Malankara World Journal Volume 4 No. 190 January 16, 2014
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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This Sunday in Church
Bible Reading For The Second Sunday after Denho (Baptism of our Lord)
Before Holy Qurbana
This Week's Features
There's an apocryphal story of a spy captured and sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and "the big, black door."
The moment for execution drew near, and guards brought the spy to the Persian general. "What will it be," asked the general, "the firing squad or 'the big, black door?'"
The spy hesitated for a long time. Finally he chose the firing squad.
A few minutes later, hearing the shots ring out confirming the spy's execution, the general turned to his aide and said, 'They always prefer the known to the unknown. People fear what they don't know. Yet, we gave him a choice."
"What lies beyond the big door?" asked the aide.
"Freedom," replied the general. "I've known only a few brave enough to take that door."
The best opportunities in our lives stand behind the forbidding door of the great unknown.
-- Don McCullough
"We no more give honors to fools than pray for snow in summer or rain during
by Dr. Ray Pritchard
Scripture: Genesis 50 & Hebrews 11
One of the first prayers I learned to pray was my bedtime prayer. I do not remember how old I was when I first learned it, but I know I was just a young boy. Over the years it has helped millions of children get ready for bed. You probably know it by heart:
It is the third line that always struck me as unusual: "If I should die before I wake." It seems odd that little children in the springtime of life should mention death in their bedtime prayer. But if you think about it, it's not odd at all. Death comes to all of us sooner or later. Sometimes to children. And sometimes in the night before we wake.
There is an art to dying well. The Puritans spoke of "dying grace," which is the special help God gives his children as they prepare to cross the final river. I suppose all of us are planning to live a long time, but these days you can never be sure. The stray bullet, the out-of-control driver, the renegade gang member, the sudden heart attack, the unexpected tumor, who knows what will happen next? Any of us could be struck down at any moment.
"Man does not know his time" (Ecclesiastes 9:12). No one know what tomorrow may bring. As I sit here typing late at night, I have my own list of things I need to do. Perhaps I will get them done. Perhaps God has other plans for me. There are no guarantees that I will even be alive 24 hours from now.
How much longer do you expect to live?
Everyone has an answer to that question even if we don't want to say it aloud. If you are in your 20s, you probably expect to live at least 50 more years. If you are 50, you probably expect another 20-30 years. And if you are over 65, you certainly know that the sands of time are slipping away very quickly.
Here is one mark of genuine Christianity. When you come to the end of your life, you still hold on to what you believe. When someone dies suddenly, we all want to know: What were his final words? What was on his mind as he was exiting this world? Did he leave any messages? Did he give any final instructions?
What were his final words?
We come now to the final moments of Joseph's life. In order to set the scene, we need to know one crucial fact. Fifty years have passed since Joseph said to his brothers, "You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Genesis 50:20). That half-century is covered in just one sentence, "Joseph stayed in Egypt, along with all his father's family" (Genesis 50:22). Joseph's final words are recorded in two places: Genesis 50 and Hebrews 11. From looking at these two passages, we discover how faith shows itself at the end of life.
I. Genesis 50: God Will Take You to the Promised Land
Joseph said to his brothers, "I am about to die, but God will visit you and bring you up out of this land to the land that he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." Then Joseph made the sons of Israel swear, saying, "God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from here." So Joseph died, being 110 years old. They embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt" (Gen 50:24-26).
Twice Joseph says, "God will visit you." This is faith at the very end of life. Though he was old and dying, Joseph saw past Egypt into the distant future. He knew that God would one day keep his promise and deliver the Israelites from Egypt and would give them a homeland of their own. Because he believed so firmly in that promise, he instructed the Israelites not to leave his bones in Egypt but to make sure and carry his bones with them and bury them in the Promised Land.
There was no earthly reason to expect this. From the outside, it appeared that the Jews would stay in Egypt forever. And that is how it seemed for many generations. Over time Egypt grew comfortable to them, and the Jews grew wealthy in Egypt. But Joseph looked into the distant future and said, "This is not the end of the story."
Egypt was not the end of the story
Was Egypt good for them? Yes, it saved them from destruction.
How could Joseph be so sure about the future?
First, he knew what God had
promised his great-grandfather Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).
He knew that Israel didn't belong in Egypt, and he didn't want his bones staying in Egypt when the Jews left for Canaan. On the outside he looked like an Egyptian; on the inside he was an Israelite.
He never forgot who he was or where he came from.
The Bible tells us that Moses took the bones with him when the Jews left Egypt (Exodus 13:19) and years later Joshua buried them at Shechem (Joshua 24:32). There his bones rest in the dust of the earth to this day.
II. Hebrews 11: Take Me With You!
"By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions about his bones" (Hebrews 11:22).
We might think it unusual that the writer of Hebrews should highlight this moment out of all that Joseph experienced. We might say it some other way:
"By faith Joseph, when he was betrayed, did not become bitter."
His faith shone brightest in his final moments
When we think of Joseph, these are the things we remember. But God saw his faith shining brightest in his final moments. As great as his past exploits were, he rose to the highest pinnacle of faith just before he died. In a sense, he was given a peek behind the curtain and he saw what others could not see. He knew God would keep his promises.
When he died, he was embalmed and put in a coffin in Egypt so that his bones would be a testimony to the coming generations.
His children and grandchildren knew what sort of man he was.
"Bound for Canaan"
So let's run the clock ahead 100 years. Joseph has been dead for a long time.
Here is a little Hebrew boy who hears all the stories about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Joseph. As he takes it all in, he asks the one question most on his heart. "Mother, will we be in Egypt forever?"
Taking a moment to compose herself, she brushes a tear away and says, "Honey, look over there. See that box?"
"I see it. What is it?" "It contains the bones of your great-grandfather Joseph."
The little boy walks over and eyes the box from top to bottom. Then his mother says, "Sweetheart, what does it say?"
He looks at the side of the box and
peers intently at the Hebrew letters. Then he reads it out loud:
"Mother, what does that mean?"
"It means we won't be here forever. We're going home to Canaan someday, and we're taking those bones with us. Your great-grandfather told us not to leave him behind. He wants to be buried in the Promised Land."
And so the bones of Joseph testified to coming generations that the people of God didn't belong in Egypt. They were there temporarily, but their real home was in Canaan.
You do the math.
Despite the fact that he spent almost a century in Egypt, he never forgot who he was or where he came from. Joseph is saying,
We die, but the promises of God live on
What does this mean for us today?
Nothing of God dies when a man of God dies. We die, but the promises of God live on. They bury us, but they don't bury God's promises with us. Your death cannot nullify God's faithfulness. Our God is the God of the future. He is the God of the generations to come.
A servant whose master was dying was asked, "How is your master?" "He is dying full of life," came the reply. It is a grand thing to die "full of life." That's exactly how Joseph died–full of life and full of faith.
Three Lessons for Today
Let's wrap up this message with three lessons for today.
1) The greatest thing you can do is to pass your faith along to your children and grandchildren.
Abraham passed his faith to Isaac, Isaac gave it to Jacob, Jacob gave it to Joseph, and Joseph gave his faith to the whole nation of Israel.
The Christian faith is not a sprint and it's not really a marathon. It's a relay race, and I am but one member of a team that stretches across the generations. I have faith because someone gave it to me. And someone gave it to the person who gave it to me. On and on the line goes, stretching back 2000 years. I must make sure I pass my faith along to my own family. Not only that. I must do all I can to make sure that the faith I pass on to my sons is passed on to my grandchildren. I must not fail here. The baton of faith must be passed on to the next generation.
As the years quickly pass I now understand that passing my faith along is the work of a lifetime. It's never finished no matter how old I get. As I write this paragraph, it occurs to me that my # 1 job at this point is to make sure that I finish well. Our boys are grown up and now the older two are raising families of their own. I owe it to them and to our four grandchildren to leave them an example of what it means to finish well. I don't want to run the race and them stumble and fall as I am about to cross the finish line.
Joseph finished well.
2) The saddest thing that can happen is to become bitter in your old age.
We've all seen it happen to people we know. Sometimes we've seen it happen to people very close to us. As they grow old, they become bitter, angry, and filled with resentment because life didn't turn out the way they thought it would. Abraham had a promise from God but he never saw it completely fulfilled. Isaac had the same promise but he died without seeing it fulfilled. Jacob had the same promise and he died in Egypt. Joseph had the same promise but died in Egypt too. If ever any one had the right to become bitter it was these three men—Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. They lived and died with the promise unfulfilled but to their credit they never gave up hope. They never became bitter because they didn't see everything God promised come to pass before they died.
3) The happiest way to live is to realize that God's work is bigger than you are.
I may live for 70 or 80 years and never see all that I dream about. I may pray for things that never come to pass. I may trust God for things that do not appear. I may struggle against great difficulty for many years. The way may be hard, the road steep, the path lonely. I may climb and climb and still never reach the summit of all that I set out to do. It may not be given to me to see everything I would like to see, but it is given to me to live faithfully day after day so that after I am gone, others may stand on my shoulders and see things I never saw. Here is a great goal: To have dreams so big they can't possibly be fulfilled in my lifetime.
God's plans are bigger than mine
God's plans are bigger than mine. My part is to live for God and to pass my faith along to my children and then to my grandchildren. I must live so that those things for which I am praying and those things I dream about may happen some day after I am gone.
In recent years Psalm 100:5 has become very precious to me because it ends with a wonderful promise:
"His faithfulness continues through all generations."
Suppose we line up a grandfather, a son, a grandson, and a great-grandson on the
platform. This text tells us that what God was to the grandfather, he will be to
the son. What he is to the son, he will be to the grandson. What he is to the
grandson, he will be to the great-grandson. And so it goes across the centuries.
Generations come and go, one after the other. Only God remains forever. This is
our hope at the edge of death. This is why we rejoice as we bury our dead. We
need not fear death because a Christian is immortal until his work on earth is
done. You cannot die and you will not die until God's appointed time for you
finally arrives. Until then, you are immortal.
I do not know how far we have to go until we reach the end of our earthly road. But this I know—that road is paved with God's love and faithfulness. Therefore we need not be afraid.
We serve a trans-generational God
I am so glad that God's faithfulness transcends the generations. I am 61 years old heading for . . . what? 65? 70? 75? Maybe 80 or even 90 years old if God blesses me with long life. But I won't live forever. As the years roll by, I find myself realizing how much of my life is wrapped up in my three boys. Yesterday they were teenagers, today they are young men, tomorrow they will be grandfathers.
Will God still take care of them? What about their children? And their grandchildren? Will God still be there for them? The answer is yes because we serve a trans-generational God. That means I don't have to stay alive to ensure that my boys will be okay. God will see to that. After I am gone from this earth, and even if all my prayers have not been answered, I can trust God to take care of my sons and my grandchildren. What a comfort this is. I do my best to help my boys while I'm here, and after I'm gone God's faithfulness will continue for them and for their children and their grandchildren, and even for their great-grandchildren.
We are links in the chain of God's purposes
We are just links in the great chain of God's purposes. When we show up, God hooks us up with what comes before and what comes after. Joseph knew that. We are wise if we see that too. We all have a role to play in the unfolding of God's eternal plan. Like Joseph, most of us don't discover that role until later in life. Then we look back say, "No matter what happened to me, even the parts I still don't understand, God meant it all for good."
We're Going to Make It!
I end where Joseph's journey ended, with this great certainty:
That's why Paul could say, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:55).
Years ago I heard Stanley Collins, then director of Forest Home Conference Center in California, tell a story from his days with the British Army in World War II. One day he and another soldier came upon an unexploded land mine. Later that night he nearly passed out when he walked into the barracks and found his buddy resting his head on the same mine. Then he discovered that his buddy had removed the firing pin, rendering the land mine harmless. What had been an instrument of destruction had become a pillow for a weary soldier. Jesus has taken the sting out of death and given us victory over the grave.
No wonder Joseph said, "Don't leave me down in Egypt! Take my bones with you." He knew that a better day was coming for all the people of God, and that's why he didn't want to be left behind in Egypt. It would be a fine burial spot for a few centuries, but it was not meant to be Joseph's final resting place.
Let's be clear about what this means for us. We need not fear death because we know that death is not the end but the beginning for the children of God.
Brothers and sisters, we're going to make it! God has willed it so.
We will all eventually go through the valley of the shadow of death.
Who can we get?
The saints of God have nothing to fear in the moment of death. Though it may not be pleasant or painless, though it come after long suffering or in a fiery crash, the moment itself will be filled with joy as the Lord himself escorts God's children through the darkest valley of all. At that moment, all other guides must turn back. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can help us through. And he does.
Cheer up, child of God. Smile through your tears. Death is the worst that can happen to us. The best is yet to come.
Gospel: John 1: 43-51My brother is usually the focus of the story when it is told, Philip the Evangelist, and I am often left feeling like a simpleton. "A man without a false bone in his body", that is how Jesus described me; that much is true, I am straightforward, but I am not simple.I had always cherished my relationship with God, and although I enjoyed the synagogue prayers, and entered into the debates about Scripture, the times I enjoyed the most were the times when I could get away on my own. I would meditate and pray; speaking to God in the silence and it was through the silence that he spoke to me.My favorite place to pray was in the shade of my fig tree, I had raised it myself, and it stood in the corner of my small plot of land, I was proud of my tree, it was young, and its fruits though still few were sweet, my wife used to joke that I watered it with prayer.Philip knew where to find me of course, my extrovert ebullient brother; we were opposites in character, but remained great friends. Recently he had been fascinated by Jesus from Nazareth, stories about Jesus had been spreading throughout the region, and he dared to teach in the open air, challenging the wisdom of the Pharisees. There were other stories too, stories about healing; Philip was enthralled, but I was skeptical, after all I reasoned to myself, how could anything good come from Nazareth?The latest story concerned John the Baptist, the fiery desert preacher, Philip said he had tried to refuse to baptise this Jesus, proclaiming him to be the Messiah. When Jesus insisted on baptism John agreed, but no sooner had Jesus emerged from the waters the skies were split by the voice of God proclaiming for all to hear; "This is my Son, chosen and marked by my love, delight of my life." and as God spoke the Spirit descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove bathed in heavenly light.I listened to Philips excitable account of these events and deep in my soul curiosity had ignited a flame of hope that try as I might I could not ignore.I took myself into the garden to pray, I needed to get alone with God, to seek answers, So it was that Philip found me sting beneath my fig tree, my conversation with God that day had been challenging beyond words; when Philip came I knew I had to go with him.When I saw Jesus my heart did somersaults and the flicker of hope in my soul burst into a roaring fire, I knew him as soon as he looked at me! The conversation that followed was bizarre, and I caught the twinkle in his eye as he teased me;The laughter barely concealed in his voice he exclaimed; "There's a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body.""Where did you get that idea? You don't know me." I replied, still testing him. "One day, long before Philip called you here, I saw you under the fig tree." he answeredThen I knew, I could barely stop myself from dancing with joy; "Rabbi! You are the Son of God, the King of Israel!"Then I recognized the power and majesty of this ordinary sounding voice as he proclaimed "You've become a believer simply because I say I saw you one day sitting under the fig tree? You haven't seen anything yet! Before this is over you're going to see heaven open and God's angels descending to the Son of Man and ascending again!Not only did he know me, but I knew him, we had spoken before many times under the shade of my fig tree. The invitation to follow him was unspoken that day, I had accepted long ago under my fig tree. I had known him when I did not see him, but now I saw him, I had met God, face to face and yet I lived!I hope that you will understand from my story that I am not a simpleton, I am the quiet one in this crowd, and some things are to deep for words!Source: Sallys-Journey Blog
There are two ideas that I'd like you to remember as we are looking at our text for today.
1) If you aren't looking for something you probably won't find it.
2) You will find what you seek.
Jesus decided to go to Galilee. Why not? It was the place where he grew up. He might have gone looking for some old friends. He might have gone to join the resistance and take on the Romans. He might have gone to be with his mom and his family. There were all kinds of reasons Jesus might have gone to Galilee, all kinds of things he might have been looking for.
You can tell a lot about what someone is looking for by what they actually find. What did Jesus find when he went to Galilee? Jesus found Philip. Jesus found a man who was ready to be one of his disciples and he invited Philip to follow him. You don't have to look too deeply to see that Jesus went to Galilee looking for disciples.
Philip was also looking for something on that day. In fact, Philip was looking for a few things. First, Philip was looking for God's Messiah. How do I know? Well, Jesus didn't cast some kind of spell on Philip. He didn't hypnotize him. I believe that, because Philip was looking for the Messiah, when he saw and heard Jesus, he realized that he was the real deal. Jesus was the one he was looking for. When Jesus invited Philip to follow him he was asking Philip to do something he was hoping to do for a long time.
Once Philip found the savior he went looking again. This time he went looking for others he knew who were in need of a savior. He found his friend Nathaniel and invited him to follow Jesus.
And guess what, Nathaniel went looking too. He went with Philip, looking to see if this Jesus really was the savior of the world. He was not disappointed.
There is something that I have noticed as I have done ministry here at All Saints. A person has a much higher likelihood of finding something when they are actually looking for it.
You have probably met people who seem to always find something about which to complain. They are always negative, always griping. It seems that their eyes and their hearts are tuned to find things that are wrong. Because they are looking for problems, they find them. When something is difficult or when something goes wrong they will quickly point out what mistakes were made and who was responsible for them and too often they spend a lot of time spreading this negative energy around.
You may also have met people who have no idea what they are looking for. They wander from project to project and pastime to pastime just hoping to be satisfied in some way.
And then there are those who aren't really looking for anything. They just go from day to day doing what they have always done, without even worrying about why they do it.
I believe what we are looking for matters to Jesus. He wants us to have a different set of eyes. I think there are a few things for which Jesus wants us to be constantly looking.
First, like Philip, Jesus wants us to be on the lookout for him. When you get up in the morning and you head out into the sub-freezing temperatures and snow you have a choice. You can see the inconvenience and the discomfort or you can see the beauty and the hand of the Word who was in the beginning with God.
Second, he wants us to be looking for disciples. When you are making your way through a crowded line at the grocery store you can see a bunch of obstacles that are standing between you and getting home more quickly or you can see children of God, some of whom might welcome the invitation to be disciples. You could see an opportunity to share the love and light of Christ.
Third, Jesus wants us to be looking for ways to help his people grow in their faith. Each of us has a unique way in which we can be a blessing to God's people. Each of us has a gift that we can share to help people grow in their faith and in their relationship with God. We aren't going to discover the opportunities we have to give and to help unless we are looking for them.
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not suggesting that Jesus wants us to ignore negative things. When we are looking for disciples, when we are looking for Jesus, negative things are going to happen. Obstacles will show up. But when we see them as something to be dealt with, learned from, and left behind, we can get on with what is really important to us and to our Master.
When you are going through motorcycle safety training they teach you about “obstacle fixation”. It's what happens when you focus your complete attention on that rock or that pot hole that is in front of you. Do you know what happens when you focus your complete attention on an obstacle? You have a strong tendency to steer right towards it and collide with it. A much better strategy is to take note of it and then intentionally steer toward the path that will lead to safety.
Over the next several months God is going to be bringing lots of opportunities into our lives that will be challenging. They might even appear to be obstacles. Some will have to do with the very shaky economy and the deep recession that the world is facing. Others will have to do with the transition we are about to face. Some will be things that we could never have imagined.
What we see in those challenges is going to depend on what we are looking for. I am going to pray that, like Philip, you will look for and find Jesus. I am going to pray that you will look for and find those who would like to be his disciples. I am going to pray that, just like Jesus promised Nathaniel, you will look for and see the great things God is going to do. Amen
by Trevin Wax"Don't be a worry wart!" people say… and those of us prone to anxiety promptly begin worrying about worrying too much.I know the feeling. I worry too. I'm not the "lie awake at night" kind of person. But I notice that when I have a lot on my plate, I give an inordinate amount of attention to little details. Worry consumes me in a variety of ways: I lose patience quickly, I snap at my wife and kids, or I lose my sense of empathy for others. Worry turns my focus to Me.For a while, I thought that worry was caused by my failure to seek first the kingdom. If I would only fix my eyes on Jesus more, then I would stop worrying. If I would only think about the kingdom more, then anxiety wouldn't be an issue.Certainly, those who are seeking the kingdom above all things are not preoccupied with food, and drink, and clothing (as Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount). And yes, seeking the kingdom first is a good action plan if we find ourselves worrying.But seeking first the kingdom comes after we have been sought by the King. The root cause of worry is not misplaced priorities. It's misplaced faith. It's a failure to grasp the gospel of a God worthy of our trust.So worry shows up whenever my view of God is diminished and my view of myself gets too big. I worry because my vision of God is skewed. I rest when my vision is fixed."Look at the birds of the air!" Jesus said. "God gives them food, even if they don't work and earn their way." There's more to this parallel than a mere animal-to-human comparison about how much more God will care for us. There's gospel here. God has given undeserved favor to the birds. He blesses them apart from their merits.God's grace and mercy is sustaining us too. Everything we have comes from God's hand. Salvation belongs to the Lord. And the powerful God who saved us is the loving Father who sustains us.When I reflect on the gospel of a priceless Savior giving his all for undeserving sinners like you and me, then I am assured that our value in the eyes of God does not shift with the economic tides. Our worth is not measured in what we do for God, but what God has done for us.This is God the Father who sent his only Son to the cross that we deserved.This is God the Son who willingly took on flesh, lived among us, and died in our place.This is God the Spirit who prompts our hearts and brings us back into unending fellowship with our Maker.It is the costly actions of God that give us our value.In these difficult times, we - the people of God's kingdom - need to be reminded of our true citizenship and true identity. The uneasiness of worry surfaces in our hearts when we lose sight of the gospel of God's grace to the undeserving. Failure to grasp the gospel is what causes us to take our eyes off the kingdom and forget who we are in Christ.United to Christ, we are part of a royal family. Our older Brother is the King of the world.
Thou art coming to a King,About The Author:Trevin Wax is the Managing Editor of The Gospel Project, a curriculum developed by LifeWay Christian Resources. He blogs daily at Kingdom People. He is also the author of Holy Subversion (Crossway, 2010) and Counterfeit Gospels (Moody, 2011).Source: Christianity.com Daily Update
Two Orthodox Archbishops, Metropolitan Mor Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim and Metropolitan Boulous Yazigi, both of Aleppo, Syria, were abducted by Chechen militants operating in Syria on April 22, 2013. Their chauffeur was mercilessly shot and killed, and the two clerics were taken captive to an unknown location.
In November 2013, Islamist militias invaded the Christian town of Sadad. Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan of Homs and Hama, Archbishop Selwanos Boutros Alnemeh, said that what happened in Sadad was "the most serious and largest massacre of Christians in Syria in the past two and a half years." He decried the world's silence in the face of the atrocity. "Forty-five innocent civilians were martyred for no reason, and among them several women and children, many thrown into mass graves," according to the Archbishop.
In December 2013, eleven nuns living in Maalula's Mar Takla Convent were kidnapped after rebels seized the Qalamoun town of Yabrud.
Our Holy Father, Patriarch HH Zakka 1 Iwas mentioned several of these atrocities in His Holiness' Christmas message in December 2013.
Malankara World Journal will release a special edition (Issue 191) on January 19, 2014 examining the Persecution of Christians in the Middle East and the World. If you want to contribute an article for this special edition, please submit it by January 17 to mail <at> malankaraworld.com. (replace <at> with @ and remove all spaces.)
by John O'Leary, RisingAbove.com
Are you measuring success according to your values?
How do we pivot from having a fear of failure to having passion for pursuing a truly successful business and meaningful life?
And as we enter the holiday season: how does what we perceive as driving memorable experiences, vibrant relationships and significant impact determine the outcome of this special time of year?
You can find the answer to both of these questions by reflecting on Black Friday 2013. Let me explain.
In your local paper this weekend there was likely an article about what people could do to best prepare for the holidays. It provided tips on how to maximize Black Friday, get holiday travel arranged, order the hottest gifts and bake the most delicious cookies. This article also likely concluded with the promise that, in completing this list, you will reduce stress, give the best gifts and create "perfect" life-long memories.
In contrast, did you hear another, very different story from the media too? One noting statistics on the increased stress, animosity and selfishness that dawns with every Black Friday? This story highlighted the fights that broke out around the country at stores as people battled for parking spots, places in line and discounted merchandise.
My friends, when we think about our actions over the last few days, and the ads and news stories we've seen over the last few weeks, do they suggest that we find fulfillment in genuine connection with others? Giving selflessly of ourselves to bring joy to those we love? Supporting great organizations and causes that truly make a difference? Or, do they suggest that we believe happiness is discovered with the "right holiday look," the "hottest tech gadget" or the "perfect" gift?
True success in life is not something you can purchase on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Real success is, however, something that can be strived for; it's absolutely worth waiting in line for and worthy of sharing with everyone you meet.
My friends, I wrote each of my Monday Morning Motivation newsletters in November with the aim to support you in increasing gratitude. This December, as we dance through the holiday season and toward the coming New Year, we'll focus on redefining what real success looks like not only for the holidays, but for life.
So this month, get ready to turn down the outside voices and listen to the one from within. Begin December with the end in mind. Regardless of your current situations professionally, relationally or personally, what does true success look like for you? Regardless of your past failures and the fears you face today, how might you utilize them to propel yourself towards even greater significance and impact? Regardless of the name for the holiday that you'll be celebrating this month, what does a truly successful version of it look like for you?
Marketers want us to utilize this season to successfully purchase their products.
But my friends, endeavor instead to utilize this season to advance from the mistakes, missteps and failures of who you were into the hope, the freedom and the gift of the person you might become.
It's not failing we should fear, but succeeding at things that don't ultimately matter. Living this truth each day would be a gift both worthy of unwrapping for yourself and absolutely perfect for giving away to others.
by Bob Perks
"What could this possibly be?" I thought to myself.
Why would someone place that sign so low? No one could read it."
You see them everywhere. Small signs promoting yard sales, cars, and business opportunities are posted on poles and lobbies of stores throughout the community. So many, in fact, that they sometimes become a blur defeating the sole purpose of getting your attention.
Not this one. This one stood out because it appeared to be a mistake.
I had just arrived at the local shopping center and as I got out of my car I noticed a small sign taped to the first pole. The reason I noticed it was because it was taped to the very bottom of the pole.
At first I thought it had fallen, but at closer look I saw it had been very securely attached with several inches of masking tape. So much tape that it crossed over the middle of the sign blocking out some of the details.
I had to look closer and to see what they were selling and who would do such a silly thing.
"Ah, a house for sale. I guess this was an approach to grab your attention," I said to a store clerk who was apparently taking a break and enjoying the fresh spring air.
"I don't think so," he replied.
"Well, why else would they have placed the sign way down here?" I asked.
Then, pointing down the walkway, he said, "That little girl is doing it. I just watched her and that lady hang this one."
Stooping down, I glanced to where he was pointing and indeed saw several more signs.
Curiosity always gets the best of me and some of the most incredible stories to share with my readers. This one was sure to fall into that category.
I slowly approached them and waited until the young child wound another yard of tape around the last sign.
"Excuse me. I don't mean to be rude, but why are you placing the house for sale signs so close to the ground?" I asked.
The woman smiled and turned to me. "She's not selling the house. Look closer," she said.
Again I stooped down adjusting my position until I could finally read the small print.
"We miss you!" I read out loud. I looked up and said, "I don't get it! You miss the house?"
"Look closer," the woman replied. "Look at the picture."
Okay, now I am really on my hands and knees. People passing by must have thought I was foolish.
"Do you see the child?" the woman asked.
"Yes, I do." I replied.
"Look to the left in front yard."
Now adjusting my glasses and squinting I said, "The dog? Do you mean the dog?"
"Yes! Look at the very bottom of the sign."
Now this was a test for sure.
"I miss you! Come home!"
I miss you come home? I didn't understand. Fighting to regain my dignity, I stood up. I must have had that confused look on my face.
"Her dog is lost," the woman explained.
"Most people would hang a lost sign with a picture of the dog on it. It would also be where people could actually see it," I said with a chuckle.
"Well, you saw it," the young girl said.
I found myself distracted for a moment. This child had the most beautiful cherub-like face accented by short curly blonde hair that danced with every movement she made.
Just seeing her sky blue eyes twinkle with the innocence of her youthful spirit made me hesitate to ask for further explanation.
Thankfully, the woman filled me in.
"I explained to her that it may be hard to find her dog. As you can see the store has many signs posted. So she said that she had a better idea. She wanted her dog to find her. Thus the picture of the house, her and the dog," she said.
"And hanging them down there..."
"You got it. So the dog could see it," she said.
Then motioning me aside the woman whispered, "It's been missing a few days now. We really thought it would be back already. I didn't want to give up until she felt she did everything she could."
My heart ached for the child as I tried to think of some way to help.
"What a great idea!" I said to her. Then I stooped down and said, "I will say a prayer. I'm going to give your mom my phone number. Call me when you and your dog are back together."
I handed the woman one of my business cards. I had to know how this ended. "By the way, what's your dog's name in case I meet him in my travels?" I asked.
"It's a girl dog," the child said. "Her name is Grace."
I looked to the woman and she confirmed.
"Yes, we named her that because that's how we got her. She was lost. 'Amazing Grace, I once was lost but now I'm found, '" the woman said smiling.
One week later my phone rang. The little girl called to tell me Grace came home.
About The Author:
Bob Perks is an inspirational author and speaker and a truly remarkable human being. You can receive his messages sent 2-3 times each week by visiting his website http://www.BobPerks.com
By Judi Light Hopson, Emma H. Hopson and Ted Hagen
There's nothing complicated about raising your children to feel good about themselves and act out healthy behaviors. It's a simple matter of taking time to think through the process.
First and foremost, psychologists say it's vital to help your child form a healthy self-image. Why? All of us formulate our decisions and actions based on what we think about ourselves. Here are some tips for directing your children:
Brag on them and point out their strong points.
Tell your son, "I like the way you clean your room," or "I've noticed you take good care of your pets."
Use a sense of humor to cover their weaknesses.
If you know your daughter has zero aptitude for learning to play piano, joke about your own failed attempt at learning the guitar.
Teach your children to master their daily routines.
This includes spending time on chores, sports, friends, and homework. A child that is confident about moving through a healthy routine daily will grow up much more well-adjusted.
"I didn't know how to feel good about myself until I was nearly 50," says a man we'll call Douglas. "My parents didn't make me do chores or follow any kind of personal schedule. I was left to roam the streets, and I nearly wound up in prison!"
Douglas went to a self-improvement class as part of his "community service" to avoid incarceration. "I needed to learn anger management," says Douglas, "but our instructor explained that we will be much less angry when we feel in control of our daily lives. I started disciplining myself, and I wound up going back to college."
Showing your children how to relate to others can enhance their emotional health as well. It's tough to feel happy and whole if everyone around you seems difficult to deal with.
Well-adjusted people deal with others in ways such as these:
They keep boundaries in place.
They verbalize what they can give or do with other people. They don't feel overwhelmed by being close to other people if they can verbalize their own limits with ease.
They learn to discern character.
Life becomes very difficult if we refuse to judge someone's character. Believing everyone is okay is a recipe for disaster.
"I come from a religious family where you're taught not to judge other people," says a woman we'll call Rhonda. "I didn't understand that this meant having mercy on others. I spent years hanging out with very undesirable people."
Rhonda says she now teaches her kids to judge others silently. She tells her kids to put enough distance between themselves and another person to feel comfortable.
"I've taught my kids not to publicly denounce someone," Rhonda emphasizes. "But, I've taught them they have the right to decide what activities they can share with someone and what they can't do with this person."
Emotionally healthy kids know they "own" their own space.
They have a right to control what goes on in their experiences.
"My kids know they need to take charge of their own thoughts, words, and actions," says Rhonda. "This is where real power lies."
Source: Jewish World Review
by Dr. Shila Mathew, MD., Food and Living Editor, Malankara World
Curried Squash Soup With Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
By Lisa Odegard
At this time of year, squash is so abundant that many of us feel compelled to
use it in as many ways as possible. What better way is there to enjoy this class
fall vegetable than in a hearty, tangy soup? The spiced seeds are a perfect
addition to the soup, but you might want to make these just to keep on hand as a
CURRIED SQUASH SOUP WITH SPICED PUMPKIN SEEDS
. 1 sweet potato (see note)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut each squash in half and discard the seeds. Brush
cut sides with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Season squash with salt and
pepper. Arrange the squash cut side down on a rack placed in a baking tray and
bake until tender, about 1 hour. Bake sweet potato until soft (about 40 min).
In a medium stockpot, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Over low heat,
sweat the onion with all spices listed above. Pour in stock and bring to a
simmer. Cook about 20 minutes.
When squash is soft, scoop out the insides of the squash and sweet potato and
throw out the skin. Then puree the sweet potato and squash in a blender, adding
milk as you are blending. Add the pureed squash to onions and hot stock. Use low
heat until soup is heated through. Do not allow soup to simmer or boil. Season
soup with salt and pepper and add more spices if necessary. Garnish soup with
creme fraiche and/or spiced pumpkin seeds, and serve with toasted peasant bread.
Note: You can substitute the sweet potato and acorn squash with 2 butternut
. 1 tbsp olive oil
Toss oil and pumpkin seeds together, then add salt and spices, and bake in oven
for 5-8 minutes at 375 F or until toasted and the spices are fragrant.
By Lisa Odegard
At this time of year, squash is so abundant that many of us feel compelled to use it in as many ways as possible. What better way is there to enjoy this class fall vegetable than in a hearty, tangy soup? The spiced seeds are a perfect addition to the soup, but you might want to make these just to keep on hand as a snack.
CURRIED SQUASH SOUP WITH SPICED PUMPKIN SEEDS
. 1 sweet potato (see note)
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut each squash in half and discard the seeds. Brush cut sides with 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Season squash with salt and pepper. Arrange the squash cut side down on a rack placed in a baking tray and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Bake sweet potato until soft (about 40 min).
In a medium stockpot, melt the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter. Over low heat, sweat the onion with all spices listed above. Pour in stock and bring to a simmer. Cook about 20 minutes.
When squash is soft, scoop out the insides of the squash and sweet potato and throw out the skin. Then puree the sweet potato and squash in a blender, adding milk as you are blending. Add the pureed squash to onions and hot stock. Use low heat until soup is heated through. Do not allow soup to simmer or boil. Season soup with salt and pepper and add more spices if necessary. Garnish soup with creme fraiche and/or spiced pumpkin seeds, and serve with toasted peasant bread.
Note: You can substitute the sweet potato and acorn squash with 2 butternut squash.
. 1 tbsp olive oil
Toss oil and pumpkin seeds together, then add salt and spices, and bake in oven for 5-8 minutes at 375 F or until toasted and the spices are fragrant.
by Lori Hatcher
I was a spiritual orphan.
Born into a physical family, I grew up in a home that had the outward trappings of religion without the life-giving breath of inward conversion. Although my sisters and I were raised with a foundational belief in God, my parents had no spiritual well to draw from as they parented. During the Vietnam and Cold War eras of the 60's and 70's, modern psychologists like Benjamin Spock claimed to be experts in child rearing, and biblical parenting went the way of breast feeding and stay-at-home moms.
Psychology was in, and the Bible was out. The culture of the day, combined with the absence of a biblical foundation, meant my parents reared me solely on the basis of whatever sounded "right." As I became a teenager, their inability to offer me a standard for right and wrong meant they were limited to "feel good" reasoning that weakened even their best advice. They taught me it was wrong to steal because it was against the law, not because stealing defrauded someone and offended a holy God. They taught me to tell the truth because lying was wrong, but couldn't substantiate exactly what made it wrong. Without biblical morality, the best relational advice they could give was to wait until I was truly in love to have sex.
When I came to know Christ as my Savior the summer before my freshman year in college, one of the first evidences of spiritual life was my desire to read God's Word. It was natural then, after my husband and I married and began a family, to want to implement the truths and principles of scripture into our parenting. We envied friends who had strong, godly parents as role models. While we both had a fairly good idea of how we didn't want to parent, we lacked the knowledge of how to parent.
James 1:5 quickly became our parenting verse: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." God also led us to a foundational passage in Deuteronomy 11 that captures the essence of Christian parenting.
On the eve of entering the Promised Land, God, through Moses, issued this charge to the Israelites. Notice God is addressing parents as he says, "I do not speak with your children, who have not known and who have not seen the chastening of the Lord your God, his greatness and his mighty hand and his outstretched arm...but your eyes have seen every great act of the Lord".
God addressed adults who had seen God's mighty hand as he freed them from slavery in Egypt, parted the Red Sea, destroyed their enemies, and provided for them in the wilderness. He was talking to those who had experienced God's salvation. It was to these individuals that God offered instructions for biblical parenting. These timeless principles are equally valuable to parents today. His advice is threefold:
1. Love God.
Godly Parenting Step #1 – Love God
The first step in godly parenting requires that we confirm our own relationship with God. Second Corinthians 13:5 encourages us to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. As in my own life, it is not enough to have been born into a moral family, been raised in church, or have made a profession of faith early in life. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, "if any (wo)man is in Christ, (s)he is a new creature." This means at the moment of salvation, a person begins to change and will continue to change (sanctification) throughout his/her life. A true believer should have a desire to read God's word, be with God's people, obey God's voice, and be a part of God's work. A believer has a sensitivity to sin and a desire to live a life that honors God. In order to be a godly parent, we must first have experienced genuine conversion.
Godly Parenting Step #2 – Keep His Commands
Unlike my upbringing, which had no biblical foundation for morality, believers have God's Word to guide us. We don't have to guess at right or wrong, test the social climate to see what behavior is acceptable, or consult secular "experts."
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). When we train and discipline our children, we can hold up God's standard for right behavior and give our children moral absolutes on which to base their decisions.
A word of caution is appropriate here. While many well-meaning Christian parents use the Word of God as a tool to train their children, they use it more like a sledge hammer than a shepherd's crook. One of our goals in parenting should be to teach our children to love the Word of God, not despise it. It is a delicate balance to present God's Word as his standard and yet not bludgeon our children with it.
It helps to keep in mind the purpose for which God gave his commandments – to guide us into all truth, to protect us from harm, and to enable us to live pure, healthy, and holy lives. He calls us to obey him because he loves us and wants what's best for us, not because he wants to spoil our fun. As we teach and train our children, we must constantly remind them of this, especially when we discipline them.
It also bears repeating that we cannot maintain a double standard for behavior. If expect our children to tell the truth, yet we cheat on our income tax, our poor example will undo our teaching. If we train them to be pure and holy, yet watch movies and television with sex, violence, and profanity, our actions will speak much louder than our words. If we instruct our children to forgive and ask for forgiveness, but harbor bitterness in our own hearts, we are like the foolish woman in Proverbs who tears down her house with her own hands. Children are very astute. They are also very sensitive to hypocrisy. One of the greatest hindrances to our children's holiness is often our own sinfulness.
Godly Parenting Step #3 – Teach Our Children
I love this final step on the path to godly parenting because it is our protection against compartmentalizing our faith. When we have built a regular habit of church attendance into your family's life, there is a tendency to relegate our Christianity to Sundays and an occasional weekday church appearance. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is to help them understand that Christianity isn't a religion, but a relationship. Relationships can't be compartmentalized; relationships spill over into every area of our lives.
It is appropriate then, that God would instruct believers to teach their children the fundamentals of the faith during the normal course of life, not just within the four walls of a church building. This is true discipleship. During Jesus' day, a disciple studied under a rabbi or other spiritual leader. The disciple didn't just show up for class for a certain number of hours each day. Instead, the student lived with the teacher. He listened to formal lectures, but he also ate, traveled, and ministered with the rabbi. Wherever the rabbi went, the disciple followed. Whatever the rabbi did, the disciple did too.
What does this look like to 21st century parents? It means involving your children in everything you do. If you are cleaning house, train them to work alongside you. If you are preparing a meal for a sick friend, allow your children to help, and take them with you when you visit. When you are having your quiet time, find an age-appropriate children's Bible and show them how to have a quiet time also.
When my children were young, I preferred to have my time of Bible reading either before they awakened or after they had gone to sleep. It minimized distractions and ensured I had quiet. I realized though, that because I had my quiet times while they were asleep, my children never saw me reading the Bible and praying. Since I wanted to demonstrate how important that was, I began having an additional (brief) quiet time after they awakened in order to model this important discipline.
When you are training your children as you do life together, it's important to talk a lot. I often assumed my children instinctively knew why I did the things I did. I thought they would witness my acts of service or self-sacrifice and realize I was choosing to do these things because of my love for God and my desire to honor and please him. That was until I heard one daughter say to the other, "Oh, Mommy will eat the burnt piece of toast. She likes it that way."
That comment was a wake-up call to be a little more verbal about what I was doing and why. In the past I had hesitated, because I didn't want to seem to be bragging to my children about the good things I was doing. Instead of just hoping they would figure it out, I began to talk to them about the motives behind my acts of service.
Whether you are a first generation Christian parent or your family's spiritual legacy goes back for generations, the principles of loving God, obeying him, and teaching your children will serve you well. May you be encouraged and challenged by God's promise to faithful parents down through the ages:
This article originally appeared in The Mother's Heart magazine. Used with permission.
About The Author:
Lori Hatcher is an author, blogger, and women's ministry speaker. A homeschool mom for 17 years, she's the author of the devotional book, 'Joy in the Journey – Encouragement for Homeschooling Moms' (available from Amazon.com). You'll find her pondering the marvelous and the mundane on her blog, Hungry for God...Starving for Time.
Source: Live It Devotional
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