Articles

Faith vs Science - Benjamin Mathew

Aug 25,2017

Back in school, Science was always an interesting subject, especially when you get a chance to go to the labs and try out all the equipment. But what was more awesome was doing the experiment and seeing what you learnt in theory come to life. There was always some sort of satisfaction when you could see what you learned in your classes actually being proved. That and being able to group up with your friends and avoid those long lectures of your teachers!

Science has been a big part of what the world has become today. Many say that the advancements in technology and other walks of life were because of the amount of resources and time being spent in this discipline. Mistakes have led to discoveries and discoveries have led to mistakes. Science has done a lot to and for human beings. But when it comes down to Christianity and the Bible, one must ask – Do we really need Science in Christianity?

Many a times we Christians like to use Science as a way to prove to others why our God is the one true God. Or maybe use it to be in admiration of what God has done. Or try and understand what God has done, through our minds. But let us look more deeply into our spiritual journey. Let us start from the beginning. Not when we are born, but born again. We see John 3 speaking about our new birth but nothing explains it better than the 16th verse of the chapter. Especially, the part that says “…whoever believes…”. Our first footsteps begin with faith. Without faith, we would not be where we are at the moment. And none of us can deny that.

The whole Bible is solely based on faith. Faith does not require much of a person apart from the believing element. You don’t need to be smart, a hundred per cent healthy or be a certain number of years old to have faith. But when it comes to Science, there is a certain kind of way you have to think. To understand Science, we have to use something known as rational thinking.

Rational thinking, as someone once defined it, is the art of arriving at true beliefs. Rational thinkers are people, who are curious and question everything that happens. And this is an important quality when it comes to progressing forward in the field of Science. But we sometimes forget an important thing. We need to know our epistemic limitations. Trying to grasp knowledge fully is beyond the limits of our minds. Everything in this world comes from God. The knowledge of the wisest man on Earth would be infinitesimal when compared to the vast depth and boundless expansion of God’s knowledge. Which is why trying to figure out God, and what He has done and is going to do, by using our brains, is not a great idea.

The problem with Science when it comes to Christianity is, man tries to think in his ways and many a time, ends up putting an uncontainable God in a box. But faith on the other hand, is like a box with no walls. Take for example the case for creation. We can see many Christians with scientific backgrounds come to conclusions on the workings of how God created everything. Some people believe in the gap theory, some believe in theistic evolution, some in young age Earth. You come up with some scientific proof, add a few biblical verses here and there and voila, you can come up with a Christian theory. This is not to show you which theory might be right or wrong. It is just to point out that by doing this sort of thing we begin to miss the whole point of the matter. And that is, God created the Heavens and the Earth. End of story (Actually in this case, it was the beginning :p). If it was important for us to know how, He would have revealed it to us. Creation is just one of many topics where believers of Christ may disagree because of Science. Rational thinking has been an important contributor in creating rifts among us believers.

Another area where people try to justify the need of Science in the realm of faith is in using it as a tool to bring people to Christ. We hear stories of how Atheists have come to faith in Christ through Science but we must remember that this may not work all the time. As mentioned earlier, faith is the requirement for entering into God’s kingdom. People who come to God through Science and its proofs might face a few issues when they come across certain areas in the Bible which Science will not be able to prove. Think back to the parable of the sower, to the seed that fell on the rocks. Since it had no deep firm roots, it withered away and died. We have to be deep rooted in the Word of God, not Science.

I believe one of the most important ways God uses to reach out to people is our lives. Our walk with the Lord should be a vivid and real-time display of God’s presence to them (1 Tim 4:12). If people don’t see Jesus through our lives, is there a point in trying to win them over? We live by faith in Christ, not proof (Gal 2:20). The Bible is all about faith. Can Science explain how we can move mountains (Matt 17:20)? We read of Jesus constantly saying to one or the other person in the gospels, “You are healed or forgiven because of your faith.”

Our Christian life is like running a race. When an athlete is running a race, he does not look at how many people are watching him or try to figure out how many different muscles he is using to run. His eyes are on the finish line. We too must look only at our finish line, and aim to finish what God wants us to do (2 Tim 4:7).

I like that Science has been able to prove many things in the Bible and that's really good. But I have always been in admiration of what God has done, because I believe that He did it, not because Science proved it.

Knowing God begins with faith, not proof. So do we really need Science in our spiritual walk?

 



Worry Away Your Worries - Benjamin Mathew

Aug 24,2017

Living all these years and running life like a race, I know hurdles are bound to come up and so they have, almost every meter or so. And that has given me a lot of opportunities to fall into a sea of doubt and swim in it for hours with no real direction. Facing my worries was like walking into a hurricane where even the hope of a little sunshine in the eye of the hurricane was against all odds. Questions like, “Am I doing it right?”, “What will he think?”, “Is this good enough?” flood into my head, drowning me in doubt and fear.

We’ve all been there in some way or the other. Maybe it’s for a second or even a lifetime that doubt creeps up slowly in our minds and makes itself at home. Anytime we see something not going according to plan, the alarm bells begin to ring in our heads. We try and do something about it, but the fix is usually temporary. Sooner or later worry just comes back, like a ball thrown up in air. But that is the very nature of humans. However, it’s not okay to justify yourself by saying that. Because we aren’t just any humans. We’re special humans.

When we accepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord, it was not us who were living but Christ living in us (Gal 2:20). Now, we are separated from that ‘normal’ crowd. We are part of something unique. And if you’re not, it’s high time you become a part of it. The first thing we should realize is, we can’t do anything without Christ. Remember, not I but Christ. But even knowing that, we still face this problem of doubt.

If we dig deep enough, we can come to the root of this problem. And that is unbelief. It’s a harsh reality but we have to come to that realization if we want to see change. We keep saying we trust in God, but there’s always a small part that doesn’t. And like a weed, it grows and poisons the remaining trust that we have. It is time that we pull out this weed. Because when Christ comes to stay, there is no space for worry.

Worrying messes with our minds. We don’t think straight. And often make situations worse. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”. God knows all about our worries but when we come to God with our worries, it shows Him that we are choosing to trust in Him and not in ourselves. He does not want us to suffer unnecessarily. Matthew 11:28-30 says, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” What we need is rest in God. The peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard our hearts and mind (Phil 4:7).

A friend of mine was telling me about his two birds and how each day they go to their food bowl knowing that there will be food and water. They don’t save some of the food for the next day because they know that tomorrow God will provide for them (Matt 6:26). Aren’t we smarter than the birds? If they can put their trust in God, shouldn’t we? Especially when we mean more to God.

Another reason we shouldn’t be worrying is for the sake of the people around us, both the believers and unbelievers. We are surrounded by them. We see in the Bible how important it is to encourage our fellow brothers in Christ. But if we are full of anxiety and unbelief, how encouraging can we be to them? Wouldn’t they just look at us as people who aren’t strong in their faith? Take the example of David in 1 Samuel 17. The whole of Israel was trembling with fear at the sight of Goliath. Their own king, Saul, wasn’t doing anything. But David knew one thing – Nothing can stand against God. He was never worried about how big Goliath was. He believed in God. And it was through this strong faith that the Israelites were encouraged and in the end, were victorious over the Philistines.

Now, when we take the decision to follow Jesus, we attain a Christian passport. Everywhere we go, we are under the scanner of the whole world. All the unbelievers are watching us diligently under the microscope, waiting for us to make a wrong move. And as ambassadors of Christ, we have the duty of showing them who Jesus is, through our lives. And if we are to represent truly someone who was able to sleep with His head on a cushion as a storm raged the seas, worrying is the last thing we should be doing.

Many times the world tells us that worrying is good. Sometimes, they say, worrying can be motivating in a way. It might make you put in some extra effort. Or it softens the blow when something bad happens. Maybe all that’s true. But we have to understand something. Every single thing that we do, we do to glorify God. We don’t need worry to motivate us when our aim is to glorify God. The problem when we worry is, the focus is on us and how we are going to be affected (self-centered). We should learn to live a God-centered life and keep the focus on God. Because, when we keep our eyes on Jesus, we will be able to walk on the waters and no matter how high the waves of doubt and fear are, they will not be able to drown us.

So the next time you start worrying, STOP!

 



Making Melody in my Heart - Lucy Thomas

Apr 19,2017

The Bible has a theme of music recurring throughout. Both in the Old and New Testaments, music was used to praise, encourage, repent, and calm.

The first mention of human music in the Bible is in Genesis 4, where Lamech’s son Jabal became the “father of all who play the harp and flute”. However, music existed before the creation of man, with the song of the angels in praise of God. Thus it started within the first ten generations of human history. The legacy continued in Israel, with David writing the longest book of songs, the Psalms, which the Jews have sung and chanted for hundreds for years. The New Testament contains gems of song, such as Mary’s “Magnificat”, the song of the angels at Jesus’ birth, and the song of Zacharias. Paul and Silas sang through the night in prison, till the Lord delivered them… And the music continues... “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart”, Ephesians 5:19.

But what is music all about?

1.      Music bypasses the mind and goes directly to the heart.

Sometimes we wonder what is special about music. What is there about a varying range of harmonic frequencies that can make a human being laugh and cry, feel sad or happy, uplifted or depressed? Music is intertwined with our emotions - it does not speak to our mind but pierces the heart. We are not given the privilege of picking and choosing what makes an impression on us in the field of music, using our reasoning powers. Instead, music has power to control the emotions, and the musician can influence his audience either for good or bad.

It is said that songs in a major key tend to make one feel “happy” and those in a minor key induce “sad feelings”. Be that as it may, one cannot deny that music is a universal language without words - any person in the world can understand the meaning of music in any culture.

2.      This property of music can be used for the glory of God or misused to our danger.

Since music has such power to control us without traveling via the conscious sense, what we listen to determines where our emotions are led. If we choose wisely to listen only to music which seeks to bring us into harmony with God, the music can help our hearts draw closer to God through an emotionally charged but true understanding of His Word. However, if we choose to give our emotions a free run by experimenting with music that we know is not from God, it can turn against us, and draw us beyond the point of return.

Music has a strong influence on the growth of a child in a Christian family. A baby may not understand when his mother tells him about Christ in infancy, but remembers hearing her sing “Jesus Loves Me”.

3.      Creating music is a talent that not all are given, but all can enjoy listening to it in some form.

God has given some the talent and the means to create music. Having a good voice, or even hearing, is not necessary, as Beethoven’s famous example tells us. But importantly, music was created so that all could enjoy the means of drawing close to God through it, using body, soul, and spirit in deep communion - God means all his creatures to praise Him in song.

Notably, the act of singing does not involve the conscious use of the mind. God created us to commune with Him as naturally as we breathe, hence singing is a way to praise Him constantly without having to formulate thoughts about it.

4.      We should sing without ceasing - it is not optional or based on circumstances.

Paul says “give thanks in all circumstances”, a principle that he lived out when imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16). “But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them...”

The prisoners, who probably had not heard music for many a day, must have enjoyed this impromptu concert all night. Paul and Silas gladdened their hearts, spoke to their spirits, and brought them closer to their God. Significantly, although we hear nothing of the prisoners later, when the jail was opened, not one tried to escape. Can we lay this at the feet of the apostles’ holy singing?

This isn’t something that comes in our nature, or our disposition. We may be optimistic, but life can bring down the merriest person. But with Christ in our hearts, the joy comes from within and above, and cannot be stopped by any human force.

“No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?”

          -  Robert Wadsworth Lowry

5.      Singing implies unity and fellowship within the Church.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father…” (Ephesians 5:18, 19)

All over the Bible, we see pictures of God’s people praising Him as a congregation, lifting up their thanksgiving together. Such singing is not choral singing, a performance meant to please a human audience, but a community of people lifting their voices in praise, honor of their Creator alone, and to bless and encourage each other. The purpose of song is clearly brought out - it is to bring spiritual teaching and instruction, with spiritual wisdom, clothed in godly and well-chosen words of scripture or personal experience, to our brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as to express humble gratitude for the gift of God’s love in Jesus Christ, who is our leader, our savior, and our example in Christian life. Singing is thus clearly a result of being filled with the Spirit, which means being led by the Spirit of God in our daily lives and occupations to such an extent that our thoughts, deeds, and words are completely and unselfconsciously under his leading and influence. In other words, only a true Christian can sing a song of true praise, renewal, and thankfulness from his heart (not just his emotions) before his Lord and God.

A word here about using Christian music as a floor attraction: the message of the gospel is a radical one, speaking death to the flesh. A form of music which draws attention to the singer, the musician, and the ambience, is unlikely to meet the approval of the Lord who said:” The things that are highly esteemed among men are abomination before God.” Such music tends to pull the singers and players into becoming crowd-pleasers rather than God’s servants. Compromise often occurs in the way they act, they dress, they promote their shows and their particular music band or group, count their profits and the attendance at their shows, and in the way that they link their successful performance with the spread of the “gospel”. We would urge all musicians who are Christians to remember that God’s sons do not serve him for their livelihood or their profit but for the extension of his kingdom, for his delight and glory. Only a pure form of spiritual worship through song fulfills the divine intention behind the creation of this great art form.

6.      Being a musician is a responsibility.

With great power comes great responsibility. A musician can influence his audience for good or for bad by providing powerful instruction through song, bypassing their reason. For this very cause, more will be asked of him if he leads them astray. As Christians, we have an obligation to sing only “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise”.

God’s musicians shape and lead God’s music in the human realm, but they also freely enjoy congregational praise and let all alike enjoy the great privilege of praising God with their voices without discrimination and without distraction. The good singers and players should sing loud and clear, and use their instruments, in such a way that non-singers can also join in and warble tunelessly without causing disturbance, but without feeling left out or restricted either.

What about listening to music?

Nowadays, it is possible to listen to any music anywhere with the advent of YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, etc. Christian music has become an industry, for the most part. Yet there are still some artists who are true at heart, stay low-profile, and seek to encourage with their music. We are not called to judge others, but we cannot listen with a clear conscience to the praise of God sung by those we know are violating His commands.

We can all become experts in the field of music - but this brings danger with it. Inherent is the danger of the lyrics, which we tend to pass over while enjoying the beauty of the music. More than that, virtuoso performances of various Christian songs on musical instruments can lead to an addiction to listening to them, which is not linked to any spiritual experience in itself. The pleasure itself is innocent if recognized as such, and used only as a form of recreation for a limited period of time. The danger is in thinking that one is enjoying time with the Lord or growing spiritually while doing this, and justifying one’s addiction. This can cause us to compromise our Christian integrity.

Again, it is a perhaps too well-known fact that Christian songs are available for free and illegal download online, just like all other songs. As Christians, we are forbidden to steal, and the ease of Internet use does not blur the lines between what is and isn’t ours to take.

Using music for evangelism

Many argue that music is a powerful tool to attract non-believers to Christ. While the Bible is silent on the use of music in evangelism, it does not specifically forbid it. However, music attracts by playing on one’s emotions, and is it our goal to bring a person to Christ under the sway of his feelings? Such a faith would be poor and unfounded, like the seed that fell on rocky ground and sprouted quickly, yet had no deep roots to let it grow well.

Yet music may help greatly to prepare the ground for the reception of the gospel, taming unruly emotions and thoughts, recalling better aspirations and hopes of more innocent days, and ushering in new hopes and longings. Such a heart may be more ready to receive with meekness the implanted word and bear fruit to salvation. D L Moody and many other evangelists used godly and spiritually-led singers like Ira D Sankey to sing the great songs of God’s longing and redemptive love, such as the song of “The Ninety and Nine”, or “Just as I am.” The gospel may be shared through carefully composed songs and hymns sung with appropriate reverence and holy desire for people to come to the Lord. Yet it is the word of God, not the music that is the seed of life, which begets eternal life in the one who hears and receives it with faith. The emphasis must always be on letting that word be heard and understood, and kept in the heart without loss. 

 



Theory of Happiness - Aishwarya Shiny

Jan 25,2017

Happiness…one of the most beautiful words I’ve ever heard. People almost lead a nomadic life in the “Pursuit of Happiness”. People eat, dance, travel, sing, read, play...a lot more, and they do these because they want to be happy (forever). The search never ends, because “forever” happiness is never found in any of these earthly elements. Truly, I am a victim of this pursuit of earthly happiness.

Twenty-one years of my life are “forever” gone in this Hide and Seek game. I didn’t realize that my “real” or “forever” happiness is hiding somewhere. I always think that I’ve finally found it at some peculiar moment. But, I am always “forever” wrong. Because I’ve always explored in the darkness (scariest word)…but not in “LIGHT”. I did think I am always in Light...But it took me almost one-fourth of my life to realize that light within me is “darkness”.

So what exactly is Light?...search(again)…If you Google this word, the first result would be exactly like this, ‘Electromagnetic Radiation of any wavelength that travels in a vacuum with a speed of about 186,281 miles per second.’ Not a happy answer. But finally I got the answer through a poster…It says “You Lord are my Lamp, You turn my Darkness into “Light”.” 2 Samuel 22:29. And John 14:6 says “I am the “way” and the truth and the life”. Light…Way…Not so clear to me…Search (again)…At last “Take Delight in me”. It makes perfect sense now. Light, Way and Happiness…I figured it out, ”God is my light and my way to eternal Happiness”.

In the real worldview Happiness is not forever by itself, but in GOD it is real, absolute, true, eternal and “forever” happiest Happiness. So, what exactly is happiness?

I phrased Happiness into a single Equation with three variables. 

HAPPINESS = LOVE + HOPE + FAITH

Love God, hope in Him, put your faith in Him. You do this, you get all the joy (forever).

Faith is having ‘strong Trust’ in GOD. To be more precise ‘Believe’. People often get confused faith with wishful thinking. Wishful thinking is unrealistic. Faith always looks at the things honestly and squarely, and believes. Wishful thinking says, ”Maybe we’ll win a sweepstakes so I can go to college.” Faith says, “If I don’t get a scholarship, I’ll work to put myself through.” The person with faith sees the difficulties but also clearly sees God.

“Faith, it does not make things easy, it makes them possible.” Luke 1:37

Hope is anticipation of what God has already promised and is therefore as good as here. Hope is built on faith and its fulfilment is unseen at the moment of hope.

“But the hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” Romans 8:24-25.

Faith and Hope are interconnected. Let’s look into this again. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be .” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead. Since he was about a hundred years old, and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave “Glory“ to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.“ Romans 4:18-21.

What this means is that having hope and faith doesn’t mean to give up common sense and believe everything. Accept the facts and face the consequences. But be strengthened in his faith. His promises are never torn.

Finally, Love is the key to understanding God and the life God wants you to live, here on the earth.

“God is Love,” says 1 John 4-8.

God loves us very dearly, He sent His only Son to be sacrificed on behalf of each one of us. We people are too selfish - we squander all our love on earthly things and we do not return God His love. What it is like to feel that your love is ignored?” Suppose you love your parents so much, but what if they don’t love you back? It is unbearable. It is not easy to accept. What need I say then about God’s love which is unrequited and unconditional? Start loving him and you would be never left alone. Your Happiness would be an infinite set that is not measurable.

“‘Love’ is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always ’Trusts’, always ‘Hopes’, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

God is love. God’s love to us is exactly and precisely of this nature. God never fails us. But there is something we have to be careful about. Love is always glued together with Faith and hope. Love of God is always a response to his great and whole-hearted love. It makes us trust and obey him despite normal human fears and doubts, because one who loves God has realized that He is absolutely faithful and does not lie.

“…If I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2-3.

But in these three expressions Love is the greatest. “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

“You are loved FOREVER” - Romans 8:38-39.

So God is with you forever through Jesus Christ, and forever is your happiness.

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” Romans 15:13.

I am in the most beautiful journey of “Forever” happiness. A journey with rich love, faith and hope. On a ride with the God, whose love endures forever, in control. Give it a Try!

 



Boasting in our Righteousness - Kaushik Nagarajan

Jan 20,2017

“Why does he always arrive late to the meetings? I’m always on time.”
“I heard he doesn’t even spend 15 minutes for quiet time! Yeah, I devote half an hour every morning for it.”
“Oh man, it’s so hard for me to be a true Christian in the campus. Look at the carnal lifestyle of even the so-called believers. Why can’t they just be godly and disciplined like me!”

Doesn’t it just annoy us when we are able to follow Christ so well, while our dear friends are just so unwilling to lead a righteous life and are lagging a few miles behind us in the Christian race to purity!

STOP!

There’s something wrong with this approach of ours. Every time we compare ourselves with others and look down on them for their failures and flaws, we are simultaneously placing ourselves on the pedestal and awarding ourselves for our righteousness. Remember the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector? (Luke 8:9-14)

But what does the Bible say about righteousness?
Jesus tells in Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
So how does our righteousness stack up against God’s standards?
We read in Romans 3:10-11 that, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”  In Isaiah 64:6 we find that, “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.”
So we simply can’t congratulate ourselves on being righteous as long as our own heart is opposed to God - such righteousness is filthy in God’s sight. And the truth is that even as believers our heart is still in itself an enemy of God. It is only in Christ that we can experience a new heart and a new mind - one which is not developed by us but by his Spirit.

But there is another form of righteousness, mentioned in Romans 3:21-22, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”
When any man repents and puts his faith solely on Jesus Christ as Lord, he is made a new creation and God clothes him with Christ’s righteousness.

Now as believers, we already know all of this. But in our everyday exchanges with others, if we are still being too critical of others and frequently compare others with our exalted state of purity, we have not let the truth of God’s imputed righteousness become a reality in our lives. We can never help or encourage another person in his personal faith-walk if we still carry around this self-righteous attitude.

Ephesians 2:8 says, “ For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,  not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Say you got a really expensive pen as a gift. Now while in a meeting a friend notices the pen and praises it. Do you feel proud? Yes, some people do, no doubt, because they have something that most others would give a good deal to have. But the truth is that you didn’t earn it, and you wouldn’t have been able to afford it. It was gifted to you! It is the same with Christ’s righteousness.

Whenever a believer gloats in his righteousness, he is showing that he is living by his own righteousness, attained by him and not obtained from God.

If we have received it by grace, how dare we boast in it!

Let this perspective change the way we see, talk and interact with our dear brothers.

 

 



The Son shone like the Sun - Johann Koshy

Sep 26,2016

You must have guessed it from the title, I’m referring to the transfiguration story. I intend to draw some parallels between that account and the Church of the day.

The account begins with Jesus taking the “inner circle” of disciples up that mount. Matthew goes on record to describe that it was a high mountain. They climbed up that mountain and I imagine they must have been tired by the time they reached the peak. They were at a secluded place away from the busy world and all its happenings. At this moment something miraculous occurred. Jesus was transfigured. Jesus was completely transformed into a heavenly glorified form. Changed completely from His human form. He had become manifestly divine. The whole experience had turned supernatural. And here is where I want to draw the first parallel. God intends that the church today be comprised of a set of people who are innately different from the world. Completely transformed by the supernatural regenerative work of God. The transfiguration could not be explained in human physical terms. It was beyond the human realm of understanding. This is the kind of change that occurs in a human being when he is born again. As Paul says in the letter to the Corinthians “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” He replaces a heart of stone with a heart of flesh and puts in us His Spirit. We are transformed! Born Again! The book of Acts records many such transformations in the early church and probably the most notable of all is that of Paul. The light of the Lord transformed a persecutor of the church into a bearer of the cross of Christ. The biggest miracle in the life of any believer is the transformation from being an enemy of God to a son of God. What more could we ask for than having peace with the Almighty?!

Moving on in the transfiguration account, it must have been an overwhelming experience for the disciples. The Lord stood before them with His face shining as the Sun. This description really amazes me. The Sun is an exhibition of glory. It provides light for all of the earth and the rest of the solar system. Life wouldn’t exist without it. The glory of the Sun is incomparable to anything on our planet. It is hotter, brighter and bigger than anything here on earth. In the life of Jesus, His glory is revealed in his Holiness. Holiness simply means unique or being set apart. Jesus Christ is incomparable to anyone we know. He is perfectly unique and matchless in all His attributes. Holiness is the expression of the glory of God. God desires that we as the church of the day would be a reflection of this glory. In these end times, we see darkness and despair, death and destruction. More people have been killed in the last century alone than the rest put together. Faith in God is being despised. Faith is being termed as something for the weak and the new age movements question the basis for an absolute morality. Such is the time we live in. The Spirit of God has entrusted His church with the glorious ministry of righteousness in this corrupt and perverted world. And to this end He has set us apart as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a special possession, called out of darkness into His marvellous light; as Peter describes the church. Where there is light, darkness cannot exist. In 2nd Corinthians 3:18 we read Paul admonishing the church: “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” This glory of God intensifies in our life as we begin to attain the heights of holiness. Paul talks of the glory as ever increasing. The sanctifying work of God in the church is the fuel for this ever increasing Glory. This is the very heart of God, that His people would be holy just as He is holy.

As we continue ahead, we see Peter and the disciples awestruck by all that had happened around them. And Peter being the sanguine that he was, began to speak of what he felt was relevant. I imagine Peter must have been pretty proud to witness this and wanted to score some brownie points in front of heroes of faith, like Elijah and Moses. Well, there were more shocks in store for Peter. The gospel writers says that as Peter was speaking, a proclamation was made from heaven by God the Father. The proclamation included the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and a command to obey him. I see another parallel in what was spoken by Father God. If we examine it closely, the content of what the Father revealed is what we are asked to preach to the world. This is the very same commission given to the church, to go unto all people and proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God and whoever puts his faith in him shall have eternal life. It is also important to note the Father commanding the disciples to “Listen to Him”. This in simple terms means obey Him. Faith and obedience can’t be separated. The church of today has forgotten this great command. We are content in saying we have faith but when it comes to obedience, we are on the back foot. Well, the test for what we call faith is the measure of our obedience. And so the church is called to be obedient to this great commission and to lead the sons of disobedience, who are controlled by the prince of the power of the air, into sons of the living God. Let us examine how true we have been to this calling.

Carrying on we see that Peter and disciples were terrified of hearing this Voice. They fell prostrate in fear. In this moment of fear and shock, we read of the healing calming touch of Jesus their Lord. He was close to them and the touch of Christ must have brought such comfort to them. We are as the church are also called to this purpose. In this broken and fragmented world, the church is called to extend its arm with the healing touch of Jesus.

I experienced this healing touch from the church when I was growing up in the Island of Bahrain. My father was diagnosed with cancer and my family had to leave the island back to India for his treatment. During this time, I saw the church pull together as a unit and stretch out its arm to support us. There was fervent prayer and the church encouraged us to be strong in our faith and to hold onto Christ. The prayer of the church brought deliverance and my father began to recover. Later on, while my father was still recovering in India, I had to spend a few months alone, without my family, in Bahrain due to my education. In those months, even though I was without my family, I had many fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. I was taken care of as their own child. Truly God had extended his healing touch through the church to comfort me and my family in our pain and distress. The church had demonstrated what Paul spoke of regarding the body of Christ: “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together”.

There is another set of people who require this healing touch and those are the people outside the church. I saw more of the healing touch in the church I attended at Calicut where I was placed for four years during my Engineering studies. I witnessed the church reach out to the community, especially the poor and downtrodden, through hospital and orphanage visits, prayer and financial aid. Those impacted felt that calming touch of Christ that Peter and the disciples felt on the mount of transfiguration. As the days pass by and the world groans for some relief from the pain and anguish, the church must rush into action both in the lives of those within the body of Christ and those outside of it. This expression of the love of Christ is of prime importance in leading one to know His love.

In conclusion, as the famous apologist Ravi Zacharias says “You’ll never get to a person’s soul until you understand their hurts”. May the Lord who called us out as His Church, give us the grace to display His glory through the good news of salvation and the healing touch of Christ.

 



Our First Love - Benjamin Mathew

Sep 25,2016

Revelation 2:4 “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Five years ago, when I got my mobile, I used to be very careful with it. I would make sure not to lose it. Avoid scratches, always placing it in the middle of the table to prevent it from falling off the edge. I treated it like a new-born baby. In other words, I loved my mobile. But now, whenever I walk into my room, I just throw my mobile towards the bed, without even an ounce of worry wondering whether it makes it or falls to the ground. How did the love that I have for it five years ago just fizzle out?

Let’s take this physical representation and see if we can use it as a spiritual dynamic in our lives. Oddly enough, this is what happens to a lot of us without us even realising it. We are either born into this “Christian Life” at the very beginning of our lives or we are introduced to it later once we are matured enough to realise that all other beliefs are misleading. This Christian belief of ours starts with the realization that, it is God who loves us to a vast extent, a magnitude which we are incapable of emulating. But none the less, we still love Him. But just like the mobile, after a while, we take this love relationship that we have with the Great I Am for granted.

In Revelation 2:4 we see God not satisfied with the quality of love from the Church of Ephesus. Just a few verses above, we see Him praising them for being strong in both the doctrine and ministry work. But then He tells them that they have left their first love. Let us relate ourselves to those people in Ephesus. Think back to the time when we first came to the Lord, the day we were born again. The day our love life began. That impetuous passion, that fervour of a new convert, is it still of the same grandiosity?

In this two-way relationship, God has and will always love us. So the problem originates from our side of the spectrum. It is us who begin to distance ourselves from God. As we walk down the paths of righteousness, we slowly tend to deviate from it. No matter how much we do to serve Him, we cannot walk with God unless we love Him. Take the example of the mobile. I might not love it as much, but I still use it to call text and store details. In the same way, I can go to church regularly, serve Him, go into ministry, but that doesn’t show that I love God.

All this is not good enough for God. He is not interested in our actions as much as wanting a relationship with us. As C. S. Lewis put it, “God doesn’t want something from us. He simply wants us”. This was the mistake Saul made, which we see in 1 Samuel 15. Saul thought it would be good to sacrifice to the Lord. But if he had really loved God, he would have known to listen to and obey Him. We slowly start to distance ourselves when we, little by little, start replacing God with “me”. Instead of being God-centred we have become self-centred. The most important commandment is to love God with all our heart. How can we do that when we don’t want to let go of ourselves?

Our goal should be to develop a close relationship with God. And the only way we can accomplish that is by listening to Him, obeying Him, worshiping Him at all times. Praying to Him, meditating and studying the Word are all important. True fellowship with the children of God is also vital. God has given us the Holy Spirit as our counsellor. We are now able to have an intimate and personal relationship with Him. But to enjoy this in truth, that has to be our true desire.

To love God is to respond to his love in total faith and trust, willingly putting Him ahead of all else and before ourselves. But we must realise that it is not by our efforts that we can love God or anyone for that matter. It is only because of God’s love for us that we are able to love Him. And it is only through His love that we are able to love others. So let us renew ourselves, with a zeal for Christ, yearning for His friendship, craving for a connection, desiring a timeless relationship and fall in love with Him once again. Our first and only love.

 



Encourage One Another - Lucy Thomas

Aug 15,2016

Encouragement is an essential part of any believer’s life. The Word commands us to encourage and build each other up (I Thessalonians 5:11). But the concept of encouragement is either overlooked or misunderstood. These misconceptions often wreak havoc in the lives of believers. But encouragement, in the right sense, can be a mighty tool to help fellow Christians be fruitful.

The word “encouragement” stems from the root words “en” meaning to make, or put in, and “corage” meaning courage – to make strong, or put in courage.

In Numbers 13, we read the story of the twelve spies who went out to survey the land of Canaan. Of these, ten brought utter “discouragement” to the people of Israel while only two spoke words of truth and reality. Such words bring courage. The results of discouragement were disastrous as the people of Israel lost their only chance to enter into the Promised Land.

True encouragement brings about a positive attitude leading to action in faith, while discouragement always leads to a forfeit of God’s blessings promised to those who believe.

To be true encouragers, we need to know what the Bible says about it.

1.      Encouragement does not mean flattery.

Ephesians 4:15 says “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” Encouragement does not mean piling on the praise or closing our eyes to the faults of our fellow believers. Even as our words are seasoned with salt, we must be gentle, loving but honest with each other if we intend to grow up into Christ.

2.      We must encourage others regardless of our circumstances.

Paul, when writing to the Philippians, was by no means in pleasant surroundings. Imprisoned and alone, he wrote truthfully, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” His joy and contentment was found in the love of the Lord. He could share it with others no matter how difficult his life was. It’s easy to encourage when we’re happy and others are happy with us. But true encouragement continues to pour forth even in the darkest time out of the consciousness of His presence in us.

3.      Encouragement is a spiritual gift to be exercised.

Romans 12:6-8 lists the various spiritual gifts according to the grace given us, of which one is encouragement. The Lord gives some the grace to constantly encourage – they are the people whom you can’t talk to without being uplifted. Such people need to be aware of their gift and use it to the fullest.

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; Or ministry, let us wait on our ministering: or he that teacheth, on teaching; Or he that exhorteth, on exhortation…”

4.      An encourager is unwilling to reject any fellow believer without giving him every possible chance.

The meaning of the name “Barnabas” means “son of encouragement”. In Acts 9:26-31, we see the disciples of Jerusalem afraid and unwilling to accept Saul (the apostle Paul) into their midst as they were “afraid of him, not believing that he really was a believer.” At this point where Paul was insecure and the disciples afraid, Barnabas took the risk of meeting Paul, confirming his story, and bringing him to the apostles, testifying of his transformation and thus obtaining the entrance that he needed into the church. He was ready to go the extra mile to help this new believer.

A split between Paul and Barnabas is seen a few years later, due to a young man named Mark who had deserted them at an inopportune time. Barnabas was in favor of giving him a second chance before giving up on him, while Paul did not think it wise. Barnabas was so persistent on Mark’s behalf that a very strong disagreement led to their separating ways.

But years later, Paul says in 2 Timothy 4:11, “Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service” indicating that the efforts of the son of encouragement to restore trust in Mark had not been in vain.

5.      The results of the power of Christ in our lives of grace and obedience are to be an encouragement to those who follow.

I Timothy 1:16 states that “Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” Christ captured Paul by his love and forgiveness for his crimes against the Lord’s people. The God of all comfort shows limitless patience with us so that His mighty work in us during our times of suffering might encourage those following us.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.”

 (2 Corinthians 1:3-6)

6.      Consistent encouragement should lead us to repentance.

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Hebrews 10:25 “not neglecting—as some habitually do—to meet together, but encouraging one another, and doing this all the more since you can see the day of Christ approaching.”

When believers take the responsibility of making time to attend the common meetings so as to know and encourage one another, our relationship with God and each other will be strengthened as we confess our sins rather than deceive ourselves.

7.      Encouragement is based on the Word of God

The ultimate aim of Christian encouragement is always to bring the thoughts, attitudes, and actions of others in line with the teaching of the Bible by the grace of God. Although our words may bring momentary pleasure to others, they are of no spiritual value if they don’t provoke them to aim higher, at living for God with an undivided heart. We are entrusted with this ministry so that we may become, and help others to become, like Christ our Lord.

The epistles constantly remind us to encourage, build up, strengthen, console, and pray for each other. Christ Himself gave us His Spirit as Comforter and Counsellor to teach, convict, guide and help us follow our Lord faithfully. Let us be ready to encourage in and out of season, following the example of the ultimate Comforter.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.”

Be of good hope!

 



What it means to be saved - Reshma Subash

Aug 13,2016

Well, personally, it means a lot to me! From my personal experience of knowing God (it hasn’t been that long yet), my life has been awesome! God has done such wonderful things in my life from the time I came to know Him. One of the best things was Him bringing me to NITC! I’ve never really appreciated my college life much but only later I came to know the plans He had for me.

As far as I know, my life since I was a kid wasn’t that great. The things I’ve done and intended to do always led me in the wrong direction. At a point where I thought nothing could be actually done with me, God saved me!

There is nothing much He expects us to do for getting saved. He doesn’t look at our grades or our beauty or anything else. As the Bible says in Romans 10:9 - If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. That’s it!

But let me warn you! Saying this and returning back to your old life will not get you anywhere. Also, just going to church or getting involved in the ministry will not get you saved either. You must repent of your sins and accept Him in your heart for God to start working in your life.

At first when I heard about the gospel, my question was, “Why would God come down to earth and want to save me?” I haven’t done anything for Him to die for me! But, as the Bible says, He loved us first and that’s why God sent His own son so that He could save us from all the sins that keep us away from Him. I didn’t really want to believe this in the beginning. I thought it was nothing, really. But only later I came to realise a lot more things. He helped me to come out of my guilt, which I always had and never knew how to overcome. “How can anyone work like that in me?” was my next question, because nothing like that had happened before. But that’s the most beautiful thing of my life.

Now, coming to the part of what does it really mean to be saved. When we say that we are saved, it means that God has helped us to change into a different person. Different person, in the sense, someone who has completely turned away from their old life. We can’t be a part of both the lives. Our old life was a life where we didn’t know God and what He did for us. But this life that we live after being saved, we accept Him as our Lord. Lord of all our areas of life.  This means anything that we do now is not out of our own desire but simply loving to do the way God expects us to do.

Matthew 11:28 - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” - Well, yes! He did take all my burden and has given me rest in Him.
He not only asks us to quit worrying but also asks us to depend on Him. Depend on the Lord! The Lord who created us and the universe. Isn’t that amazing?! This clearly shows us that putting our faith in Jesus Christ opens the door for us to get close to God and have a personal relationship with Him 24/7. This is another wonderful thing that we get to experience when we are saved.

But this doesn’t mean that our life will become a bed of roses. That’s one thing that we get wrong sometimes. 2 Timothy 3:12 – “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.Yup! But even during the times of persecution, we will only get to know Him better and learn to trust in Him. It might be difficult but it’s worth it.

There are so many gifts that we receive once we are saved. We become children of God and get to have a personal bond with Him: “For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” – Ephesians 2:18. We have an assurance of eternal life with Him: “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” – John 10:28. We also know that our sins are forgiven: “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.” – Isaiah 1:18 and many more!

In short, being saved means: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:a The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17.

 



Selflessness in the Lord's Prayer - Joel Sam

Aug 12,2016

Father, I thank you for your blessings. I pray that you will help me to achieve more in life <insert the things you wish to have and achieve>. Please bless me Father. In Jesus' name I pray.

This is the structure of prayer that most people consider as an ideal one these days. We believe that prayer is a channel where we send our bucket list to God and he somehow sends parcels of what we want soon. And if we are not answered in due time, we start to murmur and stop believing. Of course the Bible does tell us to make our requests known to God with thanksgiving through prayer and petition (Philippians 4:6). But don't our prayers turn out to be shopping lists than actual prayer? Aren't our prayers concentrated on me, myself and I?

But the Lord's Prayer we see in the Bible is in no sense similar to our prayers. It might actually seem the exact opposite. To me, one of the most interesting things about it is the fact that it contains not even a speck of selfishness. We see the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11. This prayer that Jesus taught is the perfect model. A study or reading of these passages with proper dedication can definitely provide us with greater insight into what prayer actually is.

It starts with the Father, glorifying his name. It goes on to say, “Thy kingdom come and thy will be done,” whereby we are actually admitting God to be the Lord over our life and circumstances. We surrender all the glory to him. We accept the end of our rule over our life circumstances and allow God to take control (“Thy kingdom come”). We surrender our will also before God and ask him to do what he wants, according to his will, in our lives. So through these three verses, we surrender our rights before God. But many a time, our prayers don’t rise to such dedication. Even when we read or recite the Lord’s prayer, we are not serious about what our words imply. The words we speak are powerful in their effect on our lives, so beware!

But it is the next part that broke me even more. This part is about things concerning us. Jesus teaches to ask for our daily bread. And then he says “And forgive us our sins for we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us”. When we say this, we are implying that the Father forgives us only when we have forgiven our debtors. In a sense, we are telling God to deal with us the way we deal with others in life. If God had dealt with us the way we dealt with others, it would have been disastrous. So when we utter this prayer, be very careful. You will be judged the way you judge. This may sound like selfishness, but is actually a deep surrender of my right to be offended by another’s offence against me. This prideful insistence on my right to be properly treated by others is one of the most pervasive sinful attitudes. Jesus brings it into the open by requiring us to forgive those who offend us, really or only in our imagination, freely and repeatedly. Then he asks to lead us not into temptation and to deliver us from evil. Once again the power, glory and rule is submitted before God.

So we see how the Lord’s prayer breaks our concept of prayer being a shortcut to get our desires. It simply leads us to surrender our life, rule and rights before God and confesses humbly that God has the right to treat us according to how we treat others. Definitely this is a model of prayer that is difficult to follow if we are determined to live in the flesh. But if we are serious about living by the Spirit, we must, as only this prayer will bring about changes to our inner man which will ultimately   do any good in transforming us into the likeness of Christ our Lord. May our prayers be also selfless and reflect the attitude that Jesus shared with us when he taught us to pray.

 



What have we left! - Tarun Mamachan

Aug 11,2016

When people from other faith come to Jesus, they usually leave ‘some things’ behind in order to follow Jesus. For example, Christians from Hindu backgrounds turn aside from false gods in order to follow Jesus or Christians from Muslim backgrounds turn aside from the teachings of Prophet Muhammad in order to follow Jesus. But what about people in a predominantly ‘Christian’ environment, who are not worshipping idols or offering sacrifices to false gods or following some wrong teachings of a prophet? What does ‘following Jesus’ look like in their lives?

Jesus was very clear in Luke chapter 14. He said, “If any man comes to Me, and hates not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple,” and added, “And whoever does not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” He further said “So likewise, whoever he is of you that does not forsake all that he has, he cannot be My disciple.” At first glance it seemed like Jesus was being very ‘rude’ or ‘emotionless’. The statements made by Jesus are quite straight forward. Unless we leave these things, it is not possible to follow Jesus. But why? Why is it impossible to have all these ‘things’ and follow Jesus at the same time? This question is extremely important, for it exposes the dangers of not leaving everything behind and following Jesus.

To understand this, let’s see how this mess started in the first place. The first sin was committed by Lucifer. From Isaiah 14 we understand that ‘Lucifer’ is the rendering of the ‘morning star’. In Ezekiel 28 God says, “He was the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” He was covered with the most precious stones. He was an anointed cherub.  He was on the holy mountain of God. What an amazing creation! But what was the reason for his fall? What was his sin? In fact his sin was not an act, it was just a thought. He said in his heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.” The moment he thought he did not need God anymore, that he no longer needed to depend on God, and that his ways were better than God’s ways, God cast him to the ground. God created Lucifer with a purpose. God wanted him to walk in His ways. But he depended on his own ways than God’s ways.

The same thing repeats in the Garden of Eden. Often we think why God made such a big deal out of the sin of Adam and Eve. Eating a ‘fruit’, was it really a big mistake? We see a lot of crimes and heinous acts in the world today. Compared to that, was what Eve did really a big deal? After all it was just a ‘fruit’. We are often deceived by this thought. A deeper look at the story of Eden will reveal that it was indeed a big deal for God. When God created man, He created him in His image. And God created two trees in the Garden. These two trees are two ways of life. The tree of life is a life with God, a life in God’s will. And the tree of good and evil is a life in our own ways, a life independent of God. So why didn’t God want man to have knowledge of good and evil? Is it wrong to have knowledge about good and evil? NO! But God wanted man to have this knowledge through fellowship with HIM. He didn’t want man to have this knowledge without Him. Any knowledge without God is a rebellion against Him. This is the root cause for all sins- rebellion, or the ambition to be independent of God, or to depend on our own ways. All other sins that we see are derivatives or byproducts of this sin. That is the reason why Jesus said, “Unless you leave your own ways, unless you stop depending upon yourself, you cannot follow me.” 

Many of us find it difficult to leave our ways. The reason is that we don’t understand the greatness of God’s ways. In Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God just wants us to put our faith in him and believe that His ways are far better than ours. Even we cannot love ourselves the way God loves us. How do we know that? He gave His only SON for us. In the parable of the prodigal son we see that the son left his father’s house. He wanted to live his own way. And we all know how it ended. He had to live in the swine’s field and eat the husks that the swine were fed. This is the condition of every man who pursues his own way. And when he realized his condition, all he had to do was leave that pig’s field and go to his father’s house! This shows that whatever we hold on to in this world, following our own ways, we are in the pig’s field. And Jesus is telling us to leave that and follow Him, to follow the one who created the Heavens and the Earth, and the one who is the author of our life. Is it a difficult thing to do? In Noah’s time, only those who left their houses, their families, relatives, possessions and entered the ark were saved. Once people saw the flood coming, they undoubtedly thought with deep regret and despair, “You know what, it would have been so easy to leave everything behind and just get into the ark”. Only to find out that it was too late.

The first word out of Jesus’ mouth in His ministry was REPENT. It is the same word that John the Baptist proclaimed in his preparation for Jesus’ coming. It is the same word with which Peter replied when the crowd asked him “What shall we do then?” Repentance is realizing how pathetic our ways are and realizing how marvelous and awesome God’s ways are and turning from our way of living to God’s way. From that point, we think differently, believe differently, feel differently, love differently and live differently.

Imagine you get a mail one day with the subject, “From the Office of the President,” and then you read “The president requests the pleasure of your company...” Will we reply by writing, “I am really sorry to say that I won’t be able to come because of my work or family or my schedule”? No. We would cancel anything in order to meet the President. Now think about this, the maker of Heaven and Earth, the all mighty and all powerful God is inviting you to follow Him! Can you imagine the President of the country coming to your house and inviting you personally? It is nearly impossible! But we can marvel at the majesty of the one who left His throne in glory to come to you and me.  

Why did He come down? One, because He hates sinners. And two, because he loves sinners. You may think both are not possible. Is it possible to love and hate someone at the same time? We see the answer of this climactic question at the cross of Christ. At the cross, God shows the full expression of both his wrath and his love. What an amazing mystery!

When we think of leaving everything behind, we often think of worshiping idols and false gods. But we don’t consider ourselves worthy of repentance for watching ungodly television shows and serials. We don’t take into account our shopping for more possessions or obsessively being consumed with the way we look. We don’t consider our constant fascination with money and how we are blindly trapped in materialism. We hardly think about our busy efforts to climb the corporate ladder and our worship of sports and celebrities, our hasty and bad temper when things don’t go our own way, that feeling of uneasiness that rises when someone else gets some approval.  Let us seriously think, “WHAT HAVE WE LEFT?”

 



Ambassadors on Earth - Benjamin Mathew

Aug 10,2016

When a person asks us, “Who are you?”, we usually answer with a name. And if more detail was required, we add where we are from and maybe what we do. That is the identity given to us the moment we became conscious of our separate existence in this world. Something that is unique for each and every one of us. Everywhere we go, we carry this information with us. It has been embedded into us.

Now, this world that we live in has about 196 countries in it. And each of these countries has a group of people belonging to it. Proud dwellers of the nation. But now due to economic, political or even environmental reasons, people have decided to immigrate to different countries hoping for a life which can satisfy their needs. To continue having a connection with these people, countries have placed ambassadors in these countries. These people are representatives of one’s native land.

But we all know that life on this Earth is like a drop in the ocean compared to the afterlife. We will transcend this three-dimensional world into a realm where the reality of time no longer has an influence over our lives. A life where we are able to enjoy a forever relationship with our one true love. But until then, we are stuck on this Earth. Just as 1 Chronicles 29:15 says, “For we are sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.”  

Once born again, we are no longer citizens of Earth but citizens of Heaven. We now have hope of a life that can actually satisfy our needs. But that does not connote that our role on Earth is done. Once we are reborn, we become representatives of Heaven, on this Earth. Or in simple words, we are Ambassadors for Christ. As 2 Cor 5: 20 says, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” And being ambassadors, let us look at three important duties of an ambassador.

1) Representation

Whenever we go to an embassy, we see the national flag flying high up in the air. The same way, we too have something to represent our mission, and that something is our life. Our way of living is a portrayal of Jesus. The first thing that people see in us is who we are living for, which means, as believers in Christ, we will constantly be under the microscope. We have to be careful and diligent in what we do. We are here to serve God and fulfill His will. We all have different callings but in the end, we are to represent Him in all matters. Everywhere we go, be it in church, office or even the playground, we have to represent Him.

2) Responsibility

When we are in a foreign land, if a problem arises, the first place we go to is the embassy. Because we know that it is the responsibility of the ambassador to look after the people who also belong to his land. The same way, we too are deeply responsible for our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are joined by the Spirit into one body. When we feel an itch on our left hand, won’t our right hand help to scratch it out? The same way, we have an obligation to look after our own people. As in Gal 6: 1-2, “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ.” Be it in confronting them or encouraging them, we have to be there for them. But this does not give us the right to think that we are any better than. We at the same time must be willing to correct ourselves too. As much as we are responsible for others, we are also responsible for our own selves.

3) Management

Now the duty of an ambassador is to not only look after the people who are already there, but to also be aware of all the new comers into the land. He must make sure that they feel welcomed and are able to easily settle down. He is also someone who has a lot of other duties and has to manage a lot of things. In the same way, we also have been instructed by God to do His works. We have to know what is important and what is not. Priorities have to be managed. 1 Peter 2:11 says, “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” We cannot slack off in any of our genuine commitments. We must remember, this work that we do is not for us, but for someone greater than us. All the glory goes to Him.

So once we’re born again, we automatically take up the role of an ambassador on Earth. The Bible gives us a lot of examples of ambassadors. From David to Daniel, Joseph to Paul. The Bible has a lot of them and it will be good if we could study them and see how they lived. Learn from their mistakes and how they were able to glorify God. But the best ambassador from Heaven that we could gain something valuable from, would be Jesus. His perfect life is something that is willingly and generously shared with us. We are alive in him. On the face of it this kind of living seems impossible. No, it may be difficult for our flesh, but absolutely not impossible.

So remember, the next time someone asks you who you are, you can proudly tell them that, “I am an ambassador on Earth for Christ”!

 



Never Read a Bible Verse! - Kaushik Nagarajan

Jul 18,2016

Yup, you heard it right, never read a Bible verse.....alone. Always read it in context. One of the most common mistakes anyone can make when understanding scripture is reading a Bible verse out of context and arriving at wrong interpretations.

Over the years Christianity has been attacked by numerous cults which continue to lead many people astray to this day. Many of these cults quote from the very same Bible that we use but arrive at surprisingly wrong and dangerous conclusions. Many cults reject the deity of Christ, preach salvation by good works, dismiss the trinity, and teach numerous other heresies. Many Christians are misled when they hear such people pull verses from the Bible to back their point up. We should not be surprised that people who oppose Christianity are able to cite references from scripture. The god of this world (Satan) himself tempted our Lord in the wilderness by quoting old testament verses and by interpreting them out of context.

But that's not our main problem. The big problem for us comes when in our personal Bible study we read verses without context. Taking verses out of context leads to all kinds of error and misunderstanding.  As Christians it is imperative that we understand the meaning the Holy Spirit intended when He inspired the authors of the Bible.

A good way to read the books of the Bible would be to read them as you would read any other book. Read from the beginning to the end. Isn't it absurd that we never take single verses out of the books we read, but always take specific verse from the Bible only. Did you know that in the original manuscripts of the Bible there were no markings for chapter number or verse numbers? These were only added centuries later to ease referencing. Reading each book from the start to finish helps to get the overall theme of the book and understand the verse more clearly. Although this can be pretty daunting for the larger books of the Bible, it's quite simple to use this technique for the shorter ones like the epistles. 

When studying Bible passages and stories, it helps to understand context with four basic principles that are fundamental to biblical exegesis: literal meaning (what it means literally), historical setting (the time and situation in which it was written, to whom it was addressed, the events of the story), grammar (the immediate sentence or paragraph within which the word or phrase is found) and synthesis (comparing it with other parts of scripture for a fuller meaning). We must focus on the general theme or outline of the book, then dive into the chapter, then the passage and only then the verse.

But mind you, none of these techniques will bring any fruition, unless guided by the Holy Spirit. Since He himself inspired the authors of the Holy scriptures, it only makes sense that He is able to best interpret it. As believers we have this wonderful privilege to have Him teach us that others simply do not have.

 



A Ride with the Omni - Benjamin Mathew

Jun 10,2016

An Omni. What can a person possibly learn from riding an Omni? An 11 feet long 8-seater blue box on wheels!

Given the opportunity to ride the Omni in my fourth year of college, life as I knew it would, I guess you can say, change forever. From standing on roads looking at cars whizzing past me to actually driving one of them, my perspective in life changed thanks to that blue old rust bucket, one would affectionately call.

So let’s rephrase the question. What can I learn from the Omni? Or better yet, what did I learn?

Now, I learned a lot while riding the Omni, apart from actually driving. The Omni is completely different from other cars. You need a lot of control with the Omni. You need to know how much to turn the steering wheel, how much to accelerate, how much to brake. Of course, you need this with other cars too, but in the Omni, it was different. I guess you’ll have to ride it to find out. But yes, control is important in everything we do. With the world changing, or should I say progressing forward with the latest technological developments, it is difficult for us to live as in the old days. Jobs, education all require us to adapt to a different style of living. One where we might have to also make use of these technologies, be it the mobile phone, the internet, the computer, etc. But how much of it should we be using? How far should we rotate that steering wheel? Control is what we need. Firstly, is the final purpose in using all this, to glorify God? Is all this wasting our time, time that can be used more wisely? Are we benefiting from this spiritually? Agreed, we might require them for basic living, but how far can we go using that excuse. In fact, whatever we do, we must first know the reason to why we are doing it. And how are we to benefit from it. Is it part of the will of God? We must be able to control our desires be it in technology, entertainment, food or even sleep. Proverbs 25:28 says, “A person without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”  It is not an easy task. We can’t do it on our own. That is why we have someone to help us. Matthew 19:26 says, “…with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Trust in God. He will lead us.

Back to the Omni. The number of times the Omni has visited the service center is more than the number of times I’ve seen a doctor. In fact, expressions like “if I had a penny for every time the Omni had to be serviced” actually make sense. It might have been to change the gear box or connect a few loose wires or fix the backlights. Be that as it may, for the Omni to be in working condition, regular check-ups were required. Or in other words, an examination. What about us. Are we not functioning beings? Should we not be examining ourselves on a regular basis? The answer to that is a big Yes. We should be taking some time out to have ourselves checked up. Not only physically or mentally but spiritually also. Take a day or even half a day in a month to examine you. A good life review, one can call it. 2 Cor 13: 5 says, “Test yourself to see that you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” Think about where you are going wrong and what needs changing. How can you become better, to help the people around you. How can you glorify God more in all that you do. When you are serviced regularly, you will be like a new tool that can be used for God’s ministry.

The next thing I learned with the Omni was patience. When you are running errands or going places in the Omni, the Omni has other plans. Sometimes, the Omni won’t start or the lights won’t work or there might be something wrong with the gearbox. At first I would be like “why?”…..and then a phrase, which I have become very accustomed to, just pops up into my mind, “why not!”. Instead of fretting away, maybe a small prayer would help. Why let the devil think he is winning when he sees us worry about such trivial matters. Take a moment to think how fortunate you were to have woken up today, when many couldn’t, or the fact that we are able to see the beautiful and wonderful creations of God, when many can’t. Why don’t we thank God for all the good things that have happened to us. When you think of all the things you have been blessed with, you won’t be worrying about your petty problems anymore. Whenever things happen, they happen for a reason. Rom 8: 28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Sometimes we don’t know it yet, but we might actually gain something very valuable from such situations.

Now for the Omni to go around, we had to constantly feed it with petrol. For us, we eat food. And there is a wide variety of food that we have. I could probably write a whole book on food but all that is for the physical realm. To grow in the spiritual world, we need a different type of food. The Bible, the Word of God, is what we need. The Word is what will help us know God better. It helps us grow as believers and serve God. It is a good guide for our spiritual discipline. Matt 4: 4 says, “…Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”. Most of the times we like to talk a lot, but sometimes it is good to listen to what God has to say and the Bible is one of the main instruments that God uses to speak to us. So in order to stay connected to God and grow in our faith, we must have a regular intake of His Word.

Now one of the most important things that I learned from the Omni was about my relationship with it. Whenever I needed the Omni it was there. If I had to shift a few things, collect somebody or even go to city, I could, because of the Omni. It was always there when I needed it. So, in this two way relationship, the Omni was the one who was doing the most. What was I doing for it in return? Almost nothing. I looked into my life and I could relate this to two other relationships. One was, my relationship with God. Every time I needed God, God was there. He was always looking out for me. He was the one who guided me and satisfied my every need. Not to forget, I get a chance to eternal life because of Him and only Him. Again in this relationship, God is the one doing the most.  How can I contribute more? The first thing we can do is to surrender ourselves entirely to Him. Trust in Him completely. Instead of always asking Him for things, wait and listen to what He wants to tell us. Prayer is also important in knowing God more. Dedicate some time to spend with Him away from the distractions of this world. Also, obeying His commands is the least we could do after all He has done for us. Rev 3: 20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”. The other relationship that I could relate to was my relationship with the church. The church is like a family to us and like family, it looked after me. 1 Cor 12:12 says, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”. The church is there for us when we are in need. When we are depressed or going through tough trials, the believers are always there to comfort us. So what can we give back to the church? First and foremost would be to actually consider the church as our family. When anyone in the family is in need of help, we should help. And why not help out with all the duties too. We are a family, we can’t just let a few of the family members do all the chores, right! The way we help out does not have to make a big difference. Even small stuff such as cleaning and arranging the hall or picking up people who have no easy means of transport are also the few jobs that are really important too. Eph 4: 15-16 says, “Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” As long as we do our part for the church wholeheartedly, we can maintain a good and healthy relationship with it. 

So being able to ride the Omni has been a real blessing in disguise. All this I learned just by driving a vehicle. This taught me to connect my spirituality to my practical life. It is not only about reading and hearing but being able to apply it practically. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.” A friend of mine once told me, if we grow in knowledge of the Word without keeping it, we could fall into the error of thinking that we are spiritual. God's yardstick for spirituality is obedience. So let us be careful and seek the Lord's help not to stop at knowledge, but press on to obedience. 

 



Miracles - Lucy Thomas

Apr 19,2016

A story is told of a young man who was sitting on a park bench reading his Bible. Suddenly, he leaped to his feet and shouted “Praise the Lord! What a miracle!” An older, more educated skeptic walking past him turned back and asked him what he was so excited about. The man exclaimed “I just read about how God parted the Red Sea to let His people through on dry ground!” The older man laughed contemptuously and said “That’s all wrong. Science has proven that the Red Sea was only a few inches deep at that time!” and walked away, leaving the young man confused and embarrassed. But a few seconds later, he was astonished to hear the man shouting again. “What’s the matter now?” The excited believer replied “I just read about how God drowned the entire Egyptian army in a few inches of water!”

Miracles. What are they? The word ‘miracle’ brings to memory an awesome spectacle, something highly out of the ordinary, not easily seen nor quickly forgotten. They can range from something as small as catching a fish with a coin in its mouth to raising a dead man to life.

Jesus’s disciples, constantly with him, must have seen him healing the sick and driving out demons all day. One wonders if they even tired of it once in a while. But for every blind man who regained his sight, and every lame man who walked, it was an event never to be forgotten, one of the most important events in their whole life.

“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning
Great is Your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22,23

Every day brings new blessings. There is always something to be thankful for. Lifting a cup of tea to our lips seems a small and insignificant matter. But what if we had no control over our limbs, as many we see today are? That sip of tea assumes new significance – as a miracle. We sigh and complain over having to walk an extra ten steps to get a book. But if we had once been confined to a wheelchair, how many prayers of thanksgiving would ascend for those same ten steps?

God’s grace turns even our mistakes into miracles. How else could our past bless and encourage so many others? Nature teaches us that bad things turn good things bad, but God’s grace turns bad things to good things. Isn’t that miracle enough?

If the food I receive has less than its usual flavor, I can be grateful that I can taste. If my feet grow weary with the long walk, I can thank God for legs. When my family gets on my nerves, I can think of the many orphans whom I visit once or twice a year and be thankful that I belong somewhere. Every unspoken need, ‘lucky’ chance, answered prayer...the list is endless.

God has given us countless miracles each day that go unnoticed. We remember to thank God for one or two that suddenly strike us as important. But once we open our eyes to see God’s hand in every little circumstance, life suddenly becomes a treasure chest of wondrous happenings, and ‘giving thanks continually’ the easiest thing in the world.

 



Purpose of Life - Rinu Chacko

Feb 12,2016

Have you ever wondered why we are here? Have you ever given it a thought as to why you exist? Did you ever think about the reason of your existence? Is there really a purpose to why you are where you are? As an engineer, I am expected to always know the reason why a particular instrument is used in a plant, what exactly it does and also what will be the consequence if it fails to do what it is supposed to do. Science tells us that there is always a cause to an effect. Things just don’t simply happen! Every cell in our body has a purpose. Each part of our body works in a different way; but each complements the other. Each serves a purpose that another cannot. Everything in this universe exists because it has some purpose.

My friends laugh when I talk about things like why do we exist, that there is a divine purpose to our existence. They tell me that we are just a blip in this universe. Are we really? It all comes down to whether we just came into existence because of a chance or because somebody created us. If our existence is just a chance then why do we have a sense of morality? Since we do have a sense of morality that means somebody gave us that; which in turn tells us that we are not here by chance but God created us. The very fact that we were created tells us how important we are. I mean just look at us! So intricately fashioned, so beautifully built, not one thing out of place! An artist won’t make his most beautiful handiwork to be dumped in a basement. He will keep it in an exhibition so as to be admired by others that when they see it, they can praise him. So it can’t be that a God who has all the power in the universe, who is existing since the beginning just one fine day created man without any reason. The notion is laughable.

So now the question is that if God did create us for a purpose then what is that purpose. Is it what the world tells you it is? Is being successful in our job our purpose? Or is having a beautiful family with two kids our purpose? Or is it toiling day in and day out to make more money than we can spend? What did God really think when God was creating us? Bible says in Genesis 2:7 “then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” All the other things of creation came into existence by God’s word but man was different. God himself formed the man out of dust from the ground. So we are really His handiwork. And Bible says He didn’t just create us but that He created us in His own image. He gave us the power of choice, a free will. We are not forced to love God but He rather wants us to love Him out of our free will.

So, you and me, we have a choice to either fulfill the purpose for which we are created or choose to live in any other way. What God wants, is to live our life bringing glory to Him and Him alone. The Bible clearly tells us what God wills for us. He wants us to proclaim his character not just by words but through our actions. He wants us to love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our might, in response to his love for us, which has bought us at the greatest price he could pay, the life of Jesus Christ.

It’s quite easy to just preach the Bible but it’s really difficult to live the Bible without experiencing the love that Jesus gives you abundantly. The Bible doesn’t tell you to follow traditions or rituals. It tells you to love one another as you love yourself. How many of us can actually follow this in real life? When someone hurts us do we love them or curse them? The Bible says to forgive others. But do we really forgive or forever hold that grudge? Living the Gospel - that is our purpose as redeemed children of God, followers of the Lord! How do you live the Gospel? By sharing the love of Christ with your fellow classmates, colleagues, your boss, to the people in need. Let people experience the genuine care and love that God has for them, when they are troubled. Let your life reveal the Lord Jesus Christ in you, because He gave his life for us who didn’t deserve it. When we go against His word, we aren’t bringing glory to him. When we hate our fellow brothers we aren’t bringing glory to Him. When we lie, cheat, use foul language or commit adultery, we aren’t bringing glory to Him. And when we aren’t bringing glory to God, we aren’t fulfilling our purpose in life. You are where you are so that people will know that God loves them. Are you willing to do what God wants you to do? God wants to use you for His glory, are you willing to be His? 

 



Teach us to pray - Tarun Mamachan

Jan 22,2016

One of the important things Jesus taught his disciples was how to pray. Jesus never gave them a model sermon, and never taught them how to cast out demons; but he taught them how to pray. So we can guess how important it is to pray in the manner that God wants us to pray.

Mathew 6:9 “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”

We all are familiar with this passage. It is part of the so-called “Lord’s Prayer”. Many of us usually tend to skip these verses when we read the Gospels. It may be because we all know these verses by heart, or maybe we think this prayer is very ineffective, as there are many Christian denominations which use this prayer carelessly. Or it may be because we too have prayed this prayer in such a way in the past. Well, here Jesus is not saying, “Therefore pray this”; instead he said, “Therefore pray in this manner”.

However, since Jesus taught this prayer we must take it seriously. In the Gospel according to Luke we have a more detailed background.

Luke 11:1 “One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

When the disciples approached Jesus, He could have told them, “You can pray in whatever way you know”, or “You can pray as John taught his disciples”, but instead Jesus gave them a new model for prayer, a prayer by the only perfect man ever to have lived on this planet, a prayer which God desires to listen to.  Many times in our Christian life we become so familiar with the Bible, or with spiritual activities, and we think that we can pray a “good” prayer. But have we ever asked God, “Lord, teach us to pray?” Aren’t our prayers more of ear-tickling words meant to represent ourselves as spiritual persons? Before teaching this prayer to the disciples, Jesus highlighted two other types of prayers, in Matthew chapter 6. These are a) the prayer of the Pharisees b) the prayer of the heathen. In these verses Jesus warned, “Don’t pray like them.”

Jesus said, “The Pharisees stand in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets to pray, that they may be seen of men,” and he added, “They have their reward.” Their reward is the acclamation and appreciation from men. Now you can say “Man! I never stand in the corner of the street to pray” But wait. Do you ever pray so that the people around you would think that you are a spiritual person? Jesus didn’t emphasise on the place where they prayed, His intention was to show their motive which is getting human approval. Are we in the same category? Do we ever pray to get the praise and acceptance of others? If yes, we need to repent and ask the Holy Spirit, “Teach us to pray.”

Another category of prayer was “the prayer of the heathen”. So what is wrong with their prayer? Jesus said, “Use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do,” and added “for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” We will be tempted to think, “I will never come into this category!” But let’s look at our prayers in the light of the scripture. Haven’t we been praying the same prayer for many years? Don’t we use verses like “Where two or three gather…” Or “Ask and it will be given to you….” and so on without actually meaning them? In the previous chapter Jesus spoke about the importance of the words that come from our mouth, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.” Though Jesus spoke these words in the context of swearing (making oaths), we can understand from them how important the words that come out of our mouth are. In Matthew 12, Jesus says “But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every empty word they have spoken.” Do we use empty word that we never really mean in our prayers? If we have done that, let’s repent and ask God to teach us to pray.

Most of the time we pray because we have many problems. We think prayer is a medium through which we tell our problems to God. Just one verse before this, Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” So it is very clear that prayer is not just a means to tell God our problems, because he already knows them. A child who came to his father only when he has a need would be so unloving. We see a similar picture in the story of the prodigal son. The son came to the father just for his share, but he failed to understand the heart of his father.

In our prayer, God wants us to understand the relationship we have with Him. For this reason Jesus started His prayer by saying, “Our Father who is in heaven”. This is the first thing we need to do in prayer, “Reassuring ourselves that God is our Father and we are His children.” He is a father who is infinitely merciful and loving, who is ready to accept us through Jesus Christ, in spite of all our iniquities and sins, if we repent truly. What a privilege it is to be called the children of the living God, and to approach His throne of grace with full confidence. When this thought governs our mind, our whole approach towards prayer will change. If we haven’t prayed such a prayer, let’s ask God, “Lord, teach us to pray”.

 



Importance of a Local Church - Eapen Varghese

Oct 26,2015

What is the church? This might seem to be an elementary question, but it is important that we come to a proper clarity about what the church is according to the scriptures. Man has set forth many ideas about the church, but we stand on firm ground when we believe what God has to say about the church. If we look into the scriptures, it is evident that the church is not a building where people gather, not an organization, not a program to attend once in a while, and not a system established by human authorities. According to the scriptures, the church is a people redeemed by the blood of Christ.  When the word ' church' is used in the New Testament, there are two ideas that are set forth. One is that of a universal church - believers across all ages, redeemed by Christ, and the other of the local church - A local body of believers that meet regularly, and build their lives together as one family with God's Word as their authority and not manmade traditions.

Nowadays there are more and more believers who are happy that they are part of the universal church, but refuse to be part of, and submit to the authority of, a local church. But if we read our Bibles with open eyes, we'll see that the majority of the instructions in the New Testament can only be practiced in the context of a local church. From this point on, therefore, we are only going to think of the importance of the local church.

1. The first reason the church must be important to each believer is because she is important to Jesus. Jesus loved the church enough to give His life for her. He now devotes Himself to building up the church (Mat 16:18). In Revelation we see Jesus walking amongst the seven local churches observing their works, encouraging, correcting and rebuking them. Jesus is deeply involved in building up the church to present her spotless to Himself.

2. The local gathering of saints is the God-ordained means of fulfilling the great commission and making disciples. We see Jesus give His disciples the Great Commission to make disciples. The rest of the New Testament records how the disciples carried out the commission. They obeyed Jesus by planting local churches. All the discipling happened in the context of local assemblies. It is sensible to conclude that the disciples were trained for three and a half years by Jesus to carry out His commission in this manner.

3. It is only in the context of a local church that a believer can obey the commandments in the New Testament. Believers in the New Testament are called to commit themselves to one another, and decide themselves to building and serving each other. All the commands given are practically possible only in the case of believers who frequently meet and build deep relationships with one another. If one has to be faithful to the commands given in the New Testament, one has to be a committed member of a local assembly.

4. Only in the case of a local assembly, a believer can practice accountability and be responsible. It is very important for us to be accountable for our lives to fellow brethren, and at the same time be responsible and serve. This is done best in the context of a local assembly. A local assembly is usually a cross section of the society, and people of varying ages and spiritual maturity. In such a situation, there is opportunity for everyone to give and everyone to receive. We can find people who can give to us and to whom we can be accountable, at the same time we can find areas in which we can take up responsibilities and serve.

5. Worshiping God together is one of the single most important things we do as church. Corporate worship brings together God’s word, prayer, and fellowship, and breaking of bread, as one united body. This makes for the greatest means of God’s ongoing grace in the Christian life.

6. The local church is a set pattern established by God. The local church is God’s tool for bringing His people to full maturity in knowledge and faith.

7. The church is divinely instituted by God for the spreading of His love and His gospel.

These are some thoughts on why the church is important to us and why we must commit ourselves to local assemblies and serve faithfully. This does not imply in any way that we have no commitment to brethren who are part of other assemblies. In every opportunity that God gives to serve our brethren we should use them, but it is extremely important for a wholistic healthy Christian growth that a believer be a faithful and committed member of a local church. May God help us.

 



What to do when God feels distant - Joel Sam

Oct 26,2015

Christian life is not always a graph sloping upwards. Occasions will come when we feel that God is so far away from us. And most of the time, we realize this in times of need. When things go just fine, we don’t really look out for God. But then one issue comes and we panic, complain and cry. We feel God is so far away and we ask God why You have left me when I needed You the most. But the truth is the other way around. It is not God who left us, but we chose the path that was not meant for us and as a result, we distanced ourselves from God. There are people who still say “God will never leave me nor forsake me”. But that would be stubborn because we have turned our way and we can’t expect God to come after us. What we can do is understand what happened in our lives that made us go far from God, repent and come back.

Often times, the problem starts with us getting distracted by the world. We find something in this world that captivates us and go after that. This then becomes our idol and we offer ourselves to it. God hates this. In Deuteronomy, Moses commandS the people to be careful not to make idols and serve them once God prospers you (Deuteronomy 4:25-26). If they become your idols, God will leave you and scatter you. Then we will feel he is so far away. In Christian life, anything that you give priority above God is an idol. It may be wealth, health, knowledge, talents, beauty or whatever. If it drains you of what rightfully belongs to God, it is an idol. God despises such idols or anything that takes what belongs to him. 

Sometimes, it’s a commandment of God that we failed to keep that made us go astray from his path. We need not do great sins to be far in his sight. It may be not showing mercy to someone who needs mercy or caring for your brother who needed help. In God’s perspective, such things are important. Such small sins might be the reason why you have come a long way from God.

 We might or might not feel that we lost God’s presence instantaneously. In the story of Adam and Eve, they knew instantaneously that they had lost God’s presence. But in the case of Samson, he didn’t know at first he had lost the spirit of God. But we will later realize that we had lost God’s presence. What can we do then?

The first thing to do is a diagnosis. We must understand where we went wrong. The Bible, the Holy Spirit and our conscience helps us to identify where we went wrong. The Holy Spirit might even warn us before leaving God’s path. The Bible, will tell you where you went wrong as it can pierce our soul and spirit and it can discern our thought and intentions (Hebrews 4:12-13). Our conscience is the court built into ourselves and it will convict us of our wrongdoings. So these three will help us to identify our wrongs and repent. But these three are very sensitive. If we keep neglecting these, our heart will grow numb and will no longer be able to come back to God. So coming back to God begins with examining yourself in the light of these three factors.

Then what we should do is to repent of those areas we are convicted and ask for forgiveness. Then God will come to you. In Deuteronomy, when Moses had said what God will do once they made idols, he also says what He will do once we give up on them and turn back to Him. If we turn back from idols and give ourselves back to God and seek Him with all our hearts, He will come to you. Proverbs 28:13 promises that if we confess and forsake our sin, He will give us mercy. Once we are completely purged of our sins, then we will no longer feel God is so distant anymore. What actually caused the distance between man and God in the first place was sin. So the root of the feeling of being distant from God can be traced back to sin. Once we are cleansed from our sins, our relation with Him will be restored.

So every time you feel God is out of reach, understand that something is wrong in your life, correct it and seek God with all your heart. Then you will find Him. Seeking God with a whole heart is also essential. The condition to see God is to have a pure heart (according to Jesus on his sermon on the mount). Purity means wholeness, which is no contamination. When we seek God, our hearts must be 100 percent true to the cause. Then only will He come to you.

We may not always get an opportunity to come back to God. In Isaiah 55:6-7, we are told to seek the Lord when He may be found. This means that after a while, we might not be able to find Him. It is said of Esau that later when he sought his blessing diligently with tears, he was rejected. So we must not trample upon opportunities we get to turn back to God. Seek Him when He may be found and come back to Him. Then we can experience His overwhelming presence. After all, there is nothing in this world, or the worlds to come, that can compare with the sweetness of His abiding presence.

 



Going Big by Starting small - Benjamin Mathew

Sep 29,2015

We all have that moment, once we become believers – “How do I do something big for God’s glory?” We think to ourselves, “Am I doing enough or should I do more?”

We look to the older, more mature, believers and see them doing God’s works, and we too would like to get down to business. Maybe be a Moses and lead an exodus of non-believers to the gates of Heaven, or a Paul and travel the whole world, preaching the gospels. Or why not an Elisha, with a ministry of miracles.

Sometimes we can get way ahead of ourselves. You don’t plant a seed expecting fruit the very next day.

Proverbs 16: 9 says, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” God’s plans are time tested. His way is better than mine. The best way for us to accomplish something is by letting God lead us.

When God wants to do something big, he starts from something small. We can see this throughout the Bible. A good example would be Jesus’s birth. Every day we wake up and we see the sun shining brightly in the sky. It is said that, the energy emitted from one square centimeter of the sun’s surface is enough to burn 64 100-watt light bulbs. Now just imagine, God with the power to create that sun with a snap of his finger, came down in the form of a tiny embryo. He planned to change the world, redeem the sins of mankind, but He came to us as a human baby.

We can see more examples:

●     The mustard seed - Though one of the smallest seeds, grows up to be the largest garden plant.

●     Abraham - Was just one man, but he became the father of a great nation.

●     Jonah – Just had to preach 8 words for Nineveh to repent.

●     Young boy – Had just 5 loaves and two fish, but helped feed thousands.

Another thing God does is take nobodies and make them somebodies. We see Naaman’s wife’s maid. Though just a maid, she was able to tell them about God and His power of healing. Another person would be Epaphras. Though very little is known about him, he is mentioned three times by Paul in his letters. A true disciple of Jesus. What about the owner of the “Upper room”, nothing is known about him except that he was chosen by Jesus to serve God in his own way by offering a room.

To be a somebody, we must become a nobody. Jesus, from a being with divine power, chose to become a nobody, and God exalted him to somebody. We don’t need to be famous, or have a successful career, or even be highly skilled, to do God’s work. All we have to do is to keep our ears open to God. He will guide us in all the things we do.

2 Corinthians 12 : 9 says, “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

The Bible is full of seeming contradictions. If you want to be first, you must be last. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. And if you want to be strong, you must glory in your weakness. Brokenness is God’s requirement for maximum usefulness. This is because when you are truly helpless and without resources, you must count on God’s provision.

So yes, doing God’s work is important. But the manner in which we do it is decided by God. Each person has his own calling. Be it small or big.

No matter how small the work we have to do, we give the glory to God. Never expect to start big.

One simple exercise in starting small would be by helping one person every week without expecting anything in return. We should do it with a Godly motive and give all the glory to God, and keep none for us. Keep asking yourself, “If no one knew the good I did, would I still do it?”

 



Baptism: A Step of Faith - Tarun Mamachan

Sep 16,2015

Baptism has become an outrageous word among many groups of Christians, ever since it came to be accepted as an act of confirmation of faith by a professed Christian. While this concept may seem innocent enough, it has given rise to endless controversy and jangling among us, and sprouted useless questions such as whether baptism is necessary to go to heaven, whether a ‘born-again’ person or a ‘believer’ who is not baptized is a disciple, whether those who are not baptized after professing Christ are full Christians... the list could go on, but you get the gist.

However, the Lord Jesus Christ gave as one of his last commandments to his disciples, Go ye therefore, and teach (make disciples of) all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and

of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” This Great Commission, as many call it, is clear in its scope. The apostles were to (1) Go and make disciples. How? (2) By baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and (3) teaching them to observe all things whatsoever Jesus had commanded.

This commandment makes it clear that the disciples were to baptize, and further instruct in the way of Jesus Christ, only those who are willing to become disciples. And it was to his disciples that Jesus gave the marvelous assurance, “Lo, I am with you always”.

No one else.

In this verse the order of instruction is very important. It is important because the commandment was not given by a mere man, but God. God, you remember, does everything according to His will. Now, the Devil is very clever, especially when it comes to confusing people. He uses his diabolic intelligence only to steal, kill and to destroy. Thus, if you look at many of the Devil’s ideas, they may seem very logical, sweet and reasonable. In fact, you may be able to summon up another couple of verses to support his subtle fallacies, but still, they will not be of God.

Take just one instance in Luke 24, verse 26, where Jesus asks, “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” He implies that the whole course of his life had followed God’s foreordained plan for the Christ, to suffer first, and only then to enter his glory. But compare this with Luke chapter 4, where the Devil comes to Jesus and insinuates with fake compassion, “Hey Jesus! You don’t have to go through all these sufferings to enter into glory. See, all the authority and the glory of this world has been delivered to me. If you just bow down and worship me, I will give it all to you.”

Now from our human standpoint, the Devil’s plan appears much more logical, kind and easy, as

well as more sure of success, than God’s strait and narrow way of testing, trial, death and glory.

After all, if our aim is to enter glory, the Devil has come up with a plan which is simpler and quicker, as well as more merciful and less humiliating. Indeed… if that was our aim! BUT... Jesus’s aim was not just to enter his glory; his aim was to please God, his Father. This is the overmastering passion of those who choose to be his disciples.

 

Now, why did I bring this up? What does it have to do with baptism, after all? You see, in the same manner, today the Devil confuses people by putting the thought in their mind that it is not essential to be baptized. In many churches and organizations, indepth Bible studies are conducted, but none of these ever teach about baptism. Why?

 

Let us not fall into the Devil’s trap. Firstly, it is very clear from the words of our Lord that being baptized is not just some man’s idea, nor is it the teaching of a particular church or community. Rather, it is GOD’S IDEA. When we refuse to accept His commandment, we are at war with the

will of God. And that is what the Word comments about the Pharisees in Luke chapter7, verse  30, “But the Pharisee and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him (John the Baptist).”

Again, Jesus did not command baptism as a means for the church, or for any denomination, to register its new members, or to join those who wished to become his disciples to any particular church or denomination. He commanded the disciples to baptize new would-be disciples in the name of the triune God, so that they would be joined to Himself. In being joined to the Lord, we become part of the Body of Christ, all those who live as disciples of Christ, with obedience and faith in Him as their foundation (Matthew 16:18). We read in Acts 5:14 that in the early days of the church, the believers were added to the Lord, and not to any particular church or organization.

 

A common question that people usually put forward is, “Must we be baptized to go to heaven, or to get saved?” While some may ask this questions in all innocence, in many other cases, a careful examination will reveal not-so-acceptable motives behind this question. For instance, did Jesus Christ come to somehow get the whole world into heaven, irrespective of their faith or obedience to his Father? He came to save sinners, but does that mean sinners do not need to repent, obey and move forward in absolute, unquestioning trust and obedience? Does grace mean we no longer need to obey God? Is a disciple’s real aim is to get as many people to reach heaven somehow, or to win others to follow Christ? Does a disciple just want to squeeze into heaven? Or is his life and every decision, like his Master’s, now based on the yearning to please the Father?

Baptism is Jesus’s commandment, and an introduction to a life of discipleship. No one. Still again, when we ask this question about whether the command of Jesus Christ to baptize those who want to be his disciples is related to going to heaven, are we consistent? Do we ask the same question for all the other commandments too? Has anyone asked, “Do we need to love our neighbors to go to heaven?” Obviously not, for a disciple’s privilege and badge of honour is to learn from and obey his Master, rather than sift and debate his Master’s words.

 

Anyone who studies the Book of Acts without bias will clearly find that all those who believed the gospel of Jesus Christ were immediately baptized, whether at midnight, cockscrow or whenever. Baptism was the first step taken by anyone who believed the Word, in the first century. Though in most instances we are ignorant of who actually performed the baptism, the fact of the baptism is unmistakably attested in many, many cases, such as the eunuch to whom Philip was sent, the 300 people who were convicted on the day of Pentecost, Paul when Ananias came to him, Crispus and all the others in Corinth who believed, the jailor and his family when they heard and believed the word in Philippi, Cornelius when he was blessed with the Holy Spirit as he believed Peter’s word... the list continues.

 

And yes, Paul was very much in favour of baptism, though not necessarily with his own hands. The verse so often quoted, in I Corinthians chapter 1:17, that Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel, does not mean that Paul did not consider baptism the hallmark of entry into discipleship, but simply that he did not think it needful to baptize all those who believed following his teaching, with his own hands. When compared with the rest of the story in Acts 18:8, we see that all the many Corinthians who believed during Paul’s stay and preaching in their city were baptized, to profess their discipleship of Christ.

 

So what does it really mean to be baptized? Romans 6:17 clearly explains the meaning of baptism. Paul reveals that our old man was crucified with Christ. Most Christians believe, and rightly so, that Christ died in our place, so that we need not die. However, this death that we escape is eternal death, and not the death of the old man, the nature with which we were born. This accursed nature, sinful by inclination and by deed, has to be put to death if we are to be saved from the power of sin to pollute us. Thus it is the Lord’s crowning mercy on us to have crucified our old man with himself on the cross. Having died with him, in baptism we are buried with Christ into death. It is this death and burial with our Lord that fits us for the new life, of resurrection power, united with our risen Lord as his witnesses, which is so powerfully enacted as the baptized person emerges from his watery tomb.

 

This may be hard for new Christians to understand at first. However, it is not essential to know all this first before we can live in the reality of it, accepting Jesus’s command to be baptized as his disciples, and obeying all he taught us. We can just believe what God says. If God's Word says that our old man was crucified with Christ, then we believe it, and act on it as a real fact. In the days of Noah, no one needed to understand fully how the ark was going to save them from the flood. In fact, they had never even experienced rain in their lives thus far. Yet, when the floodwaters of judgment came roaring up, only those who had already believed God’s warning and obediently entered the ark, before the first raindrop fell, and before God closed the ark’s door, were saved at the end.

 

Baptism is, by design, the first step of the obedience of faith in the life of a disciple, leading on to a lifetime of obedience. Yet, this obedience is the obedience of faith, and may often transcend human reason, while being in accordance with it. If Jesus had leaned upon His own reason only, He would never have gone to John the Baptist for baptism. For His merely human reasoning would have given Him many arguments against being baptized especially, since He had never sinned. John himself could not understand why Jesus needed to be baptized. But Jesus overrode the arguments of human reason, with the greater argument of reasonable faith in God’s wisdom.

 

It is reasonable to trust in and to obey God, simply because he is God, and therefore wiser and better, as well as more powerful, than we are. Thus Jesus was eminently logical and reasonable in obeying the voice of the Spirit (Matt. 3:15). However, pure human reason, which trusts only in what it can grasp, and fails to trust God’s superior wisdom and goodness, is the Number One enemy of faith because human reason cannot grasp spiritual truths. "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding," says the Word (Prov. 3:5). [1]

 

As a final thought, turning to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith implies the willingness to honour and obey him as God indeed. Obedience to God must never be delayed. If you have realized that your old life is one of horrible sin and pain, one of impenitence, one of sinfulness in the deep places of the heart, even though you are religious or at least decent outwardly, you will seek to realize by faith, in baptism, the death and putting away of that old man, which occurred with our Saviour’s death on the cross.

This baptism into the death and burial of Christ will be a welcome sign of your introduction also into his reviving and saving grace, whereby he makes you alive with him as a new creation, in his resurrection. Indeed, if you realize that your old man was crucified with Christ Jesus, as the Spirit of God declares, you also haste to bury him straightaway. It's a crime not to bury a man who is dead! "Why do you delay then? Arise and be baptized" (Acts 22:16).[1]

Let your discipleship begin with this act of faith, as you declare and confess yourself joined to Christ forever, Christ your salvation and your life.

Reference

[1] A Good Foundation by Zac Poonen




 



Our Earth-Shattering Proclamation - Joel Raju Mathew

Jul 02,2015

Let us go back in time to a place bearing the morbid name of Golgotha (‘the place of the skull’). There we stand watching in horror as a terrible scene unfolds. An innocent man hangs on a cross – battered, broken and bruised. His blood-streaked body quivers with pain and ugly wounds run down his back. His swollen face is marred beyond recognition and a brutal crown of thorns digs jaggedly into his scalp.

He has been through unimaginable torture and painfully gasps in his last few breaths of air. He is about to die.  Who is this person who has borne the wrath of man and is now crushed under the terrible wrath of God? Who is this man about to pay the ultimate price?

The answer is short and clear and it cannot fail to astound. It is the very basis of our faith and our earth-shattering proclamation.

That man dying on the cross is none other than God himself!

There is no faith that lifts God so high and ascribes to him as much power, majesty and glory as the Christian faith. Neither does any other faith so bluntly condemn man and thoroughly expose his sinfulness.

Yet this very faith which lifts God so inconceivably high and holds man so woefully low resounds with the amazing declaration that God gave up his life for man.

But how could God die for man? And why should the Creator die for the creature, the infinite die for the finite or the majestic die for the ignominious? How could the Almighty die for the pathetic or the all-knowing die for the foolish?

How could the glorious and beautiful die for the vile and disgusting? How could the perfect die for the depraved or the holy die for the sinful? How could the righteous judge be executed for the guilty criminal?

Though this question haunts us, the Bible is very clear. About two thousand years ago, God did in fact disrobe himself of his glory and came down to earth. As the Son of God, He emptied himself by taking the creaturely form of man. This act of incarnation was itself an unthinkable act of humility – God becoming man, the divine taking on flesh. But what is most astonishing is that God does not just become man, God reaches rock bottom in his descent by dying for man!

I ask again, how could God die for man?

They say that an extraordinary event requires an extraordinary explanation. Six simple words give the extraordinary reason behind this extraordinary act of God,
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world …”

Here are two entities that stand in stark contrast – the God who is utter goodness and the world which is evil and mired in corruption. Could there be two greater extremes?

Yet… something crossed into that boundless gap between God and the world and filled it. Something spanned that infinite gulf and bridged it.

‘For God so loved the world... ’ It was the love of God!

What words can express the grandeur of that love? What eloquence or rhetoric can fully capture its strength, depth or beauty? What ineffable Love forced God down from heaven and compelled him to lay down his life for us? Truly, his love transcends human comprehension.

Let the love of God, mirrored in this unabashed profligacy of love, this strangest of all sacrifices, be our constant and brazen cry. Unashamedly, let us shout it in the streets and from the roof tops. Let us humble ourselves more completely, love our great God more fully, in the face of this love.

God died for man; this is our earth-shattering proclamation. Let’s go shatter the earth with it.

 

 



Anger - Good or Bad? - Joel George

Mar 15,2015

A striking incident, and perhaps the most disputed one, involving anger in the Bible is found in John 2:13-16.

"And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said to them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise."

 

Many non-believers and atheists cite this as an instance of Jesus giving way to anger, behaving violently and in some way committing a sin. They would say that if it was not a sin, then why can't we all give way to anger when we feel like it? It seems like a paradox that the best man ever to live could become angry, and intensely so, but we cannot without being condemned for sin.

 

The answer to this might be more fruitfully delivered by rephrasing the question. It's not "Why can't we get angry?" but "Why are we angry?" If we ask this question to a group of people, a man of

science might reply that anger is an emotion that manifests as a personal policeman, rebuking the source of our threat or disappointment. This definition leads us to deal with it accordingly. Thus, when we try to deal with it, we give almost our entire attention to suppressing the consequences of anger; we try to learn effective methods to bring our anger under control.

 

However, the Bible clearly distinguishes between righteous and unrighteous anger. The anger that Jesus felt at the hypocrisy of the Pharisees (Mark 3:1-6), who opposed the healing of a cripple because it was not the right day, was not the same that caused Cain to kill his brother Abel out of envy (Genesis 4). If we think about it, anger, seen as it is, apart from the actions we take in response to the feeling, clearly testifies as to what is most precious to us.

 

Thus God's anger is directed towards sin, which stole his people's peace, joy and very life. God was bereaved at the sight of his sheep turning away from him. All the implacable wrath that

he had towards sin was what Jesus endured on the cross for us. "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity

of us all." (Isaiah 53:6). Every single time that God has displayed anger is to correct a person, a family or a society in the way that they live and to protect the future of mankind: even more than a father's anger at his son which leads him to discipline him lest he should turn out badly.

 

Most of our anger on the other hand is directed towards protecting our needs and wants. Our needs hold the highest place in our hearts. Our anger often stems from the very fact that we don't like unexpected interruptions in 'our plans'. We are very slow to admit that every interruption could only have been allowed by God, and is part of his plan. It is clear that the root cause is that we don't want his plans to upset our plans.

 

 

All this happens even after Jesus has taught us to pray: 'Thy will be done' (Matthew 6:10) and to trust in the extreme benevolence and perfect pleasantness of that will (Rom 12:1.2). When I live by the will of God, there simply won't exist a reason to sulk. If ever anger does come to a Christian, it will be directed against the sin that has corrupted our Father's work in us and in his world.

 



India's Daughter Revisited - Rinu Chacko

Mar 14,2015

I once wrote an article on the things that I like and dislike about India. As it turned out, while writing I was really struggling to find the things that I liked. A few days back I saw ‘India’s Daughter’ and after watching it I could add a dozen more things to the list of things that I dislike about India. Don’t get me wrong, this is not just another article about how India is not a safe place to live or how the system or the government or the law is to be blamed. No! It’s not about these issues at all. It is about something more important.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth…..

He created the earth and all that that dwelt on it. And on the sixth day God created man as a perfect ending to the perfect creation He had in His mind, making him in His very own image giving him the free will that He had, the power to choose! But what did we do with that power? We chose to disobey God. We chose to not lean on God’s definition of good and bad. We decided that we wanted to be like Him, to become god.

That disobedience is what we see today manifested in various forms of atrocity everywhere on this earth. That is what is wrong with this world today. If somebody asks me how I felt after watching ‘India’s Daughter’, I would say that I was angry at what the so-called “educated” people of India were saying, I was heartbroken to hear about the girl’s life and what ultimately happened to her. I was filled with rage on hearing the convict’s testimony. But most of all I felt piercing pain in my heart, not because of what the lawyers or the convict said but because identifying that situation suddenly brought my sins in front of my eyes more clearly than I had ever seen them before.

The things that I heard in that video seemed so offensive to me and so many others because we can’t even imagine ourselves thinking, let alone doing, something like that. The very thought of it revolts us to the point of furious indignation, so that we could wish for their immediate sentencing. But this very state of mind suddenly triggered a new train of thought. I suddenly imagined that God is the one watching and we are the ones being judged. Of course, we don’t think we are very sinful, we commit only small sins such as a few lies, coveting a few things or position or whatever, getting angry with others, cheating on your friend or your spouse… the list goes on. But when my mind jumped to what God thinks as he watches us, the God who knows no sin, who is incomparably perfect and holy, who does not feel any satisfaction in any kind of sin, who cannot even think about having any sin near him – I suddenly realized how very offensive, how repulsive, we must look in his sight. How disgusting those ‘small’ sins appear against the background of his love and his holiness. Every self-willed thought and act was seen against a frame of reality for the first time, to the extent that I saw how horrible it is to him to see us indulging those sins.

When we keep this in mind, what do we deserve? Shouldn’t we have the same fate as we wish those rapists to have? Are we any different from them? Isn’t God justified if He wishes that we were completely destroyed? Ultimately, we all have missed the target, only some have gone deeper into the mud. What difference does it make if we missed holiness by 100 million or 101 million miles? We are all hopelessly unholy, wherever we stand.

But this is the real wonder of this situation. Where our revulsion and rage leads us to demand revenge on the criminal, God shows saving, suffering forbearance and even Love, at great cost to himself. That’s where God is so completely different from a mere man. He alone has the power to save us from ourselves, the monsters that we are. He alone has the true, selfless, steadfast love that we try so hard to find in this world. Romans 5:8 says, “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” How amazing is that! An innocent and absolutely holy person becomes our substitute in order to bear our greatly-deserved punishment. The one who knew no sin became sin for our sake. He took on all our iniquities, our transgressions, our sins upon himself and died on that cross so that we can have a restored relationship with God, the Father. John15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

It is my greatest privilege that I have a God like this who loved us so much. Every problem of this world will end once we accept God’s unconditional love for us and show the same genuine love to others too. How beautiful that world will be to live in! It’s the need of the hour that we recognize our self-willed attitudes, in small or big thoughts and actions, to be what they truly are in God’s unbiased and holy sight. They are sin, rebellion against God’s right to own us, to lead us, to fulfil his plan for us.  This was the same attitude that led us to reject God when he came in the form of Jesus Christ, God revealing himself in suffering flesh and allowing his own creatures to punish him for crimes that they had done. We need to put our wholehearted decision into turning away from that attitude, exchanging it for one of humble and joyful acceptance of God’s right to us. This we do when we believe in the one whom God sent, our Savior and our Lord Jesus Christ. The blood that He shed on the cross was unjustly shed, but it was God’s plan to punish himself so that we might have the freedom to go scot-free, not into more crime and misery but into glory and holiness. This trust is not misplaced, for His death and coming back to life has won for us forgiveness, since our sins have been paid for.

 

The free gift of salvation is for everybody to receive. We get it free, but it is not cheap. Our sin caused our well-deserved assignation to punishment. Somebody has paid a huge ransom to save us. What will be our decision now? Still dwell in that sin or receive the gift of salvation? Remember, we are not better than those who took the life and honor of India’s daughter in the eyes of the God who created both them and us. 

 



The Daily Hypocrite - Joel Raju Mathew

Mar 14,2015

As I thanked God this morning for the breakfast before me, I also asked him to provide for those who had no food. It took me some time to realize the hypocrisy of that prayer. I had prayed plenty of times for those who were starving but not once had I done anything about it.

What I blamed myself for was not failing to mount a big expedition to some war torn region, travelling with crates of fresh food and gallons of clean water for those hungry and thirsty – nothing quite as dramatic. Being a student, I don’t make any money and so I could be forgiven for not donating large sums. But if I had collected the money that I wasted on so many useless luxuries and if I had given it to those in need, I would have made at least a small difference. I did not do the little that I could have done.

Plenty of times we have prayed for those in need, for those who are ailing and for those who have yet to hear the gospel. But the important question is, how many times did we get up after that prayer and provide for those people who were in need, or visit, comfort and care for those who were sick or tell the lost about Jesus? Too few times if any, would be my sad answer. What would be yours?

James 2:15, 16 “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about it, what good is it?”

We’re daily hypocrites, praying with fake earnestness for this cause and that and then promptly forgetting it all after the ‘amen’. How could we be so ignorant of that fact that we alone are God’s agents here on earth? When there’s someone God wants to touch, we are his hands. When there’s someone God wants to comfort or tell about himself, we are his voice. When there’s someone God wants to financially support, we are his bank. We are his gospel, displaying Christ’s love and his humility through our lives.

This doesn’t mean that God is impotent or that he cannot work without human help or assistance – we of all people should know that. He made absolutely everything all by himself! But despite the fact that our God in heaven is the infinitely powerful creator, his greatest desire is to work through us.

Remember the time he fed more than five thousand (Mark 6: 30-44)? A great miracle happened there; Jesus fed all those people after having received just five loaves and two fishes. But don’t forget that this great miracle was predicated on one seemingly insignificant act – that boy giving his lunch to God. Yes, God did the hard part, God was the one who made the impossible possible but he only did it after that boy had given all that he had to God.

Our attitude should never be ‘I won’t give because someone else will give, I don’t have to tell the gospel because surely God will send someone else and I don’t have to comfort that person because he or she probably has other friends’. This line of reasoning is unchristian and we’re doing God a big injustice when we think this way.

If we plead with God to help someone and then don’t do all we can to help that person, what does that say about the sincerity of our prayer? How can we expect him to listen to us if we display such a lack of earnestness and faith? This reveals how little we actually cared for what we prayed. This reveals the lightness of our burden. Ultimately, for many of us, prayer becomes a means to assuage our guilt over not having done anything else. We can say to ourselves, ‘At least I prayed for it’.

We must pray deeply and with so great a burden that we cannot sit idly by but simply have to do something. We must pray with true earnestness that tears stream down our faces and that at the end of the prayer, we rise up, filled with the Holy Spirit and zealous to do God’s work. If this is our attitude and if this is the weight of our burden, then God will work mightily through us. We become the ones he uses to answer that prayer.

From now on, let us not just pray for the orphans, the widows and others who may be in need, let’s go to them and spend time with them. Let’s comfort them and provide for any need that they might have. Let us not just pray for the salvation of our unbelieving friends, let’s tell them about the sacrifice of Christ without any hesitation or shame and let our lives reflect God’s goodness and love. Let’s not just pray for our nation, let’s do something about it. How many of us are ready to be the voice, speaking up against the evil or injustice in society or the blatant corruption in our country?

Let us not just ask God to support his workers in the field, let us help them financially and in any other way possible. Let us not simply pray for the downtrodden, for those rejected by society, instead let us be the ones who go out and reach out to them. Let us be the ones who bring the broken to God.

 

A solemn fact that we must never forget is that God has given himself no other way to work in this world except through us. We’re it, we’re his appointed means of touching people and spreading the gospel. So, let us pray with this realization, that we are the ones whom God will use to accomplish that pray. Let us pray with such fervency that at the end we’ll be galvanized into action, empowered by the Holy Spirit.



Our Reward in Heaven - Joel Raju Mathew

Mar 06,2015

If you were awarded the Mathew Award for your contribution to society, I doubt elation would be your reaction – rather, it would be surprise and confusion. What in the world is the Mathew Award, you might ask and you would be right to do so. Where does it come from and what does it honor?

 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the significance of an award comes from its prize money or any such direct gain. An award’s value lies instead in the prestige of the person or institution that presents it. For instance, the Bharat Ratna is the highest civilian honor in India but it carries no prize money. Even so, its recipients are treated with the respect due to the cabinet ministers and chief ministers of India. The mere fact that it is bestowed by the Republic of India as a mark of great merit, and awarded by the president of India himself, lends greatness to it.

 

Friends, the value of our reward in heaven doesn’t lie in what we get but rather the greatness of the Person we’re getting it from. If a reward awarded by a national government carries such significance and prestige, consider how much more valuable is our reward in heaven, given to us by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Would not the simplest pat on our backs, even the most basic ‘well done’ by our blessed Lord be worth infinitely more than all the awards and accolades that this world can give us?

 



Earth’s Treasures - Benjamin Mathew

Mar 05,2015

For many of us, our first thought when we hear a phrase like “earthly treasures” might be related to the parable of the rich ruler in Luke 18:18-25.

 

A ruler questioned Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said, “All these things I have kept from my youth.”  When Jesus heard this, He said to him, “One thing you still lack; sell all that you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  But when he had heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.  And Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

 

As I thought about this parable, the first question that came to my mind was “Is it really so difficult for people to give up money?” A bit later I realized that, when God described the young ruler as ‘extremely rich’, it was not just money he was talking about. For instance, I am not yet earning money, which is why I find it easy to let go of money (earned by someone else!) But Jesus was speaking not of money alone, but all of the things that our hearts love and cling to – our real treasures. Different people have different things that they love. It was then, when I looked at the things that I loved, that I started to wonder if I was ready to give them up. I came to see that it was not as easy as it looked.

 

The thing about “wealth” and “treasure” is that there is more than one way to measure it. We can be rich in ways that have nothing to do with money, for example, rich in family, friends, influence, position, prestige, knowledge, skills or health. Now as I hear the Savior’s words, I ask myself whether I am able to give up all this for the treasures in heaven. Giving up what you love is like cutting out a piece of your heart. Then a blinding realization dawned upon me: was I stuffing my heart with all these things? If so, what space would there be for Jesus to reign in me?

 

I attended a seminar recently where I learned for the first time how to recognize my treasures on earth just by the fact that they had a high priority in my thoughts, only just behind the “first place” or highest priority that I gave to Jesus. You see, if anyone asked me about my priorities in life, I would always profess my supreme love for Jesus first of all. Then I would recite my ordered list of the other things that I loved next to him. All this time, I would be mindful of the fact that Jesus had a greater share in my heart than anything else. However, my neat system of priorities was shot down when I came face-to-face with Matthew 22:37, And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. How could I claim to love the Lord with all my heart, if I loved other things as well? How could I be God’s slave when “wealth” was my master? Matthew 6:24 clearly states that "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

 

There is only space for one in our hearts. And we have been given the right to choose who or what we want to fill it up with. Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

 

Let me clarify that storing up treasures in heaven doesn’t mean I literally store up my money or wealth up there. The whole point is that the greatest treasures of earth are absolutely non-existent and irrelevant in heaven. Heaven’s one treasure is the honor that comes from the only wise God. This surpassing treasure of heaven is already reserved for God’s people, so we don’t have to first produce them. We just need to seek His kingdom first. Our time on Earth is a short one. Time on this Earth is like a meager fragment when compared to the endless ages of eternity. Is it the part of a wise man to give up all eternity for the sake of this fleeting time on earth? I would rather seek to do God’s will and enjoy the eternal treasure of a living, loving relationship with my Lord and my God.

 

This brings me to another question: will my faith be strong and stable enough to anchor my decision to give up earth’s treasures so I can be free to seek heaven’s rule on this earth? I need to be ready to trust in God, and give my life into his control. With God in the driving seat, we do not need to worry about anything. Yet strangely enough, in the face of God’s utter trustworthiness, this is where many fail. Even when we come to terms with surrendering all that we have, we still have issues with trusting God. We get worried about whether we can survive, and slowly tighten our hold on the very things that we were ready to give up earlier. Matthew 6: 25 tells us not to worry about anything. If God provides for the birds of the air, won’t he provide for us too, God’s beloved children who are of much more worth than they are?

 

So the issue finally comes down to just one question that everybody must face: are we going to trust and serve “Wealth” as our master, or trustfully obey and follow our one and only true master, God himself? Is our vision locked on to earth’s treasures or on heaven’s reward, the approval and recognition of our Father’s smiling face? The answer will decide your daily choices and the direction of your life.

 



Waiting for Lord: Our Attitue towards Suffering - Tarun Mamachan

Dec 18,2014

Technology is getting faster day by day. Almost every week we see new models of laptops and mobile phones emerging in the market, all boasting higher performance. The idea behind new technologies is to reduce the waiting time for results. Our generation demands faster technology. And they get it too! People don’t like to wait.

But God doesn’t change with the generations. He is unchanging God (Heb 13.8, Mal 3.6). In Exodus God describes himself as “I AM”. No matter which generation we belong to, or what people demand, God works in His own way.

Now one question immediately comes to our mind, especially when we are desperate for an answer, “If God really loves us, why does he make us wait?” Why doesn’t our heavenly father give us what we ask for immediately?

In the Old Testament, we see many godly people who waited a long time to receive their promises. There are many facts of life which we can never understand through words or through sermons. We can talk about forgiveness, preach about forgiveness but it means nothing if we are not practicing it in our lives. So it is through suffering and waiting that God teaches us many things which we will never understand by merely attending church meetings. Our perspective towards suffering and waiting for the Lord has to change. Then only would we be able to say as Paul said, “ I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Rom 8:18

 

1. Waiting is a training period.

In Genesis, we read about a godly man called Joseph. He was very special in his family. In his childhood itself God revealed many things about his future through dreams. He shared his dream with his brothers. They started to hate him so much that they even planned to kill him. But finally Joseph ended up as a slave in Egypt. Yet this was not the end of his sufferings. He went to jail, was forgotten by the cupbearer he had helped in jail, and much more. But in later life of Joseph, we see how he become the Prime Minister of Egypt. All the suffering that Joseph had to face was only his training to become fit for the Prime Minister’s post. God, who knows our future, puts suffering in our path and makes us wait long so that we may come out as perfect candidates for the blessings and great responsibilities which he has prepared for us.

 

2. Waiting brings us into the knowledge of God

Hannah had no children. Not only that, she was mocked by Peninnah, the second wife of her husband Elkanah. Even the priest Eli didn’t understand her frame of mind. He thought she was drunk. Imagine a condition in which there is absolutely no one who understands the great trial you are going through, no one is there to understand your situation.

And we all know she prayed and God opened her womb. Finally she got Samuel. Wouldn’t God give Samuel to Hannah if she had not prayed? Was Samuel a spontaneous decision which God made? I think that even if Hannah had not prayed Samuel would have been born. Then why did God make her wait for so long? It was because in her waiting she decided to give Samuel as an offering to the Lord. (1 Samuel 1:27,28 ). Even more, she got to know God closer. 1 Samuel 2:1-10 is Hannah’s prayer. We are wonderstruck when we see how a woman in the Old Testament is proclaiming the truth about God through her experience of him. It is only through waiting that she got to know God more. In our life also God makes us wait for many things. Through each period of waiting and suffering he reveals himself more to us.

 

3. Waiting: an opportunity to trust God completely

David's psalms were often spoken in circumstances when he was being hunted down and mocked. David was anointed and yet was mocked by others that rejected his position. But instead of attacking those in authority at that time, he submitted to them, waiting for God's timing and purpose. After Samuel anointed him, he had to wait for 15 years to be enthroned by the Israelites as a King. But throughout this waiting period, David learned to trust in God.

 

4. Waiting: To be a relief for others

We see that David learned all about graciousness. He gathered the rough and stubborn runaways and trained them into his disciplined men. He also learned to extend special kindness to those who were down and out such as Mephibosheth and others. He was a man after God's own heart. He could do all these things because he went through all these times of suffering and waiting.

 

5. A willingness to suffer.

We read in Mathew 4 about the temptation of Jesus. The third temptation was the most direct attack on Jesus. It was a challenge to Jesus’s mission on this Earth. In verse 9 Satan said to Jesus, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Satan was not lying. When God created Adam, he gave all the authority and glory of this world to Adam (Gen 2:15). But when they sinned, Satan hijacked the glory of this world from those to whom God had given it. In the New Testament we see many verses which say that Satan owns the glory of this world. In 2 Corinthians he is called the god of this age. Jesus’ mission was to win back this glory from Satan. But the pathway of accomplishing this mission was suffering. In the third temptation Satan is saying, “Hey Jesus! You don’t have to go through all the sufferings. You don’t have to die on the cross. No need to wait so long. Just bow down and worship me. I will give back this glory to you.” In our life also God doesn’t want us to run away from suffering. He wants us to overcome suffering so that we may fulfil his plans for us and through us.



6. Suffering helps us to realize what is in our hearts

Many a time God brings suffering and waiting in our life in order to make us realize what is there in our heart. It is not that God doesn’t know our motives. But He wants us to understand our motives. In Scripture there are many instances where God asks questions like “Where are you?”( to Adam), “What is in your hand?” (to Moses). It is not that God doesn’t know the answer - but he wants us to realize and acknowledge completely where we are and what is in our hands. "And you shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not." (Deut. 8:2). Suffering is a time of self-revelation, leading us to humility and the fear of God.



7. Our father also waits

Our father does not enjoy seeing us suffer or wait.  He himself waits patiently to see the fruition of his work in us, to see suffering bringing forth its fruit of peace and righteousness in our lives. He does not willingly inflict suffering on us. He has also suffered, and experiences its sure and eternal reward. “But to this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Peter 2:21)

In short, suffering is only one more tool in our father’s hand, planned and used with the utmost care and love. The fruits of allowing him to do as he will with us is so great as to be inconceivable. The blessing that awaits us as we mature through the process of pain overflows into the lives of those around us, so that we can show forth the praises and the love of God through the comfort we share in him. With such a great foundation, let us always be steadfast when suffering strikes. Let us see the hand of God to comfort and establish us even in the pain which he allows to refine and test us. Let us praise him with a full heart, trusting him to complete his work in all that completes us, knowing that nothing can go wrong because he is in charge. Glory to our God!

 

 



Weak to be Strong - Rinu Chacko

Sep 03,2014

”It is not great men who change the world but weak men in the hands of a great God.”
Recently came across this quote and it just struck me that it held a deep meaning. How often in our struggles to please God and live for him, we just forget that we serve a God who is in full control. We fail to remember the promise that “All things work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” Romans8:28



The Word of God gives us so many examples to prove the point that God uses us mightily when we put our trust in Him. A classic instance is David, the teenage boy who fearlessly slew a 9 foot giant called Goliath with just a sling and a stone – in the name of the Lord whom Goliath had defied and challenged. David believed completely that his God was in control and was there to protect him. He had no fear of the Philistine. He knew it was not his battle but the battle of the Lord and the Lord gave him victory. The life of David tells us that we need to trust in our God completely. He gives us the confidence to face the most challenging situations. In David’s case it was a potentially fatal situation but he marched towards the battle line with confidence for he had absolute faith in his God who was able to deliver him from the impending danger.



David, the man after God’s own heart,endured numerous tests of faith but he passed most of them because he completely trusted in the Almighty. Eventhough he sinned, he truly repented when he came face to face with his sin. Our God uses us most mightily when we acknowledge the fact that without Him we are weak but with Him the strongest. He never will forsake us or lose control. We just need to lean on Him and see how He works majestically in our lives. For the Lord says in Jeremiah29:11 “For I know the plans that I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”


 




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