mechanism, they'd be that much closer to some kind of longevity pill. Except for one inconvenient fact: Caloric restriction itself does not always work.
The study published today is itself a specimen of scientific longevity, dating all the way back to the late 1980s, not long after the founding of the National Institute of Aging in 1985 as part of the National Institutes of Health. One of the new institute's first major long-term projects was to test the effects of caloric restriction (CR) in monkeys, the lab animal closest to humans. Such studies in humans are problematic, as one might imagine, because it's not easy to convince people to spend decades starving themselves - and even if you could, you'd have to wait a lifetime for results (actually longer, if it worked as advertised). Monkeys can't cheat on their diet or complain about it, and they only live 30-odd years or so.
The initial group of 60 monkeys was split into to two groups. Half were allowed to eat a full ration of food while the rest were given a portion equal to about 25 percent less. The monkeys were soon joined by another 60 animals; some were young, between 0 and 8 years old, while the rest were older, between 16 and 23 when the experiment started.
The data started coming out in dribs and drabs, in mundane descriptive studies at first. Then in 2003, the NIA team reported hopefully that "preliminary evidence suggests that CR will have beneficial effects on morbidity and mortality." While 80 percent of the monkeys were still alive, the restricted animals had better measures of cardiovascular health, hormone levels, and blood-sugar management, an early indicator of diabetes risk. So it came as a bit of a surprise, eight years later, to find that the hungry monkeys are not actually living longer. ...
Still stranger was the fact that even though the underfed monkeys were healthier than the others, they still didn't live longer. They had lower incidence of cardiovascular disease, as well as diabetes and cancer - and when these diseases did appear, they did so later. "To me I think it's one of our very interesting findings," says lead author Rafael de Cabo. "We can have a dramatic effect on healthspan [the length of healthy life] without improving survival."
Even odder was the fact that the NIA's control monkeys seemed to be doing much better than the Wisconsin controls. In fact, the NIA controls seemed to be on track to live as long, or longer, than the Wisconsin calorie-restricted monkeys. Some of them were approaching 40 years old, previously the highest recorded age for Rhesus monkeys. (Four of the NIA monkeys have actually surpassed 40 at this writing.) What was that about? ...
The animals' food was more important than anyone had thought. The NIA monkeys were fed a natural-ingredient diet, made from ground wheat, ground corn, and other whole foods; the Wisconsin animals ate a "purified" diet, a heavily refined type of food that allowed the researchers to control the nutritional content more precisely. Because the NIA monkeys were eating more natural ingredients, de Cabo realized, they were taking in more polyphenols, micronutrients, flavonoids, and other compounds that may have health-promoting effects.
Furthermore, the NIA diet consisted of 4 percent sucrose - while in the Wisconsin diet, sucrose accounted for some 28 percent of the total calories. High sugar consumption is thought to be a primary driver of obesity, diabetes, and possibly some cancers. "In physics, a calorie is a calorie," says de Cabo. "In nutrition and animal physiology, there is more and more data coming out that says that the state of the animal is going to depend more on where the calories are coming from."
In other words, it matters whether you eat at Whole Foods, like the suburban-Maryland NIA monkeys - or at the ballpark, like the Wisconsin monkeys. Guess which works out better in the end?
But what does all this really mean for humans? Is it really "healthier" to starve oneself, as some people believe? Or will this latest monkey study finally let us off the hook? ...
So far, there's no evidence that humans gain any longevity benefit from calorie restriction. "That data will not emerge until about 2040," says Brian Delaney, president of the Calorie Restriction Society.
And when it does, chances are any effect of calorie restriction may vary from person to person, depending on genetics. "It's complicated," says Nir Barzilai of Einstein Medical College in New York. "To some of us it might work, and for some of us it might be dangerous."
Several studies have shown that excessive leanness - seen often in calorie-restricting humans - can be as risky as obesity. Taken together, these studies suggest that the optimal body-mass index is about 25, which is on the verge of being overweight. ...
For decades, ever since McCay, the holy grail of aging research has been to extend maximum lifespan - to push out the frontiers of human longevity, past 100, 120, or more. But while in theory those limits may be malleable, a careful look at these major primate studies shows that they might not be, in practice. Even so, calorie restriction does seem to reduce - drastically in some cases - one's risk of developing age-related diseases like cancer and diabetes. So while calorie restriction may or may not make you live longer, overeating and obesity will certainly make you die sooner. And if eating less doesn't always increase lifespan, it does improve "healthspan," our allotment of healthy years.
In the next few years, we're going to learn a lot about how different genetic types respond to medicine, diet, and other things. And while we might not (yet) know how to live forever, more of us will be able to avoid a long, sad decline and will live longer, healthy lives. If we can get there simply by eating the right foods, but not too much, and avoid becoming obese - then just knowing that is a pretty good start.
Adapted from: Health and medicine explained, www.slate.comRead the full article here:
by Craig Shinney
While it may not always be easy to place your trust in the hands of God, especially when it becomes a test of patience as well, there’s no doubt that waiting on God for the right spouse is an important part of your spiritual journey towards living a godly life. Pray to Him about your feelings, and He’ll guide you down the right path.
Once you’ve found the one that you want to spend the rest of your life with, what can you do to pave that road to “as long as you both shall live” so that the ride there is less bumpy? The following is a list of 5 tips that will help you on your marriage journey to a lasting marriage:
Allow God to come before all else.
Let Him into your hearts and your home to bless and nurture the spiritual side of your relationship. Set aside time to pray together or simply thank God for each other. This appreciation of Him will solidify your own bonds to each other.
Learn to communicate.
While it rarely happens that people will keep positive information or feelings from one another, it’s not always the same when circumstances are different. It’s important to be able to pull your spouse aside and talk to one another when things aren’t so positive. Sharing with one another if feelings are hurt, if something is said or done that makes you angry, or when you’re just plain unhappy with a situation is essential. Keeping emotions bottled up only results in resentment. Even the smallest issue can turn into a big problem, so learning to share early on in the relationship will help to avoid blow-ups.
Conflict resolution is a must.
This can easily be seen as an extension of the previous point. Without good communication skills, conflict resolution can be a difficult task. Take time to sit together when things are calm, and develop a plan for dealing with any conflicts you may face as a couple. This way there are no surprises.
Add a touch of humor to your everyday lives.
You have probably heard the old saying “Laughter is the best medicine.” Perhaps that’s because it’s true. Tell each other jokes, watch a funny movie, or plan something fun, like playing in the first snowfall, or running on the beach. A little laughter therapy can go a long way.
Put your spouse before yourself.
After God, your spouse should be your first priority. Let them know how important they are to you every day. Care for their needs and desires first, and you’ll feel better about the time you spend away from them.
You see, there’s no magical formula, or special process to achieve a love that will stand the test of time. All it takes is faith, a little patience and some common sense. And when all else fails, take some time to pray about the situation. God will show you the way.
About The Author
The following is supposedly a true story relating to an actual guide and his
response to questions.
Swiss mountain guides who always do the same trails can get tired answering the same questions over and over.
One time an English tourist was giving his guide an especially hard time with silly questions. They were walking through a mountain valley that was strewn with rocks, and the traveler asked, "How did these rocks get here?"
"Sir," said the guide, "they were brought down by a glacier."
The tourist peered up the mountain and said, "But I don't see any glacier."
"Oh, really?" said the guide. "I guess it has gone back for more rocks."
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