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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  COUNSELING
 
Back to infancy -- they n
 
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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  DEVOTIONAL  
     
 
   
The End of the Age
  By Joshua K John  
 
A RECENT Hollywood blockbuster has the world ending in two years' time. Though very unlikely, the persuasive special-effects brought home the truth that creation isn't permanent. The film dismissed Biblical views on end times by showing the oft-used caricature of Christians; a disheveled man holding a cardboard sign that reads 'Repent -- the end is near' while 'Jesus Christ' was frequently used as a swear word.

What does Jesus, the person of Truth, who is no stranger to ridicule and rejection, have to say about the end times? How should that determine our days on earth? Should we 'eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die'? Should we live paranoid lives, perpetually anticipating our demise? Or can we live with purpose, peace, hope and even joy in spite of the grim reality around us?

In the gospel according to Matthew (Ch 24), Jesus talks about the 'Signs of the End of the Age'. After warning his disciples about deceivers, wars, famines, earthquakes, fearful rumors and persecution, He says, "This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (24:14)

The gospel that Jesus commands us to preach to all nations is the key to reform our current crisis caused by our abuse of the environment, the recession due to our greed, political instability and war rooted in our prejudice and pride and the breakdown of families due to our self-centeredness. What the world lacks is not resources, wealth, food, medicine or clever ideas, but men and women of integrity who have a vision that sees into eternity. That sees the Heavenly Father's longing for his children to be united with Him.

In a world of heart-breaking news, there is an underlying hunger to hear the good news that is full of hope and redemption. Two millennia ago, God sent His only Son Jesus from heaven to earth as a baby born of a virgin called Mary. She conceived by the Holy Spirit and not by a man and thus the seed of sin from the first man, Adam, was not passed on to Jesus. He was fully man and yet entirely God and though he was tested and tempted in every way, He lived a sinless life. He healed the sick, raised the dead and trained a dozen disciples to do even greater things.

Then he went on the cross as the pure sacrifice on behalf of the entire world's wickedness, so that whosoever trusts in His finished work is no longer condemned by their inherent sin, but instead set free from its burden and fear of death. Without Jesus, we have no access to God, who is holy and therefore cannot look at any sinner, but because of Christ in us, the impossible is made possible.

God arranged for the 'divine exchange' between us and Jesus; our weakness for Christ's strength, our wickedness for His righteousness, our sickness for His healing. Once reconciled with God, we are to no longer try to gain favor from God through good works or religious rituals. Now, we are able to obey and love God and love our neighbors because of the power of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. Our minds are renewed moment by moment as we embrace the scriptures and we become instruments of reconciliation and reformation to our families and nations.

The point is not that we theorise how the world will end or resign ourselves to a fatalistic view of life, but realize that because our days are numbered, we must make it count for the King of the Universe. For those who have placed their trust in Jesus, it matters not if the world ends tomorrow or they die tonight, because their destiny is secure in Christ. What does matter is how they steward the truth that they claim has set them free?
 
   
   
Don't be dust-conscious
  By James Chacko  
  IMAGINE being bowed over for 18 years. All you would see is the dust on the ground.

That was the predicament of the woman described in the New Testament portion of the Bible. Dust was all her eyes fell on, all the time, everywhere she went, until she became dust-conscious.

Thank God she finally saw the beautiful feet of Jesus, who brought her good news and raised her up.

Now, dust is the devil's food. The book of Genesis tells us that God cursed the devil to eat dust all the days of his life.

In Genesis, dust also represents death. The devil wants you to be like him -- to fall flat on your belly, crawl and eat dust. To eat dust is to feed on our shortcomings and lack, until we constantly feel that there is so much in our life that need clean up.

You may not be physically bowed over, but like the woman, you become dust-conscious and life every day is a struggle.

Having a dust-consciousness also affects the way you see others. You look at people's faults all the time. You point out their shortcomings and rake up their past failures. When you are dust-conscious, you find your relationships robbed of peace and joy.

And if you, like the woman, keep looking at the dust, before long, that inward position of dust-consciousness becomes so entrenched that you become the devil's food because dust is what he eats. God's Word describes Satan as being like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

If you don't want to be devoured by him, then lift your eyes above the dust! Instead of looking at your failures, look to Christ who has delivered you from every defeat. See yourself the way God sees you -- righteous and holy in Christ.

According to God's Word, you are not dust because you are not in and of the flesh -- you are in and of the Spirit.

My friend, the more you realize who you are in Christ, the more you will straighten up and walk the way God sees you -- a new creation with His authority, power and overcoming Spirit! You will no longer be dust conscious, but God's Holy Spirit conscious and live by the same!
---
The writer is the Lead Pastor at LifeBridge Worship Centre, Chandigarh and is also pursuing his Ph.D. through the Centre for Religious Studies, Punjabi University, Patiala.
 
   
   
Trust in God, not man
  By Dr Chanchal Gayen  
 
I HAVE been studying the Book of Numbers, and have received amazing insights from it. This Book gives an account of Israel's 39-year journey through the wilderness.

In Exodus, we see Israel marching out from Egypt and arriving at the wilderness of Sinai. They camped there for about two years, witnessed and participated in one of the significant events in Israel's history -- the construction of the Tabernacle -- and then moved forward.

The Israelites travelled a short while more and then reached the Wilderness of Paran. They were not far from the Promised Land. However, they made a mistake that cost them 39 years of their life.

They wanted to know more about what the future held for them and what the Promised Land was all about. According to Deut 1:22, it was not in God's plan that the Israelites spy the land and get advance information. But God gave in to their desire and allowed them to do so.

The spies' report of the land created a stir among the Israelites. They said the land was good and fertile, but the inhabitants were dangerous. They had lost their self-confidence and said, "There we saw giants; and we are like grasshoppers in our own sight" (Num 13:33). Upon hearing this, the whole nation, except for Caleb and Joshua, caused an uproar. They blamed Moses, Aaron and even God for their impending death at the hands of their enemies.

Several times, we also behave in such a manner. We tend to forget the blessings of God that we have enjoyed in the past. The nation of Israel reached the wilderness of Paran less than three years after leaving Egypt.

In such a short span of time, they witnessed God destroying the Egyptian army, parting the Red Sea and providing them meat from heaven. They saw God in the form of a pillar of fire and cloud. These incidents were fresh in their memory. Yet, they grumbled when the spies gave an unfavorable report. Their faith in God vanished. At times, when we anticipate trouble, we kick around, instead of trusting in God.

Not only did the Israelites lack faith, but they also questioned God's integrity. God brought them out from Egypt with the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey. He prepared them socially and spiritually by setting down laws.

The purpose of these laws was to prepare them to enter the Promised Land as representatives of the living God and to be witnesses to those who did not know Him. However, when the nation of Israel expressed their fears about the inhabitants of the Promised Land, they were actually asking, "Is God really going to give us that land?" They forgot that they had managed to escape from Egypt, not because of their strength, but God's.

We should not behave like the Israelites. Life is not a bed of roses. There will be dark days. The Psalmist says, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me." (Ps. 23:5).

The Psalmist expected a walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but was confident of the Lord's presence with him. Let us face all odds, remembering the great things the Lord has done for us in the past.
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The writer is Associate Professor and Dean of Men at Spicer Memorial College, Pune
 
   
   
God's ways
  By Peterson  
  Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. -- Romans 12:10

SOON after her family left for the evening, Carol started to think that her hospital room must be the loneliest place in the world.

Nighttime had fallen, her fears about her illness were back, and she felt overwhelming despair as she lay there alone.

Closing her eyes, she began to talk to God: "O Lord, I know I am not really alone. You are here with me. Please calm my heart and give me peace. Let me feel Your arms around me, holding me."

As she prayed, Carol felt her fears beginning to subside. And when she opened her eyes, she looked up to see the warm, sparkling eyes of her friend Marge, who reached out to encircle her in a big hug. Carol felt as if God Himself were holding her tightly.

God often uses fellow believers to show us His love. "We, being many, are one body in Christ... Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them" (Rom. 12:5-6).

We serve others "with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 4:11).

When we show love and compassion in simple, practical ways, we are a part of God's ministry to His people.

Teach me to love, this is my prayer -- May the compassion of Thy heart I share;
Ready a cup of water to give,
May I unselfishly for others live.

We show our love for God when we love His family.
 
   
   
Set an example
  By P. Smith  
  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8 NRSV Bible)

WE have a greater burden as God's people than anyone else on earth. We must always lift up a higher standard of living and loving.

In one of Garfield's cartoons he is shown resting droopy-eyed in his bed thinking to himself: "One of my pet peeves," he says to himself, "is people who never finish what they start." As he cracks a knowing smile, he says, "I do not happen to be one of those people." The last frame shows him under the bed covers saying, "My philosophy is, 'Never start anything.'"

"Never start anything" cannot be our philosophy as God's people. You see, we must care about our world because God cares. We must care about people because God cares. We must care about those in need because God cares. God cared enough about us to send a savior Jesus Christ. We must care too. We must care enough to make our church and community stronger. What is God calling you to do? Are you being called to help tutor a child struggling in with his or her education? Are you being called to be a Sunday School teacher? Are you being called to organize a neighborhood watch program or cleanup day? If you and I don't do it, who will? God is counting on you and me. We also can count on God to give us the resources we need to accomplish God's will.
 
   
   
Don't belittle others
  By Mike Hoskins  
  I SPENT some time going through my notebook and found some points I wanted to share from a sermon from Psalm 28.

The church can be called many things. The longer I live the more and more it reminds me of a hospital. It's not so much for the physically injured though many of them come as well. But for the world that does not know Christ and is struggling, often desperately, to find meaning or hope and help the church should be the last stop in that search. The world should have to look not further than the mercy, forgiveness and salvation offered by the church. By the way -- the church is not a building, but a body of believers in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The church building is often where this help is dispensed. But it is equally likely to be found at a neighbor's house or in a cubicle in an office building, or on a bus, car or train.

There is no Christian that has not be slandered in an attempt to number them with the wicked. In Psalm 28 David is being maligned and belittled. He asks God who David trusts to see the reality clearly. He goes to God first. Anyone can speak ill of another. It takes very little talent, does not require research of any type and does not have to rely on the truth -- and often is the furthest thing from the truth. At its worst it will contain a small grain of truth that connect all the rest of the false statements together.

None of us is perfect. We need only be reminded of the woman caught in adultery that was dragged to Jesus. Jesus did not condemn the woman even though she was apparently guilty, possibly entrapped by those who accused her. What the Lord did was give leave for the person who was without sin to throw the first stone at the woman. That first stone never came. Instead one-by-one the group dispersed until she was left with Jesus. Even then Jesus did not condemn her but instructed the woman to go and sin no more. It was another chance -- quite literally a new lease on life.

The world should know that we are Christians -- people who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and aspire to the life He lived -- by the love that we have one for another. Jesus said that He would draw all mankind to Himself. If we are the ambassadors that those who are drawn to Jesus will meet, what will their response be? Will they meet a welcome with understanding and open arms regardless of their journey?

We need to put away this hurtful way of speaking and make a habit of speaking with mercy and grace. They are the things we were given at the cross. Jesus knew exactly who we were and the sins we would commit, and He died in our place in spite that that knowledge. He would have been right to have said that we were worthy of eternal separation from God -- spiritual death, the second death. But He allowed those nails to pierce His hands and feet, and the thorns to dig into His head, and the spear into His side -- for each one of us.

Learn and speak mercy and grace.
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The writer can be reached at mhoskins@cfdevotionals.org
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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